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Grant Allows Student, Professor to Study Transnationals

Describing herself as a transnational youth, Asana Hamidu ’15 knows how it feels to leave one’s homeland and move to a foreign country for the prospects of a better life, even when it means leaving loved ones behind.

Asana, her sister and her older brother immigrated to the United States in 2006 to further their educations and join their father, who was already living and working in New York City. Her mother, however, was unable to join the family and remained in Ghana.

“My mother was supposed to join us thereafter, but issues with the immigration process made it impossible,” Asana said. “This meant we have been unable to see her for eight years. You can imagine me as an adolescent growing up in a foreign land without my mother and having an amazing and hardworking father who was constantly working to provide for the family.”

Through dedication and hard work, Asana graduated high school in Bronx, N.Y., and came to St. Lawrence University as a Presidential Diversity Scholar. This year, she and Madeleine Wong, assistant professor of global studies, have been selected to receive St. Lawrence’s Center for International and Intercultural Studies (CIIS) Fellows Program award. The award provides funding for faculty members and students to pursue research outside the regular academic year and share an experience of working together in a different cultural setting. 

Wong and Asana, a global studies major who is studying abroad this semester in Denmark, will use the award to support their project titled, “The Family and Gender Politics of Transnational Ghanaian families: experiences of the youths and absentee parents.” The research will allow them to travel to Ghana, where they will interview Ghanaian transnational families and analyze the impacts of separation on local households. 

Wong said winning the award is not only a personal achievement but also one that supports St. Lawrence’s commitment to intercultural education.

“For me, as a teacher-scholar, international and intercultural study constitutes not only an essential bedrock of my pedagogical philosophy and praxis, but also a critical component of the mission of St. Lawrence,” Wong said. “Being awarded the CIIS Research Fellows Award to conduct research in Ghana with Asana presents an invaluable opportunity for grounded one-on-one faculty-student research collaboration, mentorship and guidance that not only enrich our intellectual projects, but also enriches our international and intercultural experiences.”

Their research will center on Ghanaian families who migrate in the hopes of improving their quality of life. It will focus on how migration often leads to family separation. Their analysis will examine the social, material and emotional consequences of different types of transnational family arrangements for both the youth and absentee parents and other siblings. 

The $6,650 CIIS award will pay for airfares to Ghana, lodging and research expenses. Wong and Asana plan to travel and research there for five weeks this summer, providing data for Asana’s Senior-Year Experience. Asana plans to present her research at the University’s Festival of Scholarship and Creativity in the April 2015. Wong and Asana also plan to present their preliminary analysis at the Royal Geographical Society conference in London this August.

“Through this research, I hope to make sense of my own experiences, and the experiences of others who are in the same situation, and to put into perspective the various transformation that family goes through during migration,” Asana said. “This award grants me the opportunity to give back to the Ghanaian diaspora, which I have become a part of. I hope to forefront the social, material and emotional ramification of the various kinds of transnational family arrangements for the youth and absentee parents.”