Africa in Our Lives: Diana Chioma Famakinwa

Diana Chioma Famakinwa  is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the field of Educational Policy Studies. Recently, she was awarded a Fulbright-Hays-Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) award to support her in her research on Nigerian universities. In this AFRICA IN OUR LIVES, Diana discusses her work with Project 1808 in Madison, as well as what she hopes to accomplish while abroad. 

Field of Study: Educational Policy Studies (Comparative and International Education)

Diana Chioma Famakinwa

Hometown: Abia State, Nigeria

Tell us an interesting fact about you.
I really dislike shopping, and I try to avoid it as much as possible.

What sparked your interest in education?
It’s difficult to say what sparked my interest in education because I’ve been interested in the field since I can remember. Education has always felt like my calling.

Tell us about your work with Project 1808.
Project 1808 is a Madison-based nonprofit organization working to achieve sustainable community development in Sierra Leone’s Koinadugu District. For the past couple of years, I have been a Network Fellow and Partnership Coordinator for Project 1808. It has been an enriching experience working with the brilliant and passionate people at the organization, and I would encourage anyone interested in applying the Wisconsin Idea at the local and global levels to check out both Project 1808 and the WCER Network Fellows Program.

Why did you decide to apply for the Fulbright DDRA program?
Conducting international research comes with additional challenges when you have a young child. Having become a new mother in the past year, I was concerned that I might not be able to conduct my research abroad. My advisors strongly encouraged me to apply for Fulbright-Hays DDRA, which will support my research in Nigeria and make provisions for my child to travel with me. I’m so glad they urged me to apply, and I’m grateful to have this amazing opportunity.

Why Africa?
As an African, I have many reasons to be interested in the continent. The most salient reason at the moment is my interest in how the history of colonialism is manifested in knowledge production at Nigerian institutions and how even African diaspora engagement can exacerbate it.

What are you most looking forward to during your eight months in Nigeria?
I am most looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends as well as making new connections. I’m also really excited about the food!

Tell us a bit about the work you will be doing as a Fulbright Scholar.
My project is a multi-sited case study which employs a survey, semi-structured interviews, observations, and document analyses to examine diaspora-homeland higher education partnerships in Nigeria and their implications for Nigeria’s place in the “global knowledge economy.” I will focus on U.S.-based diaspora scholars and Nigeria-based scholars collaboratively engaged in capacity-building efforts at two Nigerian universities.

What advice would you give others considering applying for a Fulbright grant?
Start your application as early as possible, get feedback from multiple readers, and read the technical review form to ensure that your application materials address the questions evaluators will ask as they read your application.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? 
In the next five years, I see myself continuing to conduct educational research and enjoying a career that allows me to pursue my interest in international academic partnerships.

By Aberdeen Leary