Professors bring art, acting classes to Bangladesh

Peter Zokosky and Karole Foreman-Zokosky teach drawing and interactive theatre classes to young women at AUW.

Professors bring art, acting classes to Bangladesh

Courtesy of Karole Foreman-Zokosky and Peter Zokosky.

Karole Foreman-Zokosky, center, and Peter Zokosky, right, stand with a student on graduation day at the Asian University for Women during their trip to Bangladesh over summer.

Cal State Long Beach professors Peter Zokosky and Karole Foreman-Zokosky traveled halfway around the world this summer to teach art and acting at the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Bangladesh.

“It was a tremendous experience,” Foreman-Zokosky said. “Life-changing and definitely deeply satisfying.”

Zokosky, who had never visited Bangladesh or an area as densely populated before this summer, said that the trip was at times difficult and uncomfortable.

“Life in Bangladesh is much more chaotic,” Zokosky said. “It was very exciting and eye opening. Parts are challenging, and parts are just really wonderful.”

While in Bangladesh, Zokosky taught a course on foundation drawing, and Foreman-Zokosky taught an interactive theatre class.

“The students were incredibly enthusiastic,” Zokosky said. “They had never had a college-level art class [before this]. These young ladies were excited to get a chance to draw and see what they could do in that area and the same as acting.”

The AUW is a scholarship-based college aiming to improve social and economic conditions and female education within a variety of cultures, Zokosky said.

Foreman-Zokosky said she traveled to Bangladesh to help the students with their self-expression, confidence and ability to tell their story and let their guards down.

“The idea they [the students] can get an education and travel and be able to make fundamental improvements in their society was a motivation that ran through some of the students,” Zokosky said. “It’s courageous what these women are doing.”

Zokosky also said that one of the most touching things he encountered during the trip were the friendships that formed between the multi-cultural students who otherwise may not have become friends.

“Some of the cross-cultural friendships were beautiful to see emerge,” Zokosky said.

Zokosky and Foreman-Zokosky said their classes saw some students who, even though they couldn’t enroll in the classes, would complete the homework assigned and arrive in class every day, despite not receiving any credit for the class.

The professors said they are now trying to create an exchange program between AUW and CSULB so that students from AUW and students from CSULB can experience the different cultures.

Zokosky and Foreman-Zokosky said their experience in Bangladesh inspired them to also make a documentary featuring interviews with both students at AUW and CSULB students, faculty and staff, The professors said campus members from both universities were asked similar questions to show the different lifestyles between of students at AUW and CSULB.

“I think it makes it really relatable by seeing how it affects individuals’ lives and hearing it out of these women’s mouths is really powerful,” Zokosky said about the upcoming documentary.