Academy enhances learning with ethnic infusion, historic vibe

Per Ankh creates route to success, seeks potential members

By Robert Clinton, Sports Writer

In an attempt to enhance the cultural and educational experiences of students, the Per Ankh Academy is recruiting for its first transfer learning community for fall 2015.

Per Ankh (House of Life) was the ancient Egyptian name for schools or libraries where scribes prepared their hieroglyphic texts, and was also known as the center for knowledge and learning.

“We chose to make it an academy over program because it represents a higher standard — it’s something to be desired, something you want to be a part of,” math professor Sherry Sharufa said.

There are requirements that need to be met before entering the academy. Completion of English 142A or a score according to that level on the assessment test.

Although the academy looks to cultivate student success through a curriculum responsive to the legacy of African intellectualism, the courses are not exclusive to black students.

“In the cultural classes or events we hold, usually 60 percent of the crowd is not black,”  history professor Manu Ampim said. “We always draw diverse audiences.”

Some in academia believe cultural classes limit a student’s overall growth and may delay academic development.

“We don’t want this to be a viewed as a crutch to a group,” Sharufa said. “It’s an academy — it’s going to be hard work and  have high expectations.”

After a year of planning, the courses are ready to be offered this fall.

The courses include English 142B, Psychology 103A and Introduction to African-American Studies 110.

Marketing and communications coordinator Michelle Jackson and psychology professor Andrea Phillips created an integrated English and psychology curriculum that complements intersecting aspects of the fields and the people whose legacies may have been lost in the process.

The program is funded by the Student Equity Plan administered through the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. It focuses on increasing access, course completion, degrees, certificates and transfer for all students measured by success indicators linked to the California Community College Success Scorecard.

The scorecard measures student progress and success statistics in public higher education across the country.

“The equity plan receives money to help students overcome obstacles and improve success rates,” Sharufa said. “This money is intended for students of African descent to improve basic skills in English.”

As with any culturally specific program, the fear of decreased diversity in general history or English programs has to be taken into account. Professors have been known to place minimal value on the contributions made by those not in the popular majority.

Some educators feel comfortable not highlighting the works of great women or minorities because there may already be a curriculum dedicated to their legacy. That was a problem some women’s studies department heads had when working to keep their programs afloat.

“Any professor that uses that argument is only looking for a reason to leave out authors of significance,” Ampim said.

Even though cultural events on campus do draw healthy audiences, it has to be taken into account the amount of students that are enticed to come by the lure of extra credit.

On campus, students of all races expressed interest in the enhanced learning experiences that will be provided by the academy.

“When these classes become available I would definitely consider taking them,” culinary arts major Virginia Trowbridge said. “I’d learn things that they didn’t feel like I needed to learn. The history books always tell the story from their perspective.”

The saving grace for the academy is that it is not a recessive program without real world applicable value.

Per Ankh promotes a rigorous curriculum allowing students to successfully transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree and sustain a legacy of excellence.