By Jaelon Jackson
School of Social Work
Faculty and students completed a Study Abroad Trip to Kenya, organized by the University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work.
The participants, three faculty members and 13 UTA students from various disciplines, were in Kenya June 11 through July 2.
Students engaged with members of the community and local leaders.
“It literally was a transformational experience, and we had several of those experiences with the community elders in the village, in addition to people who lived in Nairobi, who were professionals in the city,” Associate Professor of Practice Karla Arenas-Itotia said.
During the trip the UTA students primarily worked with fourth and eighth grade children from Sijowa Primary School in Nangina, Kenya. Nangina is about 216 miles northwest of Nairobi, the capital city in Kenya.
“The greatest experience was just working with the kids and getting to know them,” Social Work Associate Professor of Practice Tracy Orwig said.
The students and professors enjoyed several days learning more about the culture and ways of life in Kenya.
“The schools there are very basic in terms of resources and our students had to quickly adapt,” Social Work Associate Professor Dr. Eusebius Small said.
Small says the trip provided UTA students the opportunity to be creative in an environment lacking some resources and a support system.
The study abroad students also experienced a little bit of the political side of Kenya.
“The students learned about the civil society, how the government works, and the new Kenyan system of education of competitive competency-based education,” Small said.
Competitive competency-based education is measured by students demonstrating mastery of learning, rather than the number of hours spent in a classroom. It is focused on ensuring all students succeed and it addresses fundamental shortcomings of the traditional model.
Social Work Adjunct Assistant Professor Antwan C. Williams donated $2,500 which helped one student participate in the study abroad trip who otherwise would not have been able to go.
Williams, who also serves as the assistant director of communications, marketing, recruiting and admissions for the School of Social Work, said “I promised earlier in the year to provide funding if there was a promising student who really wanted to go but may not have the funding.”
“I never had the opportunity in my undergraduate education to participate in study abroad and after graduating from college I lived in Germany for fours year, Williams said. I learned it is important for students with limited means to also have these types of experiences. I’m hoping I can provide another donation for next year’s study abroad trip,” Williams said.
Williams encourages others donate what they can to help historically disadvantaged students.
According to Small, plans are underway for the next study abroad trip. They are “actively seeking a grant, to make it happen,” Small said. Organizers hope a future grant will help fund low-income, marginalized and historically disadvantaged students with participating in a study abroad trip.