Focus on Africa

FOA Participants at Mandela Statue

Focus on Africa participants at the Nelson Mandela Statue, Parliament Square, London - May, 2015

A working model in Experiential Education...

Established in 1968, Merrill College is one of ten residential colleges at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).

The Focus on Africa series at Merrill has a dual emphasis: a) upon current affairs on the African continent, and b) on specific methodologies that participating students can use in building viable constituencies for Africa - on campus and in their home communities.  Areas of specific focus include: Public Health, Media and Technology, Energy and Transportation.

Since opening its doors in 1965, the Santa Cruz campus has had significant connection to the African continent. Distinguished alumni who have played major roles in African affairs include (among others): Katherine Canavan - United States Ambassador to Lesotho (1998 - 2001) and to Botswana (2005 - 2008), Dr. Cheryl L. Scott - Country Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tanzania (2000 - 2005), the late Marcellus Collins - a highly respected architect, whose work included public as well as private sector projects in countries throughout East Africa, Dr. Ruth P. Wilson - medical anthropologist, researcher and Department Chair, African-American Studies at San Jose State University, and Dr. (Abdu) A.B.K. Kasozi - historian, author and former Executive Director of Uganda's National Council for Higher Education.

Africa is particularly central to the DNA of Merrill College. The college's founding Provost, Dr. Phillip W. Bell and many of his colleagues - including Dr. John Marcum, Dr. Noel Q. King and Dr. John Isbister - were renowned scholars whose curricula vitae reflected significant teaching and/or research experience on the African continent.

Dr. John Marcum - Merrill's second Provost (1972 - 1977) - served as President of the African Studies Association (1975 - 1976).

The current Merrill administration, under the direction of Provost Elizabeth S. Abrams, has proudly embraced this heritage.

Focus on Africa (FOA) was launched during the 2014 – 2015 academic year as an effort to re-kindle the historic ties to Africa shared by Merrill College and UCSC. The course is taught by UCSC Lecturer Melvin Cox (Merrill College, Class of 1973).

Readings and projects completed at Merrill College via independent study in Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 provided the foundation for a successful journey to the continent during the Spring of 2015. Accompanied by Mr. Cox and Dr. Kimberly Helmer, eleven students from various backgrounds visited London, Cape Town and Dar es Salaam during a sixteen day sojourn.  This was the first international travel for most of the students.

Independent study in the Spring of 2016 examined critical issues in the run up to August 11th General Elections in Zambia.

In keeping with the college's unwavering commitment to Experiential Education1, program participants take part in a quarterly off-campus 'team-building' exercise.

In August of 2016, two FOA students traveled to Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and Lusaka at the invitation of the instructor. During sixteen days of travel, the students gained ‘real world’ experience as ‘bloggers’, interviewers and video production assistants.

Coursework offered during the Fall Quarter of 2016 focused upon Ghana – and further built upon the solid foundation established during the previous quarters. A class focusing on Kenya was held during the Spring of 2017.

The Fall Quarter 2017 course will examine issues surrounding the historic annullment of presidential election results in Kenya - and will seek to provide a functional overview of the African Union (AU)


Focus on Africa: Photo Gallery

Undergraduate Research Papers - COMING SOON!


The Focus on Africa program at Merrill College depends upon the generosity of individuals, organizations and institutions. Your help in assuring the continuance of this successful model in experiential education is respectfully requested.

Asante Sana...


1 The Association for Experiential Education defines the process as: "Challenge and Experience followed by Reflection leading to Learning and Growth."