With democracy and threats to it undoubtedly one of the world’s most pressing global challenges, the focus of Kellogg Faculty Fellow Jaimie Bleck’s Fulbright term was on strategies for engagement with democracy among young people in West Africa. Her host from August 2022 to June 2023 was The Jesuit University - the Center for Research and Action for Peace (CERAP) in Abidjan, Côte d’ Ivoire. There, Bleck taught research methods to masters’ level students and continued her book project on the impact of tea-drinking, social clubs (grinw), and their contribution to social capital and democratic resilience among young people in Mali.
A co-authored article based on that research is forthcoming in the American Political Science Review. With enthusiastic participation from many partners throughout Notre Dame, Bleck’s initial collaboration with CERAP expanded into several spheres.
“I was fortunate that colleagues throughout Notre Dame were incredibly supportive in helping to build on the partnership with CERAP,” she says. “For example, the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts (ISLA) awarded a research grant to political science graduate student Rasheed Ibrahim, which enabled us to conduct collaborative research with the CERAP Vice President and fellow political scientist Fr. Brice Bado on youth attitudes toward foreign powers. Additionally, NDI's Jackie Oluoch-Aridi, director, Nairobi arranged and finalized an MOU with CERAP during my stay."
With that as a start, the matrix of collaborations throughout Notre Dame grew even larger during Bleck’s Fulbright term.
“Ernesto Verdeja, associate professor of peace studies and global politics in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, came to Abidjan to give a talk on his research on disinformation and misinformation,” she explains. “And, Holly Rivers, associate director of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and I organized a virtual event on human development with two other universities – the African School of Economics (ASE) and Seeka University – as well as with French-speaking students affiliated with Kellogg.”
She adds that Rivers later visited to scout out potential areas of collaboration with CERAP, ASE, Seeka, and the US Embassy.