FSU professor moves to classroom at University of Ghana

James Saku

FROSTBURG — In James Saku’s office in the Geography Department of Frostburg State University are decorations from Africa and a T-shirt that reads “University of Ghana,” examples of deep ties to his home continent.

Saku spent three months early this year teaching at the University of Ghana, the school where he started to study for a master’s degree. He taught a graduate course on transportation development. He was also involved in research and attended public lectures.

Saku received a bachelor’s degree from University of Cape Coast in Ghana. He began studying for his master’s at University of Ghana, but later received it from Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. He received a doctorate from University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

Other Frostburg State employees take similar sabbatical leaves to do work in different countries such as China, England and India.

Saku said he was invited to teach transportation development after a professor noted that he was the person who wrote a paper about the subject in Ghana that the class was reviewing.

Saku spent his sabbatical in Ghana through the Carnegie Fellowship, a program designed for African-born professors who live in Europe or North America to return to Africa and teach. The University of Ghana established the program in 2011.

Saku also had a group of friends during his time in Ghana, one of whom he knew before going there.

“We used to meet almost every evening … and have a discussion and talk about politics both in the U.S. and in Ghana,” Saku said.

The University of Ghana was founded by the British in 1948 and is located in Legon. The school has 38,000 students. When an associate professor in the university gets promoted to full professor, they are given a chance to give a large public lecture.

Saku said the students at the school were motivated and had high levels of participation. Ghana’s culture also led to the students exhibiting a great amount of respect to their teachers.

“(In Ghana’s culture), you’re looking at respect of people. No matter your status, you have to listen to your parents, your senior brothers and all that,” Saku said.

Three days before Saku left Ghana to return to the U.S., a group of students had a farewell party for him.

“When I met with them, we talked generally about how I managed to get to Canada and ended up in the U.S.,” Saku said.

Saku said the students would like to come to the U.S. if possible, partially due to a lack of jobs following graduation in Ghana.

“When I introduced myself in the graduate course that I taught, one thing that I told them right off was that I don’t issue visas to the United States,” Saku said.

Saku said the sabbatical leave will help him continue to collaborate with faculty from the University of Ghana. He has already initiated two separate topics of research with two faculty members in Ghana.

Contact Makea Luzader at mluzader@terpmail.umd.edu.

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