Teaching Scholars program brings diverse backgrounds, expertise to BU

For immediate release: Feb. 5, 2008

BLOOMSBURG — A new program offers young professors the opportunity to develop their professional skills while they live, work and teach at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. The Frederick Douglass Teaching Scholars program, designed for recent graduates of doctorate programs and graduate students entering the final stages of doctorate programs, welcomes applicants from historically under-represented populations who want to gain experience working as faculty members.

The first Frederick Douglass Teaching Scholars, Wazi Apoh, assistant professor of anthropology, and Ivan Turnipseed, assistant professor of business management, have been living and teaching at the university since fall 2007. During that time, they have created and taught specialty courses, worked with student organizations on campus and served as temporary faculty members within their departments.

There are numerous benefits to the Frederick Douglass Teaching Scholars program, according to provost James Mackin. It encourages diversity within the campus community and exposes students to different cultures and ideas. Frederick Douglass Teaching Scholars are also introduced to the benefits of working at BU and have the opportunity to become involved in a variety of campus organizations and initiatives, Mackin said.

Frederick Douglass Teaching Scholars teach a minimum of two courses each semester within their respective departments. The length of time each scholar is employed by the university can vary from one semester to a full year, depending on his or her circumstances. “This program can be tailored to meet the demands of the individual,” Mackin said.

When Frederick Douglass Teaching Scholars come to Bloomsburg, they bring their unique academic specializations with them, filling a niche within their respective departments, said Jonathan Lincoln, assistant vice president and dean of undergraduate education and academic affairs.

Both Apoh and Turnipseed have created and taught courses specific to their areas of expertise. Turnipseed, who specializes in the hospitality industry and human resources management, has taught courses in both fields. Apoh, who is from Ghana and has completed fieldwork in his homeland, created two new courses focusing on the archaeology of Africa and the anthropology of human rights. Apoh also has worked individually with students interested in studying in Ghana and hopes to organize an interdisciplinary summer program that will allow BU students to participate in fieldwork there.

Taking advantage of the opportunities for service available through the university, Apoh and Turnipseed have served as mentors to students in the Frederick Douglass Living Learning Community, offering advice on graduate schools, conference opportunities and academic achievement. They have taken students to professional conferences, including the northeast meeting of the National Black Graduate Student Association, an organization Turnipseed led as president while pursuing his advanced degree.

“We are bringing something new to the university while adding to what’s already here,” Turnipseed said.

Apoh appreciates the opportunity to act as a mentor to undergraduate and graduate students at BU. “To have this status behind me creates a lot of motivation, especially for international students. I hope I help them believe that they can make it in a foreign land, to make them say, ‘If he can do it, why can’t we?’

“We want to be involved with students as much as possible,” he noted.

Although both Apoh and Turnipseed have previous teaching experience, the opportunity to teach at Bloomsburg has been particularly rewarding, Apoh said. “My students are very interested. They come to class eager to learn more. They tell me they find it challenging but interesting and, to me, that is always positive.”

The Frederick Douglass Teaching Scholars program has already proven beneficial to those involved, according to assistant vice president Lincoln. “The scholars gain teaching experience and, hopefully, learn from our institution. Students can take specialty courses they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to take. Current faculty have the chance to mentor and learn from the new faculty members, and our future applicant pool increases when applicants hear about us. In my opinion, this program is a win for everyone involved.”

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Professional Studies, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.