Focus on Faces
3/28/2006 1:49:57 p.m. - Hobbs, NM. Several international students who are currently attending New Mexico Junior College have discovered a friend there who not only helps them remember their homes and homelands but also helps celebrate them.
Vicky Gann, reference technician at NMJC’s Pannell Library, has unintentionally evolved into one of several point persons for the college’s growing international population. “It’s been a joy working with these students. I’ve learned so much from them,” she said. “They’re far from home, many for the first time in their life, and they have so many questions and a real need to know about so many things.”
According to the students she has befriended, however, Gann provides much more than just answers. In 2004, her first semester at NMJC, Eunice Jepkogie, a pre-nursing major from Kenya, had the good fortune of meeting Gann in a visit to the college’s library. From that visit evolved a friendship that helped make her transition a little easier while she struggled to understand the American way of doing and seeing things. “She not only talks to us [Jepkogie and her friend Grace Onuma of Nigeria] and explains things to us, she has also taken us to dinner and to church, and she always takes time for us. No question is too simple or too hard for her. She is very patient, and she helps make our experience here a very good one.”
But what sets Gann apart from other kindhearted NMJC employees is her desire to honor these courageous students who have ventured far from the familiarity of their families, villages, and towns. To do this, she wanted to provide something that will help their fellow students at NMJC—many of whom are local—understand the quantum leap these students have taken in moving around the world to attend college. Working with the resources provided by the college and Pannell Library, she has begun coordinating a series of exhibits showcasing the people and works of their home countries.
Beginning this spring with an exhibit of books, maps, pictures, posters, and information about the countries of Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria, Gann was supported in her efforts by six students from the African continent. Heindel Adu of Ghana; Grace Onuma of Nigeria; and Eunice Jepkogie, Wilfred Kogo, Moses Too, and Francis Kibet of Kenya served as both inspiration and resource for Gann’s efforts. Kibet, who is actually a graduate student working on his MBA at Eastern New Mexico University, is a frequent visitor to Pannell Library. “Although Francis wasn’t a student here, he was a big part of the exhibit. He helped a lot, too,” said Gann.
Gann has become surprisingly well versed in the history and background of the countries. She insists, however, that her newfound expertise is due more to the students’ enthusiastic sharing of information than to her personal research and study. “When I put up one particular poster, one of our students, Heindel, who is of the Ashanti tribe, pointed out to me that he knew who the tribal king was pictured on the poster. It turns out that it was a renowned Ashanti king who had died two years before. First-hand knowledge and information like this is truly fascinating to me.”
True to form, Gann has already begun planning ways to showcase other homelands of the college’s international population. “The next exhibit will focus on the Philippines,” she said. “And I’m looking forward to learning about their traditions and history as well. I know it will be interesting, too.”
The African exhibit will be on display through May at Pannell Library. Hours of operation are Monday – Thursday, 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. For more information, please call (505) 392-5473.