Artefact Speech #atAshesi

The last three weeks, the class I teach this semester, Written and Oral Communication has focused on the oral communication part. We have spoken about Rhetorics and its ancient beginnings, sustained importance, watched Patrick Awuah’s TED speech from 2007 and analyzed it rhetorically and after that, students crafted their own speeches with themselves and an artefact that represents them in some way as the topic.

I adore this assignment designed by my anthropologist colleague Joseph Oduro-Frimpong and revel in the intimate group meetings I have with my students. In short five minute speeches, students get up in front of their peers, practice rhetorics, and open themselves and share – and my do they share!

We are invited to hear about family tragedies and lost opportunities, crazy love stories and incredible triumphs, supportive siblings and bouts of sickness, but also books that change lives, sporting equipment, diaries and bibles, instruments, or even little trinkets and everyday objects are loaded with meaning. The speeches are sometimes inspirational and other times funny, and as the assignment dictates, most often supported by all three corners of the Rhetorical Triangle. Only confidence is missing sometimes! We address this with love-bombing the presenting student with “what worked well here?”-feedback. And only after highlighting the good we discuss what can be improved in the delivery.

Every year this is my favorite assignment as it allows me to meet with a smaller subsection of the bigger class of 47-48 students and get to know them a little better. This year, I was especially impressed.  After just two months in university, these first-year students’ are able to speak with wisdom, bravery, and authenticity, and they reminded me that when students are given the chance, they can indeed be teachers.

Artefact speech 2018
Thank you all for sharing so generously!

 

 

Kajsa Featured on 3FM’s segment Women Mean Business

Last week, I was a featured woman on the Women MEan Business segment on newish radio channel 3FM. I spoke to the host Winston about my work at Ashesi and with BloggingGhana, higher education, Ghanaian food and more!

I was surprised to see 2000 people have seen the Facebook Live version of my interview. Now you can too!

Sunday Reads Jan 21, #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

Video I watched: I got a little addicted to the entertaining Crash Course series on YouTube where John Green and his brother teaches you all kinds of stuff!

 

Tell me below what you are reading!

 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

Sunday Reads Sep 17, #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

      1. Female entrepreneurship rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are the highest in the world, according to a new report that says women’s entrepreneurial activity is increasing globally. 
      2. Africa doesn’t need white tech entrepreneurs – it needs a level playing field by Eliza Anyangwe.
      3. Over Certified & Under Educated a harsh but well-argued piece about Ghana’s higher education sector by Esther Armah.
      4. Young people and their plants by Lavanya Ramanathan
      5. A bit of context to the protests in Togo by Benjamin N. Lawrance.

Video I watched: No video! It was the first week of the fall semester for my daughters and myself! I just survived!

 

Tell me below what you are reading!

 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

I am attending Nordic Geographers’ Meeting #NGM2017

On Sunday, I’ll be in Stockholm for the 7th Nordic Geographers’ Meeting. I am excited to be presenting my work to a completely new audience – geographers, and a wider audience of social scientists – as I usually meet with Africa scholars or Migration scholars. The theme is “geographies of inequalities” which is almost a perfect topic to capture student migration out of the global South.

At the meeting, I hope to:

  • get some new ideas on how to take my work to the next level (Where do I publish?  What are others doing on students and migration?) and
  • pick up some clues on how I continue to do relevant interdisciplinary research. (What methods should I use?  Who can I collaborate with? Who else is interested in my work?)

I’ll be presenting two papers out of my dissertation research for the following two panels:

Session A3: Youth and Inequality: Perceptions, experiences, and aspirations. (PDF details)

Conveners: Prof. Katherine Gough of Loughborough University and Dr. Thilde Langevang of Copenhagen Business School.

Session description
Rising unemployment and sluggish economic growth are widely predicted to further widen income and wealth inequality worldwide. Young people, in particular, are being disproportionately affected with the OECD claiming that youth have replaced the elderly as the group experiencing the greatest risk of income poverty. This has widespread implications for the opportunities and constraints young people face as well as impacting on their aspirations for the future.This session will bring together papers which explore how young people’s lives and aspirations are being influenced by the inequality they experience and imagine both in situ and in faraway places. Papers are welcome from societies across the globe where young people are being affected by real or perceived high levels of inequality. Topics which may be explored in the session include, but are not restricted to, the implications of rising inequality at a range of scales for young people’ perceptions, experiences and aspirations of: Mobility and immobility /Education and skills training/ Work experiences and job prospects/Housing and home

Here my paper “Migration aspirations among university students in Ghana” will discuss my choices to focus on university students and not youth in general as well as aspirations and intentions and not migration per se . I also will share some results from the survey I did with university students in Ghana, in particular looking at social backgrounds of students and their view of migration. (20/6/17 1.15-3.00 pm. Room: William Olsson, House Y)

Session J7: The Politics of Movement. (PDF details)

Conveners: Dr. Nancy Cook & Prof. David Butz, Brock University.

