By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—Dr. Doyin Coker-Kolo, professor of education, has been awarded a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship.
As part of the fellowship, Coker-Kolo will travel to Uganda to work with faculty and students at the College of Education and External Studies at Makerere University.
The purpose of the fellowship is to engage in research and curriculum development in “Women in Educational Leadership,” with the aim of building capacity, enhancing faculty and student scholarships, mentoring both practicing and aspiring school administrators, and establishing a partnership between Makerere University and IU Southeast.
Coker-Kolo will collaborate with the faculty, staff, and students at Makerere University’s College of Education and External Studies and others to develop an online curriculum for Women in Educational Leadership. The curriculum will serve for a short-term workshop and a long-term institute combined with mentoring.
Her research will capture the curriculum development process in a scholarly format for future replication, conference presentations and publications. The mentoring will occur in partnership with local practitioners as well as selected faculty and graduate students in the IU Southeast School of Education, particularly those in the Educational Leadership program, which Coker-Kolo leads.
Through these activities, participants will learn how to design workshops and hybrid coursework to strengthen the leadership landscape for women in education in both the host institution and potentially across the region.
“Women represent more than half of the population in Africa and about 75 percent of classroom teachers,” Coker-Kolo said. “Including them in leadership means improving the educational system and society as a whole.”
This improvement is urgently needed, according to Coker-Kolo.
“There is a great disparity in the rate of access, retention and completion of education at all levels across gender lines in Africa, as in many other regions of the world,” Coker-Kolo said. “This, combined with the conservative mindset of African culture, has led to the low participation of women in leadership generally, but particularly in education.”
There are signs that this situation is changing, and Coker-Kolo sees an opportunity to be at the forefront at that development.
“African governments have developed policies promoting affirmative action across all levels of education, and women are being allocated more leadership positions,” Coker-Kolo said. “I am hoping that a program like the Carnegie African Diaspora, which brings together scholars from around the world with a shared vision for capacity building, will help to assure fidelity in the implementation of the policies set by governments.”
Coker-Kolo is eminently qualified to play a leading role. Before coming to the United States for her advanced degrees, Coker-Kolo completed her National Certificate in Education at Lagos State College of Education and her bachelor’s degree in Educational Administration at The University of Lagos, in her native Nigeria. Additionally, she taught in elementary and high schools in Nigeria, and worked as an education officer with the Ogun State Teaching Service Commission in Abeokuta, Nigeria. Relocating to the U.S., she received masters and doctoral degrees in educational administration from the University of South Carolina.
While focused on academia, the project promises to advance broader social goals.
“In addition to increasing the diversity of representation, educating women has a multiplier effect and so does placing them in positions of leadership,” Coker-Kolo said. “Women-driven leadership styles of nurturing, collaboration and assertiveness align with contemporary thinking in leadership studies and may be a panacea to some of the leadership issues plaguing the continent.”
Coker-Kolo believes she is at the right institution to further this conversation.
With its commitment to diversity, international studies and programs, and a faculty with international contacts in fields as diverse as art, business, science education and psychology, IU Southeast has a history of nurturing relationships with the broader world in order to better prepare its students to play a leading role in a global future.
“IU Southeast has always supported international education and activities,” Coker-Kolo said. “My role is to be an ambassador in promoting the mission of the institution and to explore ways of establishing programs of mutual benefits between my host institution–Makerere University of Uganda–and IU Southeast.”
The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program is designed to reverse Africa’s intensifying “brain drain.” According to the African Union, the continent loses 70,000 skilled professionals to emigration each year, many in the education fields, hampering progress and development in a wide range of areas. The program hopes to address the challenge by strengthening capacity at the host institutions in Africa, and developing long-term, mutually beneficial collaborations between universities in Africa and the United States and Canada. A total of 527 African Diaspora Fellowships have now been awarded for scholars to travel to Africa since the program’s inception in 2013. The Makerere University project is one of 56 projects that will pair African Diaspora scholars with higher education institutions and collaborators in Africa.
In addition to its proposed outcomes, Coker-Kolo’s fellowship fulfills a very personal ambition.
“I have always had the vision of going back to serve in the academy in any region in Africa, since my professional journey began there,” Coker-Kolo said. “This fellowship will enable me to better understand the current context of the academy in the region to see where I can be of use.”