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Faculty Spotlight: Michele Naples, Professor, Economics

Faculty Spotlight: Michele Naples, Professor, Economics

Our final Faculty Spotlight for the semester is on Michele Naples, Professor of Economics. Michele has been with the School of Business for over 30 years. Recently we spoke to Michele about a study abroad program she has participated in a few times, TCNJ in Ghana.

Can you share with us how this opportunity first came about and how long you have been participating in the Ghana study abroad program?

“20 years ago, the 2-year-old child of a friend from church rapidly developed autism. Later, the mom, Genevieve Kumapley, co-founded a school for such kids in Ghana, where she was originally from. I invited her to speak at Autism Awareness Month on campus in 2013, and Prof. Jerry Petroff in Special Education suggested we initiate a study-abroad program. So we did. In 2014 he and I visited Ghana with Genevieve, and in 2017 we brought the first group of Special Ed majors and others who took my Women, Gender, and Development course in Ghana. We’ve gone 3 more times.”

Can you share a little about what is involved in creating a program like this?

“We were blessed to be able to partner with the school’s director and co-founder. Jennifer Dordor Brock seems to know everyone in Ghana, and developed a terrific co-curricular program for our students to get to know the culture, and numerous hands-on experiences and opportunities to give back through community service (doing projects for the school; a community STEM day for local children led by Prof. Manuel Figueroa). Nevertheless there were lots of logistical issues: figuring out when direct flights would get scheduled; adapting to issues around housing (the dorms had no AC or hot water; then faculty housing at the university was quite far from the school which hosted our classes, etc.), managing the visa process, predicated on yellow fever vaccines and passports; and anticipating Covid issues – Ghana has little, but we apparently brought it with us.”

What are the benefits of participating in this study abroad program?

“For some, the experience was life-transforming. A few took a run down the beach, encountered a small village, and witnessed children creating a joyful life for themselves with hardly any resources. A political science major was so struck with the basic development issues–pollution, need for water management during the rainy season–that he plans to try to get into diplomacy and contribute to Ghana’s economic development. Others got internships in the mayor’s office in Accra, designed a Maker’s Space, and developed a fundraising campaign.”

What aspects of the culture in Ghana do you hope students would be able to take advantage of?

“People in Ghana are very open to speaking with students. We see live music, go dancing, and learn much about developmental disabilities by interacting with children at the school. There is a vibrant arts community, both traditional crafts and modern. We visit the slave castles used to warehouse people being shipped to the America’s, this is part of our history as well.”

Read more about Dr. Michele Naples and see what else she has been working on. Check back in the Fall for more Faculty Spotlights!


School of Business

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The College of New Jersey
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