Session description
The politics of movement  entanglements of power, social inequality and mobilities – is an abiding preoccupation in social geography and critical mobilities studies. Both scholarly fields identify mobility as a fundamental structuring dimension of social life. They also demonstrate that the capacity for movement under conditions of one’s choosing is a valuable resource that is unequally distributed in social contexts structured by hierarchies of power. In other words, movement is socially differentiated; it reflects and reinforces structures of power to configure inequitable social hierarchies. Critical geographers and mobility scholars are tracing the ways in which relations of gender, race, class, sexuality and citizenship shape discourses and practices of mobility that produce beneficial movement for some people and too little or too much movement for others.

For this session, I will discuss some thoughts around what a global South student really is in relation to mobility in my paper “Conceptualizing academic mobility and mobility exclusions from a global South student perspective”. Based on the data I collected for my dissertation research I will suggest some trends in the politics of movement from a student point of view. (19/6/17 at 5.15-6.45 pm in Room: U26, House U)

I am also looking forward to keynotes, especially with Dr. Brenda S.A. Yeoh who has a distinct global South perspective in her work and meeting new friends – and at least one old! I want to thank my good friend Michael Boampong who sent me the initial info on this conference, and who is also attending the conference as well as and my department at Ashesi University which made this trip possible.

Hope to meet you at #NGM2017!

Sunday Reads are back! #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

  1. First things first: Bank of Ghana orders Swiss Gold watches for half a million USD.
  2. This touching article about Serge Attukwei Clottey and how he keeps the memory of his mother alive. (If you never read my Ashesi colleague Eli Tetteh’s piece on Clottey, do!)
  3. A passionate support for feelings by one of my favorite contemporary thinkers Martha Naussbaum, brought to us by the brilliant Brainpickings site.
  4. About our time: Post Truth Politics by the Economist.

This Swedish article I wish was available in English for all (ok, more folks) to read:

5. A fantastic article on the modernity of Swedish writer Sara Lidman’s work in the 1950s, by literature prof Anneli Bränström Öhman.

This week I watched this video, because: Standing ovation even before he said teachers are underpaid!


 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Boatman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

Ashesi in Swiss Newspaper NZZ

Screenshot 2016-06-29 15.56.32

 

Earlier in the spring, I was asked to write about Ashesi University for a Swiss newspaper, NZZ. Under the theme “The Other Africa”, I wrote about teaching ethics in Ghana illustrated by my own experiences and that of students and an alumn.

My Ashesi article under the headline “Hauptfach: Ethik von Kajsa Hallberg Adu” was recently published in the newspaper in a special issue on Africa in the excellent company of write-ups by Ghanaian-Afropolitan novelist Taiye Selasi, correspondent extraordinaire Alex Perry, and an article on smartphones in Africa by literary scholar Mohomodou Houssouba.

Find an English version of my article below:

Major: Ethics

(my original heading was “The Rough Road to Educating Ethical Leaders in Africa” alas…)

On the red, dusty road an hour from Ghana’s bustling capital of Accra, children play and goats scoff around for something to eat. I drive through the village; expertly avoiding the potholes, pass the police barrier, the water well, and the primary school before I make a sharp turn to climb the lush, green hill. Up there, I wave a greeting to the woman selling pineapples before I pull into the 100-acre well-manicured campus. I teach at a non-religious, private liberal arts college called Ashesi University College, located in the town of Berekuso in Ghana’s Eastern region. I work in an institution that has the, perhaps lofty, mission of educating a new generation of ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in Africa.

