Course instructors Benjamin Abe (anthropology) and Thomas Cook (economics) have created a unique learning environment online for “From Africa to Wall Street”. Abe interviews workers in myriad settings on the African continent, posts the video material, and then you analyze it in terms of ideas and principles from the course. The video material is a supplement to the book perspective you might get in a traditional anthropology or economics course. If you cannot be in Africa, having an instructor there is the next best thing! In spring 2009, “From Africa to Wall Street” instructors received the Charles Kane Award for Innovation.
All the material for the course is online: articles from famous authors, multimedia lectures including PowerPoint presentations that can be reviewed and rewound, vodcasts and podcasts, and seminars. The not-in-real-time seminars may lack face-to-face discussion, but you have the advantage of a few days to consider the principles you are studying and post thoughtful comments. There are also live chat rooms, where the 12-hour time difference between Washington and Africa is a challenge – Abe sometimes is online in the middle of his night! You can ask questions about the principles you are studying, but you also likely to be fascinated by your instructor’s personal experience in Africa. During one quarter Abe was in a country in turmoil and had to flee to a neighboring state.
In this course the world gets smaller as you learn that work is work, wherever you are—a remote part of a developing country like India or Africa, or on Wall Street. You experience firsthand through video interviews that young men herding cattle in Africa have the same motivation to work as the commuter in New York City—provide food and necessities for themselves and their families. The anthropology focus of the course provides cross-cultural comparisons, showing the congruency between peoples from vastly different cultures. The economic aspect teaches how the production process works to make and distribute goods, throughout all societies.