Why does this professor have 20 bulging suitcases piled in her room?

• from Meisha Swaby

When Jamie McGloin, HS’20, walked into professor Vanessa Johnson’s room in Ghana, she was both proud and amazed.

“It was like walking into a fort made of suitcases,” said McGloin, who was one of 23 students studying abroad with Johnson last summer as part of a month-long Dialogue of Civilizations course comparing the healthcare systems of the U.S. and Ghana.

More than 20 pieces of rolling luggage were stacked up along the walls—not because Johnson is a clothes fiend, but because she and her students are dedicated to global health equity. Those suitcases were packed to the bursting point with stethoscopes, hygiene kits, computers, baby clothes, diapers, baby wipes, school supplies, and more than 1,000 books.

“We had to get all that stuff to Ghana, so I had each student take two suitcases—one for themselves, and one full of supplies,” said Johnson, an associate professor of applied psychology at Bouvé. “All spring you’d see me rolling empty suitcases across campus on my way back from Goodwill.”

But this wasn’t primarily a goodwill mission. It was experiential learning at its best.