September 8, 2009
Elizabeth Blevins, Director, Office of Communications
Office: (740) 351-3810; FAX: (740) 351-3179; Cell: (740) 464-4854
940 Second Street – Portsmouth, Ohio 45662
Web site: www.shawnee.edu
University students travel to Rwanda
Shannon Lawson, assistant professor of English and
Humanities, and students from her special topics course,
African Literature, traveled to Rwanda this summer for 10
days as part of the summer session class.
A Yahoo group was set up before the trip for the students to
discuss literature, culture, music and food before the trip.
The group traveled to several villages in the Kigali area.
They visited the Kigali Institute for Education and
interacted with staff and students. In Nyamirambo, they went
to a women’s cooperative where single mothers could learn
business skills, such as technical training, hairdressing,
tailoring or English, among other things, to help them get a
better job. Lawson and the students learned to cook some of
the traditional dishes and they all got a traditional braid
in their hair at the cooperative.
Two of the tour stops were specifically designed so that
students could meet with the English faculty and literature
students at KIE, a university in Kigali and with high school
literature teachers at Sonrise, a high school with a strong
At the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, the group saw the
atrocities that occurred through Rwanda during the genocide.
The museum also had information on other genocides that
occurred in the world outside of Rwanda.
“It showed us that these events are in no way central to the
African continent or Rwandan people,” said student Jed
At the Millennium Village Project in Bugesera, at a village
feast, the group saw testimonies of both a Tutsi woman who
lost her entire family in the genocide and a Hutu man, who
was an active combatant. It was a revelation to Bailey that
these individuals now live together as neighbors.
“As a result of this trip, I have gained a deeper respect
for other cultures through my growing appreciation for
Rwandan culture,” Bailey said. “I have established
tremendous friendships that would have once been implausible
given my lack of motivation to explore far outside of my
Bailey wants to teach English for a year or two in Rwanda.
The country is extremely clean, Lawson said, and every
month, by law, everyone has to go out and clean up the
“People are also encouraged to plant flowers around their
homes,” she said. “The trip showed students a culture rich
in tradition while developing into an Anglophone nation.”
Shawnee State students had an opportunity to see the
traditional dancing by children and they were invited to
join the adults dancing in the Batwa community. They watched
traditional basket weaving in Bugesera and went on a boat
excursion to learn about coffee growing on Lake Kivu.
“With its red dusty hills and lush, green scenery, it’s easy
to forget how the red dirt was once red from blood,” said
student Aaron Carter. “Only through a personal visit to
Rwanda can one understand and appreciate the efforts made
toward healing, growing and developing. And only through a
personal visit to Rwanda can the myths of the backward,
savage, primitive African be broken.”
Shawnee State University students and faculty traveled to
Rwanda as part of a special topics course for summer
session, “African Literature.” In the photo, they are
resting at the Gisozi Genocide Memorial in Kigali with local
guides. The memorial is the burial site for 250,000 victims
of the 1994 genocide. In front are Shima Christia, local
guide, left, and student Aaron Carter. Seated, from left,
are Jed Bailey, Ann Marie Short, Elsie Shabazz, Rebecca Cox,
Florence Kabanyana, local guide, Shannon Lawson, Xiaodan
Huang and Kimberly Crawford.