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Cheyney Alumna & Professor, Norma George, is Headed to South Africa for a Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad

June 26, 2015

Dr. Norma George, Professor and Chair of Cheyney University's English, Languages and Communication Arts Department and Director of International Programs, is headed to Durban, South Africa for a month as a participant in a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad (GPA). The Africa Center of the University of Pennsylvania is administering the four-week program for educators from the U.S. which offers experiential learning in the history and culture of South Africa, as well as training in the Zulu language. Durban University of Technology (DUT) and Chatsworth Education Center (CEC) work in conjunction with the project. The goal is for Professor George and her colleagues to develop educational modules that they will share with others and incorporate into their courses when they return.

"We have several courses at Cheyney, such as literature, history and anthropology to name a few, which could benefit from an infusion of South African content," Dr. George shared. "I hope to gain knowledge of as many aspects of the culture and language as possible, and to bring this knowledge back to Cheyney. It has always been a dream of mine to introduce the study of African languages at Cheyney to complement the offerings we already have. I hope this would be a step in that direction."

The prestigious award is highly competitive.  George is one of just 14 secondary and post-secondary educators, administrators, and curriculum specialists selected to participate this summer. "I am immensely excited, mostly for what it represents for Cheyney University students and how they will be able to benefit from my experiences in South Africa. I am also happy to practice what I preach to my students as I encourage them to study abroad."

George, who teaches French and Spanish at Cheyney, came to the University in 1986 as an international student from Grenada, where she was raised.  She graduated from Cheyney in 1990 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Spanish and French, after studying abroad in both Spain and France.  She went on to earn a Master of Education degree from Cheyney, as well as a Master of Arts in French and a Doctor of Modern Languages degree from Middlebury College.  Dr. George has also completed required coursework towards a Master of Arts degree in Spanish language and culture from the University of Salamanca in Spain. She was appointed the University’s Director of International Programs and International Student Advisor in 2005. This summer, Dr. George is back to being a student and exploring first-hand, not just Durban, but sites in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, and Cape Provinces as well. 

"While I am excited about the entire program, as a student of language, I am looking forward with tremendous enthusiasm to the study of Zulu," George explained. "When you are able to communicate with people in their own language, you really get an insight into their ways of thinking and of being that you can't get from simply reading about them, observing them or having someone else interpret their words for you. As South Africa’s great statesman Nelson Mandela noted, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” I learned that firsthand by studying in France and Spain as a student of Cheyney University, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to immerse myself in a new language and culture. This would also give me an opportunity to put myself in the shoes of my own students and experience yet again the emotions and challenges they experience as they engage in language learning in my classes."

Dr. George currently advises the Students of All Nations organization at Cheyney, the United Nations Association, the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars, and is working on starting a chapter of Rotaract, an international program for young men and women ages 18 to 30. In addition, she serves as the University’s Fulbright Program Adviser, and is the campus representative for the Gilman and Boren international scholarship programs. In 2006, Dr. George was inducted into the Cheyney University National Alumni Association Hall of Fame, and in 2010, she was awarded the Edward Blankenship Outstanding Staff Award by Phi Beta Delta for her work in advancing International Education at the University.

When she returns from South Africa, George hopes to make presentations on various art, music and cultural aspects of South Africa during Cheyney's annual International Festival and International Education Week, and possibly include South African cuisine on an international banquet menu in the spring. Adding a course in Zulu would be a dream-come-true for her. "For a more lasting impact," she said, "I hope to establish relationships with institutions in South Africa, and eventually engage in an exchange of faculty and students." 

The Fulbright-Hays GPA for educators runs from June 29 to July 28.

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