Dr. Riggan Receives Fulbright for Research in Ethiopia

April 19, 2016 Caitlin Burns

Dr. Jennifer Riggan, associate professor of Historical and Political Studies, will study how civic education has been implemented in Ethiopian secondary schools, through funding from the Teaching/Research Fulbright award.

During her sabbatical, Dr. Riggan will teach two international research and education courses at the Addis Ababa University’s College of Education in Ethiopia. Meanwhile she will conduct her own research in local secondary schools to look at how civic education is implemented by teachers.

“Ethiopia has a relatively new civic and ethical education curriculum that they’ve been designing and redeveloping for a while,” Dr. Riggan said. “They put a lot of energy and resources into what the government teaches young people about what it means to be Ethiopian. I’m always curious how teachers teach that [and] what are they doing in the classroom.”

As a secondary project, Dr. Riggan will also do fieldwork in rural Ethiopia on how child refugees from Eritrea are incorporated into the education system. While it is a component of her Fulbright study, Dr. Riggan hopes to continue this research annually.

Dr. Riggan had received a Fulbright Student Research Fellowship for her 2004-05 research in Eritrea that looked at similar questions about how nationalism was taught in schools, and was the foundation for her recent book, The Struggling State: Nationalism, Mass Militarization, and the Education of Eritrea. Research into how children learn about nationalism is often excluded because it intersects two fields of study, education and nationalism research, Dr. Riggan said. These gaps look at how it “could” or “should” be implemented, or how nationalism is characterized in a country, but not how it develops in real-world classrooms.

“Teachers play an important role in how people think about who they are,” Dr. Riggan said. “And that happens in some really explicit ways, by what they tell students, and it happens in really subtle ways, like all the little messages they get through commentary, about who people are and what other countries are doing.”

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