What stood out the most to senior Derek Norman during his trip to Accra, Ghana, this summer was the office of Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei ’76. The doctor’s Brooklyn College baccalaureate and honorary Doctor of Science degrees were displayed front and center. Norman, a journalism major and managing news editor of the Brooklyn College Kingsman, met Boachie-Adjei during a four-week study abroad trip to the West African nation.

“Meeting him was surreal,” Norman says. “He’s thousands of miles away and yet, he knows our school motto [Nil sine magno labore: Nothing without great effort]. He’s such a distinguished alumnus. And there’s honor in being able to glean from his intelligence, wisdom, and experience.” The trip was partially financed by two scholarships Norman received: the Furman Fellows Scholarship for Study Abroad and the Study Abroad Scholarship Association (SASA) Scholarship.

Boachie-Adjei is a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon who teaches at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, and is president and founder of the Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS) and FOCOS Hospital. In 2014, he was honored at Brooklyn College commencement exercises, where he met Professor Lynda Day, chair of the Department of Africana Studies and director of Summer Seminar in Ghana: Exploring Culture, History, and International Development. This year was the first time Day and her students visited his hospital in Ghana. Day hopes to establish an ongoing academic relationship between the college, Boachie-Adjei, and the hospital.

“This 2016 trip was unusual in that only three students participated,” Day says. “Though we usually go with a number closer to ten, the small group made it possible to tailor some excursions for the special interests of the students, like the visit to FOCOS Hospital. In general, the seminar provides an opportunity for Brooklyn College students to engage a developing country in West Africa by participation in and observation of their culture, as well as learning about its history.”

The itinerary included visits to the W.E.B. DuBois Center, Kwame Nkrumah Museum and Memorial Park, Elmina Slave Fort, Kakum Forest Preserve and Canopy Walk, Kintampo Waterfall, the Big Ada Annual Festival, and participation in music and dance performances and lessons with folklorist Agya Koo Nimo and the Flavour Dance Company.

Day has a personal connection to Ghana. In 2005, the Ghanaian town of Beseasae named her nkosuahemaa, a title given to persons of great distinction that loosely translates as “development queen.”  Day’s main responsibilities as nkosuahemaa are to bring honor and economic development to the town.

“I have taken our Brooklyn College students there to be a part of an ancient, though ongoing, tradition of local governance and chiefly customs and duties that the title and the attendant formalities represent,” Day says.

“Having Day as a professor, I was able to witness and take part in these established connections. Being able to network in this way, internationally, is an incredible advantage,” says Norman, whose projects involved the historical study of pan-Africanism through the lens of Kwame Nkrumah, who led Ghana to independence in 1957, and a more contemporary study of Ghanaian culture as it relates to economics, labor, gender equality, and environmental justice. Norman says these projects utilized and enhanced the skills he is cultivating in his journalism courses.

“What I was most struck by was how different American society is from Ghanaian society in terms of customs and culture, but at the same time, how much the two societies have in common,” Norman adds. “There is a shared space of compassion, kindness, and curiosity about other cultures, and a passion for life. Despite our differences, there are some things that are baseline. And hopefully, that is where we can find room to build connections.”