The gift that Nasaruni brings

In the second blog post about JMU’s involvement with the Nasaruni Academy for Maasai Girls, a professor looks at the impact of an international collaboration. (To read part one, click here.) 

How working with Nasaruni and Moses Sayo has impacted JMU students … and me as a professor

By Dr. Michelle Cude, associate professor of middle, secondary and mathematics education at JMU and executive director of the Nasaruni Academy for Maasai Girls

True education, according to Paulo Freire, teaches us to “deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”* Participating in transforming the world is precisely the call for the social studies education students in my methods classes. Nasaruni Academy for Maasai Girls gives us the opportunity to make that a reality.

Michelle Cude and students of the Nasaruni Academy for Maasai Girls

Michelle Cude and students of the Nasaruni Academy for Maasai Girls

Future social studies educators need to develop a global mindset which includes more than just a wider view of the world map. It involves active engagement with those who live on the other side of the globe and have far fewer opportunities than we do here in America. I call on my students to embrace the calling of globalizing their profession, and being the change they want to see in the world. . . something we hear a lot about here at JMU, but don’t always know what to do about it.

Specifically, JMU’s Future Social Studies Educators (FSSE), a student organization on campus to which many of these students belong, has adopted Nasaruni Academy as one of its official philanthropies. The officers, especially, work on T-shirt sales and other fundraising events to raise both money for the school and awareness of the need for girls’ education internationally. The latter is particularly near to the heart of some who help sponsor the “Girl Rising” film showings at Grafton-Stovall Theatre. This film, a production of Ten Times Ten and other partners, highlights the stories of girls in several international settings who struggle to gain even a small chance of an education. For JMU students (often a packed theater full), this is a truly eye-opening look outside of the JMU bubble in a dramatic way. Those who attend the film and want to help make education possible in one small Maasai community in Kenya often donate to our cause. These funds have helped to buy windows for the new classroom, as well as new desks.

Michelle Cude with colleagues, including Bishop Moses Sayo (far left) and Alice Sayo (far right)

Michelle Cude with colleagues, including Bishop Moses Sayo (far left) and Alice Sayo (far right)

Students in MSSE 470: Methods of Teaching Social Studies soon find out that this is not the normal class where you sit and take notes on lectures. Instead, I engage my students in active ways both in the local community through Skyline Literacy citizenship training and through the global impact of Nasaruni Academy. Moses Sayo came as a guest speaker to my methods class this past semester. He was able to personally open the students’ eyes to the harsh realities Maasai girls face for their bleak future without education and hope. Students then engaged with me in deep discussion about the ethical side to working for transformation in a culture so far from their own. While this struck many as invasive, Moses himself was able to assure them of the positive impact and benefit for his people. This is truly a Maasai initiative, not our idea to change them, thus giving firmly positive ethical foundations for this work. Such conversations of the role of ethics in education deepen the experience of JMU students pursuing this career.

Hopefully in the not-too-far distant future, I’ll be able to take some students there to experience the deep desire to learn, the intoxicating smiles and joy of the children, and the powerful transformative feeling of being a part of something truly making a global difference. This is the gift that Nasaruni brings to my students and to me, as a professor – the opportunity to live out the calling to Be the Change.

kenya 1 275To learn more about the Nasaruni Academy for Maasai Girls, visit their website:

To learn more about JMU’s College of Education, visit:


*Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1970, by Paulo Freire

All photos courtesy of Michelle Cude


Senior wisdom

Weather permitting, in about 10 weeks writing and rhetoric major Anthony Baracat (’13) will walk across the university’s historic Quadrangle for the last time as an undergraduate to collect the diploma he’s worked toward for the past three and a half years. As he walks, he  — like so many seniors before him — will reflect on his Madison years and the change that commencement will mark. I asked Anthony, who interned in the Be the Change office last semester, to think about what he might tell a newly admitted student. This is what he had to say….

Some senior wisdom

by Anthony Baracat (’13)

Anthony Baracat ('13) in the red Capital's shirt and JMU friends.

Anthony Baracat (’13) in the red Capital’s shirt and JMU friends.

James Madison is the only university I have ever attended. So while it may be true that I cannot adequately compare JMU to other colleges, I can tell you we have some great stuff. Look at a cork board anywhere on campus to see some of it: author and poet lectures (both Donald Miller and Sean Thomas Dougherty are visiting in the next two months), free concerts, great food all over the place and, if you’ve taken a class, quality education and professors. I mean it. And as a graduating senior, there are surely some more of these things I wish I had done earlier. Here are a few:

1) TAKE ADVICE   Listen when professors and involved students make announcements, write down the date and time. You never know whom you’ll meet at a show or friends you could make joining a club. My prime example would be visiting professors during office hours. I was adamant about not doing such a thing until this year, but now I have two “mentors” I talk with regularly. We talk about jobs, writing and even share books. Of course they’re great “connections,” but they’re also great friends. In essence, if you try something and don’t like it, fine. But try it first.

2) LIVE IN HARRISONBURG   Don’t just go to JMU. Stretch your mind and consider that maybe, just maybe this is one of the most beautiful spots in Virginia. Volunteer at Skyline Literacy as an English tutor, help out at H.A.R.T.S., a local homeless shelter, or even attend a high school football game or play. The point is, meet folks who have been here a while and be in settings uncomfortable to you—it’s worth the trouble.

Rose Library

Rose Library

3) BE ALONE   Get some time to yourself. College is a time to meet people, hang out, go to six events a weekend, sleep for four hours, study, and then do it again. But between social events and school, it’s okay to need recovery (if that’s how you get it). Tuck in a corner of Carrier or Rose Libraries or walk off-campus, read and get coffee. Take the bus by yourself to Target. Go for a walk or a hike if you can; just head toward the mountains. Turn off your phone even!

All in all, do everything you can and do it again if it’s for you. Be around people and try new things. Don’t be the typical college student (grown-ups sure appreciate that!) and when you’re tired, take a break until you’re ready to face the world again. This college and the city it’s in provide a great range of opportunities for anything you could want to do. We’re lucky.

And study! The real world awaits when you’re done with all this fun.

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