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Faculty profile: Kojo Allen

Spring 2013 | Archives

Teaching to think beyond the textbook

Kojo Allen

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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 1997.

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 neighborhood."

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."

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