LETTER FROM THE INTERIM DIRECTOR FALL 2016

 

barro

September 30, 2016
Dear CAS Friends and Colleagues,

Let me begin by thanking Professor Assata Zerai for her service as CAS Director in 2015-2016. It was a pleasure working with Assata. All of us here thank her for her leadership and wish her the very best in her new position as Associate Chancellor for Diversity. Assata left CAS right after a very busy summer directing our 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (YALI) Public Management Institute, an Obama initiative that brought to our campus 25 African professionals between the ages of 25 and 35 with established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. They came from across the continent to hone their skills and establish US-based connections. Special thanks also go to Fredrick Dixon, Terri Gitler, Carlos Rubio, Brenda Sanya, Soo-Yeon Yoon, the African Students Organization (ASO), as well as all volunteers and peer collaborators for their hard work during the YALI program.

As our consortium―CAS and the Program of African Studies (PAS) at Northwestern University―wraps up year two and begins year three of Title VI activities and programs, we are happy to report that, on the programming front, 2015-2016 has been an exciting year. We focused on activities around three themes: “A Changing Africa in a Changing World,” “Global Health,” and “New Pedagogies for a Global Africa.” Through symposia, workshops, and summer institutes, we were able to bring together an interdisciplinary cohort of Africanists from Africa and other parts of the world to develop new pedagogies exploring Africa’s involvement in the global marketplace, Islam in Africa, the African diaspora, peace and security, and global health. I will list just a few updates.

The CAS/PAS consortium laid the foundation for a longstanding partnership with community colleges. We held two joint seminars which brought together faculty from U of I, Northwestern, two Chicago community colleges, and Champaign's Parkland College. The first seminar took place in March when CAS hosted more than 50 people who engaged with presenters addressing the history of African liberation movements and the current relevance of Africana Studies. They also discussed innovative methods for teaching in community colleges.

In late April, the cohort re-convened at PAS to further explore teaching approaches, including the use of hip-hop as a vehicle for connecting contemporary students with the history of Africa and people of African descent. The consortium plans to deepen its ties to the community colleges in 2016-17 through a joint curriculum development project.

Our joint spring 2016 symposium was titled "Sacred Word: The Changing Meanings in Textual Cultures of Islamic Africa” and took place April 21-22 at Northwestern University. It brought together about 60 scholars from the US, Africa, and Europe. It was the first event in our series of Title VI-funded collaborative programs on Islam in Africa. As a follow up to this symposium, our consortium has begun planning our next Title VI-supported and ISITA-led workshop, projected for fall 2017 at Northwestern, on aspects of the codicology of West African Arabic manuscripts.

Our FLAS program continues to fund graduate and undergraduate students to support their language and area studies training. Since fall 2014, the beginning of our Title VI grant cycle, CAS has provided 26 academic year and 12 summer fellowships to students for the study of Arabic, Swahili, and Wolof. This fall, we welcomed nine FLAS fellows from various disciplines including History, Religious Studies, Library and Information Science, Urban and Regional Planning, and Linguistics. We bid farewell to Stephanie Birch, a former CAS FLAS and joint degree student (MA in African Studies and MS in Library and Information Science). Stephanie just started a new position as African American Studies Librarian at the University of Florida. Katrina Spencer, another CAS FLAS alumna, also started working recently as Resident Librarian at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

This fall, our brown bag series opened with a presentation on September 19th by Dr. Mohamed Diagayete, Senior Researcher at Institut des Hautes Etudes et de Recherches Islamiques Ahmed Baba (IHERIAB) in Timbuktu, Mali. Dr. Diagayete spent four weeks on campus thanks to a West African Research Association (WARA) grant aimed at supporting short-term residencies for West African Scholars to visit WARA member institutions. We thank Dr. Mauro Nobili, Assistant Professor of History, for leading the initiative to bring Dr. Diagayete to our campus. As a WARA institutional member, CAS looks forward to supporting more faculty initiatives like this. We are also honored to welcome Dr. Nnedi Okorafor who is a Nigerian American novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism. Okorafor, whose books are for both children and adults will be on campus for the College of Education’s 2016 Youth Literature Festival (YLF) and will give a special lecture at CAS on October 20th as part of her visit. We thank the College of Education and the YLF organizing committee for this wonderful opportunity.

For up-to-date information on our brown bag series, Facebook postings, current events, and other CAS-related developments, we urge you to frequently check our website.

We look forward to seeing you at upcoming CAS events this fall and throughout the year, and we welcome news about your activities and accomplishments.

Many thanks from all of us at CAS for your continued support!

Maimouna Barro,

Interim Director