Advancing Oakland

New scholarship supports study abroad opportunities in Africa

Established by OU alumna Dana Parke, the Patrick Missodey Memorial Scholarship is open to students who take part in a university-approved study broad program in Africa

A group of people outside

(Left to right) Elana (American study abroad student), Yollande, Patrick and Dana – celebrating Easter at Keur Moussa monastery.


icon of a calendarApril 13, 2022

icon of a pencilBy Eric Reikowski

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A new scholarship established by an OU alumna will support students who study abroad in Africa. The $1,000 annual award, named the Patrick Missodey Memorial Study Abroad Scholarship, was created by Dana Parke in memory of her late host father, whom she says made an indelible impact when she studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal in 2012.

“Patrick was more than just my host father, he and (his wife) Yollande had become part of my family,” Parke said. “I always knew I wanted to give back so that other students who do not have the financial means would be able to benefit from similar study abroad experiences. I realized there was no better way to honor Patrick than to establish a scholarship in his memory to support Oakland University students to study abroad in Africa.”

During her semester-long study abroad, Parke lived with the Missodeys – Patrick, a master jeweler, and his wife Yollande, an administrator for UNICEF. She recalls many fond memories: “Patrick greeting me every morning from his jewelry workshop inside our home – he even handmade me a custom silver necklace pendant in the form of a baobab tree, which is my most cherished piece of jewelry – sharing many meals together including eating a Togolese peanut dessert that Patrick prepared and drinking bisaap (hibiscus juice), cheering for Zambia during the Africa Cup, going to Mass every Sunday and visiting Keur Moussa Monastery, laughing with their many friends and family, and so much more.”

In addition to taking classes in Senegal, Parke also interned with the Association of African Women for Research and Development and completed independent research conducting interviews on attitudes towards economic and political liberalization in Senegal, which resulted in a publication. Studying abroad also allowed her to complete the French and African Studies coursework to become a triple major.

Parke graduated in 2013, as a member of OU’s Honors College, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations, African and African-American Studies, and French Language and Literature. She now works as a global public health professional with over eight years’ experience at Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) in Detroit. She led the organization’s global health program in Haiti and later transitioned to her current role as Program Manager for Clinical and Social Health Integration. In this position, she focuses on addressing patient social determinants of health, particularly housing. In 2017, she received a 10 within 10 Award from OU’s Young Alumni Association for leadership in her career and community. Her study abroad experience was integral in shaping her career path.

“Ultimately, it was my international experience and my fluency in French that were the main factors that resulted in me obtaining the job at HFHS right before I graduated in 2013 to lead our Global Health Initiative’s program in Haiti,” she shared. “I continue to credit my study abroad experience for many soft skills that I use on a daily basis: my ability to form deep relationships with partners, my flexibility to adapt to new situations, my cultural competency, and my values of prioritizing diversity and equity.”

The Patrick Missodey Memorial Study Abroad Scholarship will be administered through OU’s Office of International Education.

“Many students who study abroad would be unable to do so without financial support,” said Alex Zimmerman, OU’s Director of International Education. “This scholarship helps make international education accessible to everybody at OU.”

Zimmerman noted that Ghana, in West Africa, is one of the few countries where OU students have studied abroad throughout the pandemic and that “as we begin to venture out into the world again in a bigger way, two of our first group study abroad programs will be going to Africa.”

“I feel that for those who are able, studying abroad is the best thing one can do during college to both advance one’s career, as well as one’s personal growth,” Parke added. “I hope that the recipients will dive in and immerse themselves wholeheartedly in the culture and establish genuine and long-lasting relationships with those that they meet.”

Oakland University offers over 300 programs in more than 45 countries, across six continents, for nearly every major. To learn more about study abroad, as well as financial aid and scholarship opportunities, visit International Education.

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