Called Back to Ghana
Why would someone give up a tenured faculty position at one of the top liberal arts colleges in the United States?
For Suzanne Buchele, associate professor of computer science, the answer is simple: to help create one of the best liberal arts colleges in Africa.
Buchele, who has been a member of the Southwestern faculty since 1998, went to the West African country of Ghana on a Fulbright Award in 2006-2008 to teach at Ashesi University. Ashesi is a liberal arts college that was started in 2002 by Patrick Awuah, a native of Ghaha who earned his undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College.
Buchele’s husband, Steve, who is a United Methodist minister, went with her to Ghana and worked at a nearby church.
Ever since they returned to Georgetown in 2008, Buchele said she and her husband felt pulled back to Ghana. In fact, they have gone back there almost every year since to either visit or teach.
Returning full time wasn’t practical though, because the couple has three children they needed to get through college.
In the summer of 2011, Buchele said she and her husband felt they were at a point in their lives where they could start thinking about going back to Ghana permanently. They decided to try and go back as missionaries through an organization called The Mission Society, which is based in Georgia. Steve Buchele worked with The Mission Society during their 2006-2008 stint in Ghana.
The couple was accepted into The Mission Society’s program in the spring of 2012 and they spent a month during the summer of 2012 undergoing an intensive training program in Peru.
“The Mission Society does a really good job preparing and training its candidates,” Buchele said.
Buchele’s mission work will involve teaching one course a semester at Ashesi University and serving as the university’s associate provost. Her husband will serve the spiritual needs of the Ashesi community, and return to his work with a Methodist church in Ghana.
Buchele said the expertise she has gained at Southwestern will be invaluable as she tries to help Ashesi strive for academic excellence in all areas. She has been a member of the Academic Affairs Council for almost all of her 15 years at Southwestern, and served as chair of that committee for several years.
“Ashesi is growing and expanding, so their academic program is changing,” Buchele said.
When Buchele was at Ashesi in 2006-2008, it was located in Ghana’s capital city, Accra. In 2011, it moved to a new permanent campus that is about an hour and a half north of Accra. It currently has 600 students and is raising funds to add three new majors − engineering, pre-law and economics − to its existing majors in computer science, business, and management information systems.
“Ashesi is a truly remarkable university,” Buchele said, noting that Ashesi means “new beginnings” in the local language. “Patrick’s goal for Ashesi is to be an excellent liberal arts and sciences-based university in which critical thinking, ethical reasoning and the study of leadership and social responsibility is threaded throughout the curriculum. This is a new educational model for the region and it promises to transform West Africa through its graduates.”
Fall 2013 will be Buchele’s last semester at Southwestern, and she and her husband will leave for Ghana sometime in the spring of 2014. The couple is currently trying to raise funds to support their mission work in Ghana.
Buchele said it is not going to be easy for her to leave Southwestern.
“I really love and respect the professors in my department, the other professors on campus, the staff I have become friends with, and our new president,” she said. “I also will miss my students terribly, but they know this is important for me and they know that I am going off to do something I feel like I need to do.”
Buchele may not breaking all her ties with Southwestern, though. She hopes Southwestern will start a formal study abroad program at Ashesi, which would enable her to teach Southwestern students who go over for that program.