After finishing his PhD in Language Education at the University of Oregon, Dr. Marko Mwipopo came to the University of Michigan in the Fall of 2016 to teach Swahili, a position that was nationally announced. Prior to arriving in Ann Arbor, Dr. Mwipopo taught Swahili at different levels, such as Swahili independent study, Swahili for beginners, intermediate level, and advanced level, the latter three levels being those he continues to teach at the University of Michigan (categorized as AAS 115/116, AAS 215/216, and AAS 315/216 in the LSA Undergraduate Course Guide respectively; graduate course options of the same levels are listed as AAS 515/516, AAS 525/526, and AAS 536 respectively). Mwipopo has taught in both Tanzania and the United States, receiving his first degree in Linguistics Education from the University of Dar Es Salaam.

Mwipopo is one of the two Swahili language instructors in DAAS alongside Dr. Magdalyne Akiding. Through teaching Swahili, Dr. Mwipopo believes that his students will not only learn the language and succeed, but also sees them as “ambassadors of (the) culture.”

“We don’t just teach Swahili, but we teach the culture of the people who speak the language,” Dr. Mwipopo said. “So in a way, our students are traveling psychologically through imaginations to the places where those people speak Swahili natively live. So what we’re doing here is trying to imitate the actions, behaviors, and even the thoughts of those people so that we can act appropriately when we connect with them.”

Dr. Mwipopo takes the responsibility of his teaching very seriously, and feels as though if his students fail, he fails, as well. Mwipopo cites the work of others who have guided him on his path to teaching at DAAS and refuses to take credit for his student’s successes.

“I say all the time to my students that I should not claim to be the one who is inspiring students from my own wisdom and knowledge that I have,” Mwipopo said. “I also reference a lot of wise people, especially those who happened to be my mentors, teachers, or professors.”

Dr. Mwipopo has truly made a profound impact on his students, so much so that he was acknowledged at the University of Michigan Women’s Volleyball match on November 16, 2022 against Purdue University. Mwipopo, his wife, and two children were invited to attend the match on the 16th at Cliff Keen Arena and a previous match that occurred on October 23, 2022 at Crisler Center. Mwipopo was called to the center of the court 15 minutes prior to the start of the game and was met by Brooke Humphrey and Scottee Johnson, both of whom play on the Michigan Women’s Volleyball team and are students of Mwipopo’s Swahili class.

“I don’t even deserve to be in the middle. This is one of the greatest universities, not in the U.S. only or Michigan, (but) in the entire world, and being named for something, you cannot even explain how it feels. You’re confused, and then you are overwhelmed, and you’re thanking people and saying, really? It was a very big honor.”

Dr. Mwipopo hopes that special moments like these bring more attention to his courses and to the African language programs as a whole.

“We are the only African language program - Yoruba and Swahili - through DAAS. It’s exciting and it’s a key to unlock this door to get an African experience, culturally, language-wise, food, whatever it is. I hope these opportunities are making students aware of our presence.”

“That happening (is) a big motivation for me to feel like I need to do a lot for my university, for my students. It has given me a lot of energy and I feel like I’m at the beginning now. Every time I see myself at the beginning to do something more creatively, more kind.”

Other than teaching Swahili through DAAS, Dr. Mwipopo noted that he sometimes teaches a summer course through the Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP) that deals with “issues of language in a broader sense.”

“The politics of language, how society uses language, and how those can be applied in real life, in education, and at different levels,” Mwipopo said. “We involve everyone- learners, parents, different stakeholders.”

“I learned something, that when you are standing in front of students as a teacher, you have to imagine what the students might be going through as learners if you had to begin from that point first.”

Dr. Mwipopo has been very happy to work at DAAS and to be a part of the University of Michigan as a whole. Having received another offer to teach at another university prior to hearing from Michigan, Mwipopo “didn’t even think twice to go to another university.”

“I’ve been very, very happy to work at the U of M. I mean, “There’s many places you can work, but to me, it’s all about being happy and satisfied in your hearts,” Dr. Mwipopo said. “Nothing is like Michigan. So I have been very thankful to the people I work with. I have a wonderful administration. Both the team of executive leaders in my department are amazing, which is tough, too. We have amazing staff on campus who are there to serve people, not because they are hired to work. That’s what I see everyday. I look forward to going to work because I want to see these faces of people who make us so happy and have more energy to serve our students.”