Campus Community Profile: Jean-Jacques Sene, PhD


Associate Professor of History & Cultural Studies;
Program Coordinator, Global Focus

How do you say his name? "Zhahn Zhahk Senn"
With Chatham since: 2007
Hometown: Dakar, Senegal
Pittsburgh home: Squirrel Hill
Languages spoken: "Let's just say five [laughs]: French, English, Spanish, Wolof, and Creole Portuguese. Everybody, literally, is multilingual where I come from."

Q: What do you like most here at Chatham?
A: "Global Focus. It is exciting on a personal and a professional level because what we help achieve, in reality, is an infusion of global awareness and cross-cultural sensitivity throughout the Chatham experience. So, for me, as we rotate through our different regions and focus on one area intensely to expose the campus community to subjects and actual people who come from that area of the world, I get to learn a lot and then try to package and share as much as possible of that knowledge around me on campus. Sometimes through coursework. What’s not to like about bringing the world to Chatham and taking Chatham to the rest of the world? It’s a two-way street. I enjoy being able to facilitate some of these processes with the help of my colleagues across departments."

Q: Who are some community members with whom you collaborate often?
A: "The list is very, very, very, long. In terms of collaboration to deliver the objectives of the Global Focus Program, the Office of Student Affairs – this is important – must be commended. They are great at relaying the ambitions of Global Focus to the student body. They are very good at what they do and they really won’t allow a student to come to this campus and not have the global dimension be a strong part of their experience. Then you have, just to name two individuals who’ve consistently been shakers and movers of Global Focus outreach in their own rights: Professors Pauline Rovkah in Music and Mark Nieson in the MFA [in Creative Writing program]. As I said, however, there’s a long list of Chatham folks who help me in my work all the time. Too many to name them here, but they know themselves, and they should be very proud of their service."

Q: What are some of your favorite events outside of Global Focus events?
A: "There’s an embarrassment of wealth on this campus... it’s difficult to pick a favorite event... I will say the Office of International Affairs organizes every year a Global Mixer which is really an event that I like because it is focused on having people meet international students and those students meeting domestic students. You can come, mingle, sample food – the Global Mixer is an event that I recommend to everybody who is interested to realize how rich Chatham is in its international presence."

Q: What are some upcoming Global Focus events?
A: "We have a film festival going on. We do a screening every first Sunday of the month at 6 o’clock in Sanger over in Coolidge. Sanger Hall was full for the première Sunday, September 7, and the discussion was pretty deep! On September 18th at 6:30pm, we are bringing to Welker an author by the name of Lynda Schuster. She’s found herself in troubled spots of the world at critical times in history [and] has authored a great book, A Burning Hunger, which profiles one family and how they bravely took their part in the recent history of South Africa. On October 30th, a former U.S. Ambassador is coming to discuss a very stimulating topic: ‘The Downside of Democracy’. Think about it: does democratization always have positive outcomes in Africa? Maybe not. We’ll find out from the best possible kind of sources when it comes to critical questions like this one."

Q: What are some good experiences that you've heard of coming out of Global Focus?
A: "It's an interesting and timely question. One of the events we are offering this fall is with alumna Holly Hickling. She graduated from Chatham in 2005 and currently works at Pitt but lived and worked in Zambia for five years. We are bringing her on Nov. 6th to discuss ‘Voluntourism’. Her talk focuses on the benefits and harms that she thinks are inherent to short-term international service trips. Why do I bring that up?

"I've heard testimonies, many times, first-hand, from students who appreciated, by coming to a Global Focus event, that the opportunities to live and work abroad are also for them. Some would start working on it immediately thereafter. Some kind of ‘wow moment’ about their place in the bigger world, you see. The concrete realization that the whole planet is the territory where their professional ambitions can find an expression. Not just Pittsburgh, not just Allegheny County, not just the however vast United States. In my view, that’s been by far the greatest benefit of Global Focus programming: help empower our students with the motivation to picture themselves, very concretely, living and working outside this country – if only temporarily. One of my former advisees, Diana Aschner, is in the Peace Corps in Indonesia right now. I wish all Chatham students could read the email updates she sends every once in a while. Always so profound. Amazing."