By Marissa Moss, Bicentennial Intern, Class of 2019, History
Read the first part of this blog post here: https://blogs.iu.edu/bicentennialblogs/2018/05/17/a-history-of-the-ovpdema-overseas-study-programs-part-1/
Each customized overseas trip through OVPDEMA runs for two or three weeks with each day planned out with activities related to the culture of the travel destination. In the case of Ghana in 2002, this trip was thematically structured to educate students on the transatlantic slave trade, what took place in Ghana before slaves were taken to America, and the way everyday life takes place in modern Ghana.
One day, the students visited a schoolhouse in Ghana. The blackboard was made of carbon from opened batteries that was spread across a mud wall; the school did not have paper, so they took the children outside to practice writing in the sand. The point in taking African American students to see this schoolhouse was to show how much Ghanaians value their education. It was meant to be an inspiring lesson.
Along with this, Dr. Kevin Brown mentioned that even the principle of traveling on these historic lands gave an experience to students. According to Dr. Brown:
“You’re on this air conditioned bus and we’re coming down the same road they were coming down, except they are walking and in chains. We stopped at one place, and it was called a slave resting station. This was where the slavers would cull the herd, and they would look at certain slaves and decide, ‘You’re not going to make it, you’re not going to make it, and there’s no sense in trying to march you because you’re going to fall down and make it more difficult–Joe, go take him out there and go kill him.’
So, while it was a resting station, it was also this massive gravesite. We did ceremonies there and a couple other places to the ancestors to pay our respects and homage to the ancestors and I could tell them look you have to understand the only thing that drove these people was that one day their descendants would be you, who would have the opportunity to come back here, and who would have the opportunity to be successful in life; that you are the dream that kept them going, so you have an obligation to succeed because of all these people who suffered so much to deliver that opportunity for you.”
The activities on this first trip were designed to create a transformative experience for the participants. This goal is primarily what separates all DEMA facilitated abroad programs from traditional overseas study.
While everything is planned and structured, it also has a strategic intent that seeks to enhance students’ worldviews, their understanding of their own identity, and finding a purpose when they return to IU and post-graduation.
To reiterate this idea, Dr. Brown said, “The experience was a lot about how can I literally change their reality to make them more powerful?” After the first trip to Ghana in 2002, nine of the eleven graduated, and some pursued graduate degrees. The program to Ghana formally ran every summer from 2006-2012 as part of the Hudson & Holland Program with the participants receiving academic credit.
As of 2013, these custom programs belong to and are funded through OVPDEMA. The Ghana program that started in 2002 continues to be a program that runs every other year, and DEMA developed more programs after 2013. In 2015, DEMA facilitated the Ghana trip and a customized program began to India. In 2016, a program to Dominican Republic ran for the very first time. The following year, summer trips ran to India and Brazil.
In the summer of 2018 a Ghana trip is planned as well as a new program to Peru. Each trip has grown to take up to 20 students at a time for a cost of $1,500 or less.
Today, the criteria to travel with DEMA is the following: “You must be at least 18 years old, an undergraduate student with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.7, enrolled full-time in a degree-seeking program on the IU Bloomington campus, and in at least one of the following OVPDEMA programs or center: 21st Century Scholars Program; Groups Scholars Program; Hudson & Holland Scholars Program; Academic Support Center (OVPDEMA-funded tutors only); Faculty and Staff for Student Excellence (FASE tutors only).”
In addition, each program is still all-inclusive; the price students pay covers all lodging, international and domestic airfare and transportation, meals, insurance, and class tuition. Outside of that price, the only funds required of students is for souvenirs or whatever they would like to purchase while abroad.
The initiatives and intent set by Ghana in 2002 act as a foundation for OVPDEMA programs today. This is illustrated through student anecdotes from recent years. Toni Pringley is a first-generation college student at Indiana University from Bloomington, Indiana; she is currently a junior.
During her freshman year, Pringley was selected to receive a free passport through an opportunity hosted through DEMA in fall 2014. At this event, she saw an advertisement for the 2015 summer trip to Ghana for $1,000. After applying and being selected for the opportunity, she traveled to Ghana in 2015 and credits this experience for her giving her the confidence to travel abroad.
She noted that she did not know studying abroad could be affordable, “I did not know anything about studying abroad, it was just not something that was talked about with the people I grew up with. It was fate that I was at that meeting and saw the ad for the $1,000 trip.” She partook in the same activities as students from the original trip in 2002. One of her favorite moments on this trip was the visit to the slave castles in Cape Coast, Ghana which she remembered as paradoxically both beautiful and grim.
After experiencing Ghana, Pringley traveled to Greece for three weeks in May 2017 and spent one month in Rwanda from July-August 2017. Taking this into account with the anecdotes from Dr. Kevin Brown and Dr. Charlie Nelms, it is clear that DEMA study abroad programs are both intentional and unique.
These programs are reflective of the university’s opportunities for underrepresented students. They also reveal that Indiana University makes a consistent effort to make students better individuals beyond academia, and help them understand who they are.
 Dr. Kevin Brown (Founder of OVPDEMA Overseas Programs), interviewed by Marissa Moss, Bloomington, IN, February 26, 2018.
 Office of The Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, OVPDEMA Overseas Studies & Scholarship Program, https://ovpdemaoverseas.indiana.edu.
 Toni Pringley (Indiana University Student), interviewed by Marissa Moss. Bloomington, IN,
April 2, 2018.
Charlie Nelms, Ed.D. http://charlienelms.com.
Dr. Charlie Nelms (Former Vice President of Diversity), interviewed by Marissa Moss. Bloomington, IN. April 9, 2018.
Dr. Kevin Brown (Founder of OVPDEMA Overseas Programs), interviewed by Marissa Moss. Bloomington, IN. February 26, 2018.
Dr. Kevin Brown (Founder of OVPDEMA Overseas Programs), interviewed by Marissa Moss. Bloomington, IN. February 14, 2018
Maclay, Kathleen. “Anthropology Professor John Ogbu Dies at Age 64.” UC Berkeley News.
August 26, 2003. https://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/08/26_ogbu.shtml.
Maurer School of Law. “Kevin D. Brown.” Kevin D. Brown.
Office of The Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs. OVPDEMA
Overseas Studies & Scholarship Program. https://ovpdemaoverseas.indiana.edu.
Toni Pringley (Indiana University Student), interviewed by Marissa Moss. Bloomington, IN, April 2, 2018.