Ashesi, as it is called for short, means “beginning” in local language Twi and is known for pushing the bar of private higher education in Africa, especially in terms of ethics and liberal arts. Perhaps others might also know of Ashesi as its founder and president is a very hands-on and influential leader. Dr. Patrick Awuah has been on the management listings of the world like Forbes 2015 World’s 50 Best Leaders, Fast Company where he was listed as number 87 of 100 Most Creative in Business 2010, and last year Dr. Awuah received the MacArthur “Genius Grant”. He can often be seen in the campus cafeteria having lunch with students and colleagues. In my view, Ashesi ought to be more known for is its recent pledge to run an engineering program for 50/50 men and women, something many top universities across the globe have not been able to do.

Since I was first introduced to the liberal arts institution in a 2007 TED video with Dr. Awuah and subsequently started to work there in 2009, much has happened in terms of growth and reach, but the focus on ethics, entrepreneurship, and leadership remains. The university college has doubled in size to 600 students of which 47% are women, 53% men. Ashesi has grown to have four undergraduate programs: engineering, business administration, management information systems, and computer science. While a majority of students come from Ghana, the institution aims to be pan-African with 21% of students from outside the country. The decision to make admissions gender-balanced was a pioneering move that impacts daily life at the university and underlines that women and men have an equal role to play in problem solving on all levels.

Africa is still the continent with the lowest level of university enrollment, at about 6% of the population compared to a 26% world average, according to UNESCO. What this means is that extremely few Africans ever get a chance to go to university. And those who do are destined to become leaders in society. With this analysis Ashesi University College has aimed to bring scholarships to deserving students, quality education to those who can afford, and making sure the future leaders of the continent are both ethical and entrepreneurial. But educating ethical leaders in a corrupt environment marred with inequality is a challenge. Ghana and its neighbors repeatedly scores high in corruption listings such as Afrobarometer or Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index and a recent particularly shocking corruption scandal exposed judges in Ghana’s legal system accepting cash bribes to skew verdicts. Related is the hierarchal structure of the society that will make many visitors raise an eyebrow at Dr. Awuah’s presence in the cafeteria queue. At other Ghanaian universities, the leadership would go to lunch in separate senior clubs with air conditioning, service at the table, and not feeling they missed out at all from not talking to students.

In this context, it makes sense that Ashesi’s approach to teaching ethics is hydra headed and importantly stretches over the four years of the undergraduate program. In essence the Ashesi way teaches you to see yourself as the beginning of an ethical society. Second-year student Sihle Magagula summarizes the method as “continuous reflection on your actions and their outcome”. In the freshman year, ethics is taught in a course called Giving Voice to Values, developed by business lecturer Dr. Mary Gentile of American liberal arts institution Babson College. This curriculum is very practical as it assumes we all know what is wrong from right and focuses on giving tools for speaking up. Local examples include values conflicts where your supportive uncle both gives you a job and asks you do act unethically. There are also ethics components in other Ashesi courses, from Design to Communication, and in the four-year leadership seminar. For instance, in designing a solution it is ethical to involve the beneficiaries of your solution on all levels of development. In ethical communication, giving credit to your sources is key. In the final year leadership seminar, which aims to develop students’ social consciousness, students do service learning in the community. Student Mawuli Adjei says of the experience that “this might seem obvious, but directly interacting with a problem’s stakeholders rather than just reading about them compels me to empathize and personalize the problems that I am solving”. Hence, ethics at Ashesi ultimately about being more than a shiny ivory tower: we see ourselves as a part of the town of Berekuso and some collaborative efforts include a football field, a literacy program for adults, and adding value to the most common cash crop in the area, the pineapple. All these programs are student-led.

Another aspect of Ashesi’s ethics instruction is the Ashesi Honor Code that allows students to take exams without proctoring. The Honor Code is signed on by one year-group at a time after extensive deliberation and agreeing by voting. The model has received keen interest from the surrounding society. In 2009, the National Accreditation Board threatened to stop Ashesi’s operations over the Honor Code, but was persuaded by letters from students, parents, faculty and staff of the benefits of practicing ethics in university through unproctored exams. Recently the Honor Code system has been piloted at another university in Ghana and adopted at lower level schools.

