Spring 2013 |
Teaching to think beyond the textbook
Who: Kojo Allen
Academic program: Sociology and Psychology
Before MCC: Allen grew up in Nigeria, went to college
in Mississippi and was a psychologist in Omaha before joining MCC in
Why he teaches: "My passion came from various
instructors and professors in my life that have inspired me."
Creating a place for students to flourish is Kojo Allen's goal for his
classroom. But for this sociology and psychology instructor, the exciting
part is what happens outside the classroom when students learn to "think
beyond the textbook, beyond their own culture and beyond their
Allen brings an international background to his classes. Raised in
Nigeria to Ghanaian and Nigerian parents, he came to Mississippi at age 22
to attend college and become a psychologist. He was a practicing
psychologist in Omaha when he began working at MCC in 1997—first as a
part-time instructor and later as a full-time faculty member in 2006. In
his classes, Allen uses hands-on experiences and selfintrospection
exercises to enrich the learning process. He encourages the sharing of
stories. His classrooms are a place where students can share their opinions
without being judged.
"When students can share their story with other students, it becomes a
'wow' moment," he said. Service-learning is often a component of his
curriculum; he encourages students to engage with agencies such as the Open
Door Mission and connect their experiences back to the classroom. Allen's
belief in hands-on experiences lead to the development of a three-week
course in Ghana, West Africa, where he serves as faculty leader, advisor
and mentor to students who often are taking their first international
flight and commonly a first experience away from family members. "It's a
rich educational experience," he said. "It's transforming for them. They
see the world from a different view."
One thing Allen makes clear to students: Study abroad is not a vacation.
Rather, it's an immersive experience that requires one to look beyond
cultural values and differences and seek the interconnectedness that human
beings share, especially in a globalized world. The experience takes the
notion that Africa is "out of this world," too far away to be real, and
brings it closer to home.
Ultimately, experiences both in and outside the classroom will empower
students to take initiative and become responsible for their education,
themselves and their role in their community. "Freedom is responsibility,"
he said. "I tell students that being in America, it's a free country, but
there is a lot of responsibility to that freedom."