By Julie O’Melia
This is a historic semester for Worcester State. Professor Marcel Okhakhu is the first international visiting professor to teach at WSU. He hails from Midwest Nigeria and works as a professor of theatre in the bustling city of Benin at the University of Benin in the southern part of the country.
He is a father of four, and two of his children attend Benin University. When he isn’t raising a family or teaching a class of 200 students, he is expanding his passion for education by attending conferences and making friends all over the world.
Having visited the Boston area twice before, he is delighted to work with new colleagues this semester and looks forward to sharing what he learns with his students back home.
One of his colleagues is VPA department chair Adam Zahler who wears many hats including director, father, actor, and international pen pal. In 2015, Zahler flew to Nigeria while on sabbatical. During his journey, Zahler ran a workshop, observed classes, and met Okhakhu for the first time.
Upon his return home, Zahler reflected upon his adventure. Knowing his experience was special, he formulated a plan to bring Nigeria to Worcester.
The plan, devised in 2015, came to fruition when Okhakhu arrived in Worcester this summer. Currently, he is teaching three courses including Acting I, Theatre I, and CitySpeak.
The University of Benin is home to 67,000 students with some classes running to a maximum of 200 students. In addition to class size, Okhakhu finds the students different as well. American students have different “cultural values” compared to his Nigerian students. Although he doesn’t pinpoint those differences, he claims: “students will be students wherever they are.”
Worcester is a diverse city, and Worcester State’s diverse student body is a reflection of the community. Now, WSU adds an international flair to that diversity.
As the first international visiting professor to work here, Okhakhu believes education knows no boundaries and should be spread as widely as possible. In his own words, “One of the big things of academics is the exchange of knowledge and ideas.”
With the introduction of the first foreign visiting professor, The VPA department hopes other departments become inspired to expand their borders and bring the world closer to WSU students – adding to the exchange of knowledge and ideas.