Service reaches Africa

Next January, a group of Marquette students is scheduled to fly to the largest continent and spend a semester as volunteers in South Africa.

The South Africa Service Learning Project is a semester-long culture-immersion program for students with at least junior standing. The participants will take 12 to 15 credit hours at the Desmond Tutu Leadership Academy and the University of Western Cape and will participate at several service learning sites in Cape Town, South Africa.

Students will attend classes three days a week and do service learning the remaining two days. In addition, the program will include field trips to historic places like Robben Island, formerly a prison for the mentally insane, lepers and former South African Congress President Nelson Mandela, according to Bobbi Timberlake, service learning program administrator.

Judith Mayotte, visiting professor in the theology department and board member of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, was the major designer of the project. She hopes the students who participate in this program will gain a better understanding of the world through the program.

"I think South Africa has been an incredible gift to the world and I think there is so much that we can learn from how South Africa resolved its differences," Mayotte said. "Most of these students will not go into development work or overseas work. They will become attorneys. They will become engineers. They will become homemakers. They will become citizens of the world and they will engage in that world more fully if they have been exposed to a country like South Africa that went through terrible turmoil and conflict and racial separation and yet has come together."

College of Arts & Sciences Dean Michael McKinney said the project was meant for students to learn, not to impose beliefs.

"One of the real challenges is that these foreign countries don't want us to be their saviors," McKinney said. "We can't go in there and be the ugly Americans and say this is how you should do things. We're there to learn."

According to Mayotte, living arrangements are being negotiated with the Freeland Lodge, a nine-bedroom, two-kitchen, multi-meeting room house used for housing up to 18 students.

Once in South Africa, students will enroll in courses like "Theology of Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Justice," "Leadership: History, Theory and Ethical Practices," "Leaders in Grassroots Organizations-Community Development and Social Analysis" and one or two electives at UWC, though Mayotte said that the preferred maximum credit load was 12 hours. Prior to their semesters abroad all students are required to take History 077: History of Africa.

Bobbi Timberlake, director of service learning, looks forward to the impact the program will have on students.

"I think this program is going to be wonderful for the students," Timberlake said. "The experience of being taught by local professors who have lived through apartheid — they'll be able to tell students things that will be much more enlightening and real than if they were reading a history book about this. The kids who are going over there will be changed forever in big ways."

While there, students will work in pairs with different grassroot organizations as part of their service learning. According to Mayotte, some arrangements have already been made with the Centre for Conflict Resolution, Philani Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre and Centre for Rural Legal Studies.

Senior Joyana Jacoby, majoring in theology and sociology, will not be able to participate in the South Africa Project, but has been a part of a comparable program out of Santa Clara University in California. The program, called Casa de la Solidaridad, places students in El Salvador where they work with human rights activists and community organizers.

"The South Africa program is very similar to Casa in that it gives students an opportunity to listen exquisitely to another culture, to challenge every part of who they are, and to wake up and to embrace the world with all of its injustices," Jacoby said. "Students who are thirsting to be broken open by the reality of poverty, injustice and beauty in our world ought to answer their call to experience a program like Casa or the South Africa program.

"Be ready to laugh, to cry, to immerse yourself completely, to be humbled, to share, to look and really see, to live, to be broken, to fall in love. I am really excited that Marquette is initiating the South Africa program. It is a testament to the Jesuit mission and is where more of our energy should be going."

Robert Deahl, dean of the College of Professional Studies, said South Africa would be an example for more than Marquette students.

"I think this is one of the most important programs that Marquette University has put forward in the last several years," Deahl said. "South Africa can not only provide our Marquette students with an outstanding international experience, but can also provide the global community with a model for attaining peaceful resolutions to terribly difficult social, political and racial problems."

Students participating in the program will pay regular Marquette tuition and all their financial assistance will apply. They are responsible for airfare and travel expenses, room and board, travel medical insurance, in-country transportation and incidental personal expenses, according to Mayotte.

The program is open to any undergraduate student with junior standing or beyond that has a cumulative QPA of 2.75 or more. The application includes three letters of recommendation, a transcript and a 200-word essay on why the student wants to participate. More information on the South Africa program is available from Mayotte at (414) 288-7645 or The deadline for applications is April 6 but is going to be extended until October for the program's first run.