dr. Sally harris in tanzania
BY NANCY CAWLEY ZUGSCHWERT
When Professor of English Sally Harris, Ph.D., went to Washington, D.C. in June 2008 for the Orientation for Fulbrighters to Sub-Saharan Africa, she learned that the keyword for the Fulbright experience is “flexibility.” Little did she know this would come to be the ultimate descriptor of her academic year in Tanzania.
Selected in spring 2008 to receive a Scholar Award for Teaching and Lecturing overseas, Harris had been invited by the dean of the law school at Iringa University College/Tumaini (IUCO) to teach and do research.
Plan A was to record and enter first-year law lectures into a database that would help new law students learn which vocabulary occurs most frequently in their beginning courses.
Enter Plan B.
Harris arrived in Africa in September 2008. “I discovered that the law department had been rearranged, and the person who had invited me to do the project was no longer the dean of law,” recounted. “The new dean hadn’t even heard of me…or Fulbright…or anything. He had no idea that I was coming!”
A New Direction
The new dean did welcome her, though, and Harris sought to find out what she could do to help the department. Harris taught a first-year legal writing course, helped Law and two other departments come to consensus on the style sheets, and helped create mini-guides for their students. She also taught Composition II to theology students and served as advisor for 20 senior law students working on their primary research projects.
Being flexible proved to be rewarding. Of her work as advisor to the law students, Harris said, “I had the joy of working with students from the beginning—planning the process, thinking through possible pitfalls, working through all of the stages with them.This is such an important thing for them to accomplish.”
Harris encouraged her students in their work and was encouraged in return by the depth and difficulty of some of the topics her students embraced. Their comprehensive research on challenging issues facing their culture should position these future lawyers to have a positive impact in Tanzania.
Harris had to sacrifice time with her husband (although her husband Paul was able to join her for her last three months in Tanzania) and grown children—including skiing with them in the annual Birkebeiner*—while she was in Africa, but felt the experience was well worth it.
Being away helped her appreciate the Northwestern students even more, too. “I was glad to get back to University of Northwestern students,” Harris said. “They’re here because God called them to be here, and they believe this is where God wants them to be; that makes them a joy to teach.”
*Over 10,000 skiers of all ages and abilities gather every February in the Cable-Hayward, Wisconsin area for the American Birkebeiner Cross-Country Ski Race. Celebrating her son’s return from a Minnesota National Guard tour in Iraq while she was in Africa, Sally, son Ken, daughter Arwynn (UNW ’05), and husband Paul, skied the “Birkie” together this year and crossed the finish line hand-in-hand. It was her 27th Birkie.