Inspiring Connections: Fall 2014 Faculty Forum Highlight

By Nadia Alfadel

Dr. Derise Tolliver Atta
Dr. Derise Tolliver Atta

“It’s never about me—it’s about us and our connectedness,” said Dr. Derise Tolliver Atta, Professor in the School for New Learning at DePaul.

At our DWN Faculty Forum held Oct. 15, I was excited to learn about the Tangaza Project, a degree program that connects DePaul with Tangaza College in Nairobi, Kenya. Students who complete this program receive a DePaul degree, and Dr. Tolliver Atta was instrumental in making this project a reality.

But what I took away from Dr. Tolliver Atta’s forum was more than just a lecture on the project and how DePaul came to be affiliated with it.

Dr. Tolliver Atta invited us to peer into the African world view—the perspective that we are all connected, in one way or another. This notion of interconnectedness, of relationships, is central to the African culture and mind-set, she explained. One’s identity depends largely on the whole to which one belongs.

Dr. Tolliver Atta spoke about family and ancestry, the importance of remembering and honoring the larger whole, the bigger picture, the greater community. “I am because we are and we are because I am,” was one of the many proverbs she shared. And it was this notion of connectedness that called her to work on the Tangaza Project.

It was clear that Dr. Tolliver Atta didn’t want this forum to be a show-and-tell of her work, but rather to focus on the importance of giving back to that larger whole of which one is a part. And so she called on us, her audience, to think about what our larger whole is, and how we can give back to it.

The Tangaza Project truly exemplifies DePaul’s mission and values by providing educational access to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access. And the spirit in which it was founded—that of contributing to the larger community—wonderfully reflects St. Vincent’s legacy of working to build a better future for those who may not be able to build one themselves.

I think St. Vincent would be proud.

Nadia Alfadel is a member of the DWN Marketing & Communications team, and an Administrative Assistant in the Department of Residential Education at DePaul University.

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