In conjunction with the bicentennial celebration of Haiti's independence, Penn State McKeesport adopted Haiti as a common theme to inspire teaching and scholarship during the year 2004. The campus initiative was led by Dr. Verónica Montecinos, associate professor of sociology.
Approximately 20 faculty members cooperated to address various aspects of Haiti's history, culture, economic, social and political reality in various courses, student research projects, public debates, service learning activities, theatre productions, art exhibits, and films. Haitian paintings, on loan from the Friends of Hospital Albert Schweitzer, Haiti, were on display at the campus. The campus library page provided resources on Haiti.
Three guest speakers visited the campus during the spring semester.
Dr. Charles McCollester, director, Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Labor Relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, gave a talk entitled "Haiti Matters! Upheaval in the Shadow of History."
Dr. Leon Pamphile, founder and Executive Director of the Functional Literacy Ministry of HaotoI, was the second lecturer. Pamphile, who now lives in Pittsburgh, was born and raised in Haiti. He spoke on "Haiti as an International Symbol of Self-Determination and Liberation."
Dr. Richard Gosser, acting Executive Director and a board member of Partners in Progress, a national organization that supports associations of peasants in Haiti that are building communities that model sustainable, rural development, discussed "Sustainable Rural Development in Haiti."
Students from participating classes shared what they had learned through their assignments.
This initiative continued throughout the fall 2004 semester. Teaching Haiti sponsored a visit by Doors to Democracy, a group that uses art to engage thinking about what democracy means. The event included a voter registration drive. Amy Guthrie, instructor in French, was the leader of this event.
The Fall 2004 Theatre presentation by Dr. Jay Breckenridge and his students was "Krik? Krak! Folk Tales from Haiti."