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Ball State professor receives fellowship to transform education

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Have you ever taken a class and as soon as the final is over, you forget everything? You spent hours studying to memorize the information, yet when the test is over, you realize you never actually learned anything. Solving this problem is Michael Ndemanu’s life work.

A passionate educator, Ndemanu is an associate professor at Ball State who was recently awarded the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship to continue his work overseas in Africa. Work that, as Ndemanu explains, has been developed over a long period of time.

Ndemanu specializes in the areas of multicultural education, curriculum theory and comparative education. Born in Cameroon, Ndemanu received a B.A. in English and French before coming to the United States in 2006.

He then received his master’s in education in English and second language and would then go on to receive a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Indiana University. Now an associate professor of multicultural education at Ball State, his lifelong learning has not yet ended.

Through his years of learning, Ndemanu began to think critically about the way that students learn and how the courses were structured.

“I began to think in a greater depth about revolutionizing a different way of teaching,” Ndemanu said.

Reflecting on these thoughts and meeting with colleagues, Ndemanu conceptualized the Center of Transformative Education, a place that will advance educational practices and create new opportunities for community engagement and learning. The center would work to reshape the way that students are taught and shift from memorization to retaining what has been learned.

“(My colleagues and I) began to organize conferences to bring educators together to think about their practices,” Ndemanu said.

These centers were not only created to transform the way educators structure their classes, but to determine how these taught skills could be transferable in a workforce. An issue, as Ndemanu explains, is significant in the current educational climate.

“(The teachings) are not necessarily translating to degrees that can problem-solve,”  Ndemanu said. “We are working in tandem to find the solution through research and workshops to advance some of the shortcomings in education.”

Additionally, Ndemanu is a co-founder and executive director of the Global Institute for Transformative Education, a nonprofit designed to improve the quality of teaching and education in developing countries. His experience puts him at the forefront of the international goal and is what fuels him to continue his work.

These centers are funded by the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship, a scholar exchange for African higher education institutions to host a diaspora scholar. The program’s goal is to support projects in research, curriculum development and graduate student teaching. Ndemanu’s goal for the trip centers around one thing — helping others.

“Michael is sincerely one of the nicest, kindest and most modest people I have ever met,” said David Roof, a colleague and good friend of Ndemanu. “He is always trying to help other people.

Ndemanu cited modern issues like food deserts, poverty and climate change as issues that current skill sets are not equipped to problem solve. Ndemanu argues that transferable skills are not necessarily at the forefront of the current curriculum, and that needs to change.

“As we work to improve the quality of education across Africa, we are also placing an emphasis on teacher education and learning,” Ndemanu said. 

The program will fund Ndemanu’s two-month trip to Ghana, where he will continue to work on the transformative education center. The first phase is reviewing the educational programs and making proposals to provide more transformative outcomes in learning. The second phase will be implementation.

“Michael embodies the enduring commitment to higher education that is central to the mission of this fellowship,” Roof said. “He is one of the few people with the knowledge and capacity to make this experience successful.”

Although the fellowship will require hard work in Ghana, Ndemanu is excited.

“I was so pleased because that meant I was able to accomplish these goals I have for transforming education,” Ndemanu said.

Roof was also very excited for Ndemanu to have the opportunity to reach his goals.

“I know that (Ndemanu) loves this type of engaged service work,” Roof said. “I felt extremely honored and proud to see this recognition of this work. Scholars from around the country and from the most prestigious universities compete for these awards.”

Contact Staff Writer Hanna Rauworth at 317-762-7854 or follow her on Instagram at @hanna.rauworth.

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