VUU Awarded 2023 Fulbright-Hays Grant for Innovative Study Abroad Program in Senegal

September 26, 2023

Virginia Union University has been honored with the 2023 Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad (GPA) grant award. This academic initiative, "Africa Rising: Hip Hop, Politics, and Critical Resilience in Senegal," is a four-week study abroad program scheduled for July 2024. The project will bring together a team led by Ima Hicks, Assistant Professor of Languages and Literature, comprising six VUU students and six educators from the Richmond Public School system. The destination for this endeavor is the West African Research Center in Dakar, Senegal. The primary objective of this project is to explore and comprehend the diverse strategies employed by young individuals, with a particular focus on the role of Hip-Hop culture and their engagement with media and communication technologies in facilitating societal change. 

The program itinerary includes rigorous academic activities such as lectures, seminars, and roundtable discussions, all led by esteemed university professors, government officials, and national, local, and regional youth organizations. Additionally, guided visits to culturally and historically significant sites will provide participants with a deeper understanding of contemporary youth dynamics in Senegal. Throughout the program, participants will gain insights into the historical context of youth in modern-day Senegal, examining the intersections of youth, culture, education, religion, African traditions, and republican institutions.
Furthermore, they will enhance their proficiency in the French language and deepen their appreciation for African Francophone culture. Additionally, participants will receive introductory instruction in Wolof, the predominant language spoken in Senegal, given its multiethnic and multilingual nature.
The Fulbright-Hays GPA program is vital in supporting educational institutions and nonprofit entities that develop overseas initiatives for K–12 teachers, college students, and faculty members. These initiatives encompass short-term and long-term projects that focus on training, research, and curriculum development in modern foreign languages and area studies. Short-term projects within the GPA program include seminars, curriculum development, and group research or study. On the other hand, long-term projects are designed to facilitate advanced intensive overseas programs, particularly in languages, humanities, or social sciences. Furthermore, these projects must have a regional focus within one or more of the following areas: Africa, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the Western Hemisphere (including Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean), East Central Europe and Eurasia, and the Near East.
The "Africa Rising" project promises to be a transformative experience for its participants, fostering cross-cultural understanding and academic growth while shedding light on the dynamic role of youth in contemporary Senegalese society. 

About Professor Ima L. Hicks:

Ima Hicks is an Assistant Professor of Languages and Literature at Virginia Union University.  She teaches French and World Literature and holds a B.A. from Oberlin College and an M.A. from Georgetown University.  Her primary areas of interest are the intersection of race, gender, and justice in literature and transforming students into leaders through language and the literary arts. Her research focuses on language and literary studies as a site of renewed transnational debates on issues of identity, ethics, and aesthetic universality, and on literary creation as a space of both intimate expression and civic responsibility in which literature and the world are inextricably intertwined. In 2022, she received a Virginia Humanities Fellowship for HBCUs for her work on the novel, The Infamous Rosalie, which gives voice to the types of individuals, experiences, and perspectives that are sorely missing from Haiti’s historical record--the resilient women of colonial Saint-Domingue--that will result in a published article. Professor Hicks’s publications include articles on French-Francophone culture, second language acquisition, museology, and African American feminisms. She serves as a volunteer English language translator for the NGO Grandmother’s Project-Change Through Culture, located in Senegal, which extends her interest in the development of programs that build on socio-cultural roles and realities and that empower communities to promote their own well-being.