Lincoln Completes Fulbright in Ghana
By Sandra Seitz
Alan Lincoln enjoys challenges.
In a career that includes helping to found the Criminal Justice and Criminology Department (“We began with six students,” he recalls.), developing a graduate program, serving on the Institutional Review Board and as UMass Lowell’s first ombudsman, challenges have been many.
But working as a Fulbright Specialist in the West African nation of Ghana was challenging in a new way. The Fulbright Specialist program provides grants to qualified academics to engage in short-term collaborative projects with host institutions. Specialists are chosen competitively and placed on a five-year roster.
Knowing Questions, Not Answers
Lincoln was called on to help the administration of Ashesi University in Accra to review and revise their faculty, student judiciary and other student policies. Also, he helped develop their first sexual harassment policies and procedures.
“The university had built a new campus outside the city and opened their first dormitories, so they needed to develop consistent policies for residential students,” says Lincoln.
“Being UMass Lowell’s ombudsman had given me a broad experience dealing with problems caused by ambiguous policy, by inconsistent application of policies or by unfair consequences of policy,” he says. “Still, it was tough trying to blend my own experience with what works in Ghana, where tribal groups and religious divisions are significant.”
Lincoln prepared for the assignment by interviewing Dean of Students Larry Siegel and other deans of students, by reading about Ashesi and by absorbing the history of the region.
“You learn as much as possible first and, when you get there, you have to be flexible and keep an open mind,” he says. “In the end, I knew the questions to ask—not the answers to give them.”
New University, High Standards
Ashesi is a private university with a mission to educate ethical leaders. Founded 10 years ago by Ghanaian Patrick Awuah, who was educated in the United States and worked at Microsoft, Ashesi maintains academic and corporate partnerships with U.S. institutions.
Classrooms are interactive, with new technology. The university offers bachelor’s degrees in computer science, management information systems and business administration, based on a liberal arts core curriculum and with a service-learning component. Though expensive by African standards, Ashesi enrollment is growing and admittance is very competitive.
“The student leaders I met were very committed to the honor code and Ashesi’s mission to make them better people, leading to good work opportunities,” says Lincoln. One of his recommendations was to extend the honor code to faculty.
While living in Ghana, Lincoln gained tremendous respect for people who face many difficulties, including infrastructure problems, economic strain, extreme weather conditions and Accra’s traffic.
“Ghanaians work very hard and are entrepreneurial,” he says. “They are friendly, supportive of each other and kind to strangers. I learned to be more open and friendly myself — to live in ‘Ghana time’.”