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Janet Purdy

“My CLS experience sent me in an entirely new direction of learning and research. I am now a scholar of East Africa and the Indian Ocean.”

When Janet started to study art history, she was primarily focused on West and Central Africa. After learning that her university offered Swahili classes, she became more interested in linking East African art history with learning the language, which motivated her to apply for the first CLS Program institute in Swahili in 2016.

Although Janet was older than many of her classmates, the CLS Program’s focus on immersive language learning was exactly what she needed to support her graduate work. Since then, she has been back to East Africa over seven times with the Fulbright Program and to conduct independent research in art history and cultural traditions.

“CLS has had the hugest impact on my career and my life. I will always be grateful for the program and the chance to learn about Tanzanian culture.”

Janet was a Fulbright scholar from 2018 – 2019 in Zanzibar, Tanzania and returned to the United States to finish her dissertation for her Ph.D. in Art History. In part due to her language skills, cultural experiences, and the connections she has made since the CLS Program, she was offered a three-year post-doc fellowship with the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellowship in African Art at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Janet presents at an art history colloquium in 2019

Janet has connected with artists and art historians all across East Africa, and credits her introduction to East Africa to her experience on the CLS Program. She frequently speaks to her colleagues abroad about the United States and tells them about the diversity of American culture. She is also passionate about sharing her experiences in East Africa with those in the United States who are unfamiliar with East African culture and languages.

“One of the greatest benefits that I gained from my time with CLS was learning how to become a better global citizen.”

As she continues her work in the arts in East Africa, she is grateful for the guidance and support of her Swahili teachers from the CLS Program who shaped her first experience on the African continent.


Alumni Profiles

Janet Purdy
Janet Purdy
Swahili 2016
Arusha, Tanzania

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Posted Date

December 13, 2019

Posted By

Jessica Klink