Dr. ‘BioDun Ogundayo, associate professor of French and comparative literature at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, has received a prestigious Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to study, teach and research in Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa.
Ogundayo, who is the director of Africana Studies and foreign languages at Pitt-Bradford, will spend the 2022-23 academic year teaching in the Department of Anglophone Studies at the Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo in Ouagadougou, the capital of West African nation.
“I will be bringing a relevant and specifically American cultural, academic and cross-cultural input and perspective to their curriculum,” Ogundayo said. He hopes to connect his Pitt-Bradford students with his new students in Burkina Faso through the videoconferencing platform Zoom as well.
“We are like bridges,” he said of scholars in the Fulbright program. “People like me are playing a tiny role to explain America to people of this region and explain these West African people to Americans.”
When not teaching, Ogundayo plans to conduct research on how the oral traditions of the country’s dominant ethnic group, the Mossi, shape Burkinabe attitudes, conversations and responses to the challenges of Islamist fundamentalism and violence facing the country.
“The Mossi of Burkina Faso have a rich spiritual tradition,” said Ogundayo, who plans to use the resources of Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo and interviews with colleagues and other local Burkinabè to increase understanding between American and African scholars.
He said he is particularly interested in how Mossi epic literature provides context for how Burkinabe think of themselves, their spirituality and belief systems.
Ogundayo has published on African spirituality, ethics and modern African politics, the African American experience and the African diaspora and has long been interested in the myriad of cultures that are part of the African diaspora.
In 2012, he spent a sabbatical semester at the University of the West Indies in Barbados, where he helped that institution establish a pilot Master of Arts program in Caribbean studies. While there, he taught Caribbean short fiction at the graduate level, francophone literature and courses in French language.
At the University of Pittsburgh, he is involved with the University Center for International Studies and the Center for African Studies; designed and managed Pitt-Braford’s undergraduate certificate in African Studies. He plans to use what he learns in Burkina Faso to contribute to the university’s curriculum, diversity and Center for African Studies.
Ogundayo is uniquely qualified for these studies, in part because of his fluency in English, French and dialects of several West African languages. A native of Nigeria, he attended boarding school in Ghana some 100 miles south of Ouagadougou.
Ogundayo has taught at Pitt-Bradford since January 2001. He earned his doctoral degree in French and Francophone literature and cultures at the State University of New York at Buffalo, a Master of Arts in French from Queen’s University in Canada and a Master of Arts and Bachelor of Arts in French from the University of Lagos in Nigeria. He also studied for a Master’s degree in International Management at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Four hundred Fulbright scholars are chosen nationwide, each year, in collaboration with the U.S. State Department, which sees U.S. educational and academic research projects as a way to foster international cooperation between the United States and other nations.
Pitt-Bradford can boast of several Fulbright Scholars. In 2010, Kong Ho, then-associate professor of art, spent five months teaching mural painting in the fine arts department of the National Academy of Art in Sofia, Bulgaria. The following year, Pitt-Bradford welcomed Bulgarian Fulbright Scholar and muralist Oleg Gotchev. He and students created murals in Fisher and Swarts Halls. Dr. Adedoyin Ogunfeyimi, assistant professor of composition, was also a Nigerian Fulbright awardee prior to his joining Pitt-Bradford this academic year.