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Dr. Gloria Boutte Returns to South Africa for Fulbright Specialist Project

Dr. Boutte teaching at a Cape Community School in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Dr. Gloria Swindler Boutte is at the education epicenter for defining equity pedagogies and advocating social justice issues. She is revolutionizing teaching curricula that embraces cultural diversity though a global approach.

The scholar division of the Institute of International Education (IIE) within the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) recognized this and recently notified Dr. Boutte that she was awarded a two-week Fulbright Specialist Project at Stellenbosch University (SU) – one of the four top research universities in South Africa.

The Fulbright Specialist Program promotes linkages between U.S. academics and professionals and their counterparts at host institutions overseas. The program is designed to award grants to qualified U.S. faculty and professionals, in select disciplines, to engage in short-term collaborative 2 to 6 week projects at host institutions in over 100 countries worldwide.

Stellenbosch University is familiar to Boutte – In May 2012, she and Dr. Tambra Jackson gave a lecture there on Transforming the Early Childhood Education Program at the University of South Carolina. This year Boutte will return to SU where she will be engaged in presenting three 2-3 hour lectures on structural changes (among other related topics) in teacher education programs at USC, initiating ad hoc "focus group-type" meetings with faculty and students, observing and participating in SU teacher education programs, and visiting three local public schools and one African village school to assess their mixed methods curriculum.

Boutte believes that she was selected because her teaching, service and scholarship are grounded in questions of equity that are relevant to scholars, educators, community members, parents and youth. "Because of the complexity and comprehensiveness of my work," says Boutte "I draw from diverse (but interrelated) theoretical frameworks and disciplines such as developmental psychology, linguistics, language acquisition, critical theory and literacy development."

The strategic framework of Stellenbosch's value system is eminently suited to learning and self-development by actively coalescing concepts of equity, participation, transparency, tolerance, mutual respect, dedication, readiness to serve, scholarship, responsibility and academic freedom within their curriculum. That is why Boutte is eager to begin her Fulbright Specialist Project with them.

There are many similarities between the two universities. South Africa's post-apartheid's educational efforts parallel post-segregation efforts in the United States. Also, the size and demographics of Stellenbosch and Carolina are similar -- SU enrolls 26,000 students (about 68% white) whereas USC enrolls 31,000 students (about 70% white). Both universities face the challenge of preparing predominantly white pre-service and in-service teachers to effectively teach culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Like SU, whose mission and framework focus on a "Pedagogy of Hope," USC's Teacher Education Department's mission statement focuses on understanding the perspectives of and preparing educators to work effectively with those who have been traditionally discriminated against, excluded, or marginalized locally, nationally and internationally.

"The USC College of Education values and encourages international experiences; hence, this is a welcomed opportunity. My work focuses on educational equity issues" says Dr. Boutte. "My larger goal is to create a better world for children and families. An important part of the process is to develop global, collaborative networks with children, families, and communities to advocate for equity for marginalized groups. I am guided by my belief that significant change and transformation in educational thinking and practices can only be obtained through the collective efforts and reflective actions of many constituents. I am particularly interested in learning about and documenting advocacy efforts worldwide and sharing this information in my scholarship, teaching and service at USC and in other professional settings."

During her two weeks there, Boutte will also work on a joint publication manuscript with Stellenbosch's Dr. Berte Van Wyk, associate professor in philosophy of education that will capture the parallels and lessons learned from their respective experiences. Not only will they juxtapose their theories and research, they will also spend time conceptualizing a collaborative international teaching and research agenda that can be sustained over time.

"In the spirit of mutual learning and exchanges," feels Boutte, "I anticipate that I will be able to share U.S. perspectives on educational issues as well as gain international insights which can help hosts (and me) to broaden and rec-conceptualize our perspectives on education. My focus on grassroots and global involvement of educators should be an asset as a Fulbright Specialist. This approach allows me to carefully listen and observe the needs and desires of the people before engaging in actions. Particular areas of expertise that I bring include the ability to conceptualize and write grants, competence in curriculum evaluation and development, and outstanding lecturing skills."

As the College of Education Department Chair of Instruction and Teacher Education, Boutte holds the academic rank of tenured professor and is the Yvonne and Schuyler Moore Child Advocacy Distinguished Chair at USC. For nearly three decades, her scholarship, teaching, and service have focused on equity pedagogies and teaching for social justice. Boutte is the author of two books: Multicultural Education: Raising Consciousness and Resounding Voices: School Experiences of People From Diverse Ethnic Backgrounds. Her published works have been reprinted and frequently cited by educational authorities and learned research scholars around the world. Boutte is the founder and former director of SC's statewide Center of Excellence for the Education and Equity of African American Students (CEEEAAS), the curriculum consultant for Carolina School for Inquiry- a public elementary charter school in Columbia, and received over $1,700,000 in grants.

Boutte's area of expertise includes culturally relevant pedagogy, urban education, critical multiculturism, African American language and African American students. In 2011, Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Boutte and Dr. Susi Long embarked on a Fulbright-Hays Group Study Abroad with 13 participants to Sierra Leone, West Africa. Their program was called "Sankofa: Understanding Sierra Leone's History, Language & Culture to Teach Future Generations." They focused on language and area studies to build knowledge, develop international relationships and collect materials to be used in the construction of U.S. K-12 curriculum for classrooms and pre-service teacher education.

Responding to a growing need to better prepare pre-service teachers to honor and understand diverse ways of knowing, Boutte and 5 other USC faculty created the Urban Cohort strand -- a two-year undergraduate program within the College that focuses on issues of equity, marginalization, discrimination in education and the impact on children's learning. There are 460 students enrolled in this program every year making it the largest in the state and the U.S. The strand was designed to help pre-service teachers view diversity as a resource, realize that normalized practices typically reflect dominant cultural and linguistic norms, and that successful practices draw upon home and community knowledge to support the achievement of all children.

Reflectively, Boutte examines her purpose and mission. Her thoughts are profound and revealed in a humble way…"I seek a deep understanding of humanity and what this means for my professional and personal life. I view myself as a servant-leader (a person who engaging in collaborative exchanges which allow me to provide expertise to others and broaden my own perspectives and experiences at the same time).

I have traveled to every continent except Antarctica and believe that respecting and understanding global perspectives are important. Whenever I visit a place, I seek to go beyond the typical tourist experiences and immerse myself into the culture and everyday lives of the people.

My goal is to see, experience, and understand as much of the world as I can. Hence, I view ongoing interactions and connections with people from diverse cultural backgrounds as central to this mission.

It is my belief that as humans, we tend to be ethnocentric and narrowly focused on our small cultural spaces and locations. By reaching out, helping and understanding other lifestyles, cultures, languages and histories, we come closer to understanding our differences and commonalities."

Het jy 'n goeie reis Dr. Boutte.
(Have a good trip)

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