Alumnus Anna Amegatcher of Ashesi’s class of 2014 now works as a market researcher and business analyst in Accra. She agrees ethics was part of every course at Ashesi: “It is not necessarily explicitly said, but from day one ethics like the honor code or ethics like when we came to Berekuso having shared kitchens, ethics was always sounding. I think at a point it was sounding more with students than even with the administration, which was good. It became a part of the student body. The message was there.” The kitchen comment relates to trusting others to not steal your foodstuffs. However, a recent series of thefts on campus – of electronic devices and other items – has startled the university and seen us take steps to reinforce the practice of ethics. How can we make sure our campus is inclusive? How can we make sure ethics is lived and not just spoken? The sense of urgency around these efforts shows the Ashesi level of engagement with ethics is a visible, constant struggle, and an ongoing conversation.

In her office in Accra, alumnus Anna Amegatcher suggests her ethics training is central to her carrying out her job: “It has just kept me conscious. It has become a part of me, like issues of ethics is a part of me. You just can’t take it out of me. Fortunately, it had been nurtured in me even before Ashesi, but I got to appreciate an organization was valuing it as something core to them.”

The goal of educating ethical entrepreneurial leaders in Africa might seem lofty, but is there really any other way? Having taught at Ashesi University College for six years has been personally challenging in many ways, not least because of a commute on an unfinished road winding through the Ghanaian countryside, as well as mitigating Ashesi’s high ethical standards in a surrounding society that might not always appreciate you speaking up. But there is the rewarding side as well. I work with young people who are excited to learn and take on challenges. Additionally, I have been privileged to see our alumni little by little effect change in Ghana and beyond. Importantly, Ashesi also pushes the envelope by introducing a “new normal” or new benchmarks for businesses and universities in the region, the continent, and the world.

 

Nordic Africa Days 2014: My Report

During the weekend 26-27 September, I took part in the Nordic Africa Institute biannual conference Nordic Africa Days. Here is my report!

  1. Hi there! I'm on my way to #nad2014 @NordicAfrica &looking forward to meet tweeps @finnowl @ulrichtadajeu @JamaMusse http://t.co/meVFzTGvKW

    Hi there! I’m on my way to #nad2014 @NordicAfrica &looking forward to meet tweeps @finnowl @ulrichtadajeu @JamaMusse pic.twitter.com/meVFzTGvKW
  2. As I am the food for my small baby, she had to come along. She demanded we started with the Youth and Politics panel…
  3. In Panel 22 on Youth & Politics, Akin Iwilade challenged the notion of “marginalized youth” and who becomes a militant #NAD2014
  4. Next @nannajordt told us about "hustling" for environmental rights in rural Kenya #nad2014 http://t.co/KrjUEtSM3Q

    Next @nannajordt told us about “hustling” for environmental rights in rural Kenya #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/KrjUEtSM3Q
  5. My @Ashesi colleague Joseph Oduro Frimpong presents political cartoons & photoshop pics from Ghana #NAD2014 #Woyome http://t.co/CQMQFmVEZs

    My @Ashesi colleague Joseph Oduro Frimpong presents political cartoons & photoshop pics from Ghana #NAD2014 #Woyomepic.twitter.com/CQMQFmVEZs
  6. Q&A “It is easier critiquing power than formulating an alternative…does that distinction matter?”, asks panel chair Elina Oinas #nad2014
  7. How a two-month old fares at #nad2014? She is now asleep forcing me to stand up/rock gently in the back of the room.. http://t.co/YujTbzVwR1

    How a two-month old fares at #nad2014? She is now asleep forcing me to stand up/rock gently in the back of the room.. pic.twitter.com/YujTbzVwR1
  8. In 1,5h @Mo_IbrahimFdn will talk on “Why governance matters” #NAD2014 If you are not in Uppsala, follow @NordicAfrica or watch it online…
  9. The talk can still be viewed online. I followed it on Twitter from my hotel room while breast feeding!
  10. The first day ended with a lovely conference dinner in one of the old student clubs in Uppsala. Next morning the sun was shining…
  11. Sunny and windy walk to the conference venue (Yellow building in back) #nad2014 http://t.co/kqUOG6KPFc

    Sunny and windy walk to the conference venue (Yellow building in back) #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/kqUOG6KPFc
  12. My first panel is about African Studies in the 21st century: @wikipedia & open access hosted by @ASCLeiden #nad2014 http://t.co/zwdS3wICA5

