TTU art professor's African program combines technology, tradition

Technology and tradition are often considered to be at odds with each other, but Tennessee Tech Professor Carol Ventura is involved with a project that promotes technology to help preserve traditions in the African country of Ghana.

Ventura, art history professor at TTU, along with her husband Andrjez Gutek, a math professor at TTU, presented a weeklong workshop in August to doctoral candidates at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana.

Ventura, the only art historian at TTU, has special interest in craft history and wanted to visit Ghana to see their weaving and fabric printing.

In preparing for the trip, she was asked by the university to present the workshop to help their doctoral students with their dissertations.

In her own experience self-publishing her dissertation into a book, Ventura provided helpful tips to the students and taught them how to publish their own dissertations using computer programs and the Internet.

“I am helping in advising them and also giving them the tools to self-publish their own work,” Ventura said. By publishing their dissertations, she said, it will help them increase in both number and awareness “books about their traditions.”

While in Ghana, she taught the students how to use programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Microsoft Word and Quark. Along with the programs, she introduced them to online research tools like JSTOR to enable them to add more scholarly resources to their bibliographies.

“Several students were doing their thesis on Ghana boats and wanted photos for their papers,” she said. “They didn’t know about Google images to find photos, so we did a search and the images popped right up. They were amazed.”

The Tennessee Board of Regents started a new initiative recently encouraging professors to work with African universities, but the university supported Ventura’s effort even prior to that initiative.

In the future, Ventura said she plans to continue the collaboration with the artists of Ghana by inviting a faculty member from there to present several lectures, a workshop and an art exhibit here.

She said, “Faculty collaborating with faculty here. It’s a back and forth thing and that’s what is being encouraged.”

Ventura will be returning to the university in August to look over the students’ dissertations and assist the students further with their work, and she will be making periodic updates to her university web page.

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