Dr. Phyllis Ngai & Dr. Peter Koehn’s Experience in Ethiopia

Dr. Koehn with PhD students in Ethiopia

Partnering with Addis Ababa University-Thirteen Months of Hospitality: The Ethiopian calendar boasts one more month than ours and the tourism industry has long promoted Ethiopia as a destination where one can enjoy“13 months of sunshine.” Based on our recent experience as invited lecturers by Addis Ababa University (AAU) under the developing partnership with The University of Montana, we would add “13 months of hospitality” to that message. The opportunity to “pay back” the university where Peter began his teaching career 40 years ago also figured prominently in our decision to accept AAU’s invitations to devote the bulk of our semester break to instructing PhD and master’s students on their campus. AAU asked both of us to teach graduate students, although the precise nature of our instructional responsibilities differed. Peter contributed to PSIR’s two on-going courses for PhD students (Comparative Politics and Comparative Foreign Policies). Peter found all of his students well-prepared for the seminars, enthusiastically engaged with the material presented, and willing and able to articulate and defend diverse positions. He was impressed by their sincere commitment to remaining in Ethiopia and in university teaching. Phyllis taught an intense course to nine PhD students in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) and delivered two workshops to C& I master’s students and PhD students from the Department of Educational Planning and Administration. In the course and the workshops, she guided students to compare U.S. and Ethiopian perspectives on educational issues such as 21st-century schools. Peter has always found teaching in Africa especially rewarding because students there directly and authentically express their appreciation for one’s efforts and contributions to learning. This experience was no exception. Peter’s students expressed gratitude for his challenging instructional style and the new ideas he introduced; they seemed to enjoy his applications of political-science insights to Ethiopia’s past and current contexts. Phyllis was humbled by the enthusiastic appreciation expressed by the C&I PhD students who took her intensive course. One student wrote: “Your class was very meaningful and unforgettable for us. We learn a lot of things from you…the way you present the lesson, the way you approach students, the way you made the class interactive, in addition to the knowledge and skill on how to design the curriculum.” Aside from the teaching experience, social engagement and reconnecting constituted highlights of our visit. We were showered with invitations to elaborate Ethiopian meals. With various friends in the driver’s seat, we explored much of Ethiopia’s booming capital city, including the vast open-air market (mercato), the Somali neighborhood, the historic Intoto mountain and church, museums, the emerging diaspora residential area, government-constructed apartment complexes for relocated poor residents, and the expanding industrial sector along the road to Akaki. A truly eye-opening experience! Dr. Ngai with PhD students at Addis Ababa University Dr. Ngai with PhD students at Addis Ababa University