    My first panel is about African Studies in the 21st century: @Wikipedia & open access hosted by @ASCLeiden #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/zwdS3wICA5
  13. Great tip for researchers to make our research more accessible: write abstracts of all your work and put online! #nad2014 #opendata
  14. Find @ASCLeiden repository with free downloads, among the most popular a book on Boko Haram,  https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/12483 … #nad2014 #openaccess
  15. Find @ASCLeiden repository with free downloads, among the most popular a book on Boko Haram,  https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/12483 … #nad2014 #openaccess
  16. @kajsaha >50,000 publications on Africa, mostly #openaccess from >90 repositories via  http://www.connecting-africa.net 
  17. @kajsaha Africa country portal ASC Leiden (in beta): portal to information resources on >50 African countries  http://countryportal.ascleiden.nl/ 
  18. “As a researcher you have to look at contracts and make sure you have the right to your own work!” – Jos Damen @ASCLeiden #nad14
  19. Information on what resources are available online for free for African researchers via @ASCLeiden  http://www.ilissafrica.de/en/howto/OpenAccessGuide.html …#nad2014
  20. Next came the keynote, I had been looking forward to.
  21. Now the keynote I've been looking forward to: @MJerven "Knowledge and Governance" #nad2014 http://t.co/ve379JXjFu

    Now the keynote I’ve been looking forward to: @MJerven “Knowledge and Governance” #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/ve379JXjFu
  22. Outline of the speech 1. Validity, 2. Reliability 3.Governance 4. Conclusion. I'm such a nerd to be excited! #nad2014 http://t.co/EtJFATFHmL

    Outline of the speech 1. Validity, 2. Reliability 3.Governance 4. Conclusion. I’m such a nerd to be excited! #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/EtJFATFHmL
  23. “Scholars are mistaken when they trust @worldbankdata, but not, say, Sudanese state data. It’s the same!” – @MJerven #nad2014
  24. “There is an unhealthy academic divide: accepting GDP data at face value vs. dismissing the measurement” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  25. To illustrate 'poor numbers' @MJerven uses Ghana's entrance into middle incomes status on Nov 5th, 2010. #nad2014 http://t.co/Y7R41tMaRZ

    To illustrate ‘poor numbers’ @MJerven uses Ghana’s entrance into middle incomes status on Nov 5th, 2010. #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/Y7R41tMaRZ
  26. On governance: “in order to have evidence based policies you need…some type of evidence” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  27. Next @MJerven critiques the #MDGs as they take away from national data collection resources. #nad2014
  28. “It’s not so much about tempering with statistics, but more ignorance of the importance of statistics” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  29. Then an interesting debate started on Twitter.
  30. @kajsaha how come it doesn’t feel like we’re a middle income country? Or it’s not about feelings eh? #Ghana 🙂 @MJerven
  31. @nas009 @kajsaha @MJerven I guess it’s about paper feeling. Good in books, worst in reality.
  32. @kajsaha @nas009 @MJerven @BloggingGhana #Ghana is not poor neither is it a middle income country!
  33. @kajsaha @kofiemeritus @nas009 @MJerven @BloggingGhana Its not. The poorest is one who can’t afford to laugh. Take a good look at Ghana.haha
  34. Back to the keynote.
  35. “Presidents are elected based on delivering jobs, but there is no data on the labor market!” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  36. Wrapping up with constructive ideas 1. Data can come with warnings if based on guesses @MJerven #nad2014
  37. 2. Development agencies coordinating not just goals, but data collection as well #nad2014
  38. 3. Incentives and human resources in statistical offices #nad2014
  39. Multitasking mother and researcher @kajsaha frequently tweeting from the Key Note Speech #nad2014. @NordicAfrica http://t.co/FH7TuVeg1F

    Multitasking mother and researcher @kajsaha frequently tweeting from the Key Note Speech #nad2014@NordicAfrica pic.twitter.com/FH7TuVeg1F
  40. Final panel was my own. My topic was “Have you ever seen a plane seat before?” Migration narratives among university students in Ghana.
  41. ooohhh Godd luck! RT @kajsaha: Wish me luck! Panel chair introducing me! #nad2014 http://t.co/klV7yrWRTU

    ooohhh Godd luck! RT @kajsaha: Wish me luck! Panel chair introducing me! #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/klV7yrWRTU
  42. In my panel Tekalign Ayalew talks about Ethiop-Eritrean Migrants to Sweden. #nad2014 http://t.co/fEolENrWn9

    In my panel Tekalign Ayalew talks about Ethiop-Eritrean Migrants to Sweden. #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/fEolENrWn9
  43. Last panelist at #nad2014 is Viveca Motsieloa who is presenting a self-reflective paper on being mixed-race in Ghana. http://t.co/mLYetMOPu5

