International Studies & Programs


The Michigan State University African Studies Center has 170 faculty with experience on Africa, probably the largest in the nation, including the largest faculties in social science (40) and in economics and agricultural economics (16). The Center features many other scholars in African languages, the arts and humanities, education, agricultural and natural sciences, health and medicine and other fields. The faculty members are listed alphabetically by college and departmental affiliation, noting geographical areas of Africa experience, and teaching and research interests.


Sort by

Walter Hawthorne III Department: History
Countries/Research: Guine-Bissau
Email: walterh(at)

Read Biography

Biography: Walter Hawthorne III is a Professor of African History and Chair of the History Department. His areas of research specialization are Upper Guinea, the Atlantic, and Brazil. He is particularly interested in the history of slavery and the slave trade. Much of his research has focused on African agricultural practices, religious beliefs, and family structures in the Old and New Worlds. His first book, Planting Rice and Harvesting Slaves: Transformations along the Guinea-Bissau Coast, 1400–1900 (Heinemann: 2003), explores the impact of interactions with the Atlantic, and particularly slave trading, on small-scale, decentralized societies. His most recent book, From Africa to Brazil: Culture, Identity, and an Atlantic Slave Trade 1600-1830 (Cambridge: 2010), examines the slave trade from Upper Guinea to Amazonia Brazil.  He has published in a range of scholarly journals such as Journal of African History, Luso-Brazilian Review, Slavery and Abolition, Africa, Journal of Global History, and American Historical Review.

Robert Hitchcock Department: Geography
Countries/Research: Botswana; Lesotho; Namibia; Zimbabwe; Uganda; Gabon; Swaziland; Somalia; Kenya; Egypt.
Email: hitchc16(at)

Read Biography

Biography: Robert K. Hitchcock is Professor of Geography and an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, USA where he has been since August, 2006. Formerly he was Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University (2006-2009) and before that was Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Geography at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he spent 23 years. At Michigan State University, Hitchcock is a core faculty member in the Center for Global Change and Earth Observations (CGCEO), African Studies, the Center for Advanced Studies in International Development (CASID), the Center for Gender in Global Context (GenCen), the American Indian Studies Program, Peace and Justice Studies, and is currently involved a program focusing on the well-being indigenous, minority, and refugee children in collaboration with the Departments of Social Work and Family and Child