Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

May 8, 2002

Whitworth Alumna Awarded Fulbright Grant to Study in West Africa

Conducting research in Africa isn't a typical career path for most college graduates. But Alissa Johnson, a 2001 Whitworth alumna and the recipient of a distinguished Fulbright grant, will take the road less traveled in September when she journeys to Burkina Faso to spend a year studying the complexities of West Africa's social identity.

"Alissa has won one of the most competitive and prestigious awards available for graduating seniors or recent college graduates planning to study overseas," says John Yoder, professor of politics and history at Whitworth.

The Fulbright grant will give Johnson an opportunity to examine how the economic forces of globalization are causing an increasingly rapid creolisation in West Africa.

Creolisation, Johnson explains, is "the process by which different languages and cultures are absorbed and mixed in a way that results in a society with a multi-layered complexity of identity."

Specifically, Johnson will research how a demanded reduction in government funding of film in Burkina Faso may lead film production in West Africa to be reoriented to southern Africa.

Johnson, who double-majored in cross-cultural studies and French at Whitworth, spent her junior year studying abroad in la Réunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean with African Creole culture.Johnson researched and wrote her Fulbright proposal during her senior year at Whitworth.

"I would encourage Whitworth students to be open to every opportunity to broaden their perspective, whether that means spending time overseas or just seeking out and listening to ideas and viewpoints that differ from their own," Johnson says.

For a college of Whitworth's size, the fact that three Whitworth students as well as a number of alumni and faculty have received Fulbright grants in the last 10 years, and that a large number of Whitworth Fulbright applicants have been semi-finalists, shows how nationally competitive Whitworth is, Yoder says.

"The [Fulbright] year is excellent preparation for graduate school and it is one of the best ways to build long-lasting relationships with scholars, artists and decision-makers in other countries," Yoder says.

Johnson will spend the majority of her time in Ougagdougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. She will pursue academic coursework in film, culture and history at the University of Ouagadougou, conduct independent research and interviews with filmmakers and members of several different organizations, and participate in the city's film festival.

"Although the research itself will be fascinating, the opportunity to begin new relationships and explore and experience Burkinabé culture is what I am most excited about," Johnson says.


John Yoder, professor of history, political and international studies, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4432 or e-mail johnyoder@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information specialist, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or e-mail jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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