    Last panelist at #nad2014 is Viveca Motsieloa who is presenting a self-reflective paper on being mixed-race in Ghana. pic.twitter.com/mLYetMOPu5
  44. Then the conference was officially over! Hope to come back in 2016!
  45. Chairs are stacked, whiteboards are cleaned & people in prints are discussing where to have drinks. #nad2014 is over! Thanks @NordicAfrica !
  46. This drink is for @ulrichtadajeu! Next time you'll join us in the flesh! http://t.co/RhHPSNrwa7

    This drink is for @ulrichtadajeu! Next time you’ll join us in the flesh! pic.twitter.com/RhHPSNrwa7
  47. A cool think was the Camerooninan student that was following the conference on Twitter. He got this (photo of a) beer from me for dedication to academia!

Social Media for Yale Conference in Ghana: From Success to Significance

Photo: Frederick Sowah
Photo: Frederick Sowah

I am proudly the social media reporter for the conference From Success to Significance: Thought Leaders in the African Renaissance, starting tomorrow afternoon. The conference is organized by alumni of the prestigious Yale university in the Yale Club of Ghana. You can find the program for the conference here.

My expectations for the conference are high as almost all the names of speakers and panelists are “big” men and women here in Ghana and beyond. I am especially looking forward to the education and the technology panels, as well as writer Taiye Selasie, writer of “Ghana Must Go” that I just read. I am tasked to tweeting through out using the hashtag #YaleConfGH and write a summary blog post. Watch this space!

Does it sound interesting? Conference tickets sell for 225 USD with a big discount for students. Buy tickets here.

Research, University of Ghana’s YouTube Channel and Video Lecture by Mkandawire

This week I am finally doing some research at the University of Ghana. For my work – that is now really taking shape – I wanted to cite Professor Mkandawire who came to campus in April for a three day lecture that I felt was very relevant. However, surfing around on the university website, I could not find his lecture. Then I tried the strategy of just Googleing “Mkandawire and University of Ghana” and then I found not just his lecture on video, but University of Ghana’s YouTube channel!

Sadly, this great lecture has 18 views(!) and the UG YouTube Channel just over 300 subscribers, so I thought I’d share it here (in the first video from Mkandawire’s lecture there is some drumming, dancing and intro before the lecture starts about 9.40 into the clip!)

What YouTube channels have you found that you’d recommend?

Guest Post by Kweku Ananse: How To Become an Employable PhD Graduate

Last week, Kwaku Ananse wrote a guest post about problematic supervisors. A main problem,he concluded is  misguided advice suggesting you focus only on your dissertation:

In our times, employers want graduates with experience, widely interpreted either as teaching, research experience as evident in a publication, or both.

This reality brings me to the issue of taking initiative outside the normal routines of the graduate program.

1.One is to visit the personal websites of other graduate students in other universities who are in the same discipline as you are.Know what these students are doing in terms of the conferences they attend, the types of publications they have (and the journals they have published in etc). Being on top of these things should alert you to what your competitors are up to.

2. Another thing outside the graduate comfort zone is to test your ideas by sending cold emails to perhaps established leading scholars in the field to give you feedback regarding your use of their analytical ideas (Here, I have to say I am hesitant with important but emerging scholars). You are not always guaranteed a response but you might be surprised how some of these scholars are interested to help young intellectuals with feedback and suggestions of recent literature. These people can be your pool of what Kajsa refers to as “informal supervisors” (see her post ‘Informal Supervisors: Surviving Ph.D‘) who can be both local (in other departments in your school as well as in your program) and as well as international.

3. One important thing to note in a graduate school is not to see yourself as incapable of publishing in leading journals in your field.

  • Read such journals and note what the leading debates are.
  • Examine such debates side by side your current research.
  • When you see a contribution that perhaps a facet of your research can make to such debates, ‘be bold’ (as they say in GH-politics) and write an article and send it out.

Several things can happen with such an approach: the paper might be rejected (and good reviewers will give you details as why the paper was rejected); paper accepted (but with some revision,either substantial or minor). Whatever the case, the plus side of taking such an initiative is that you have begun a process that is going to be part of your academic life.

This guest post is written by fellow graduate student Kwaku Ananse, one of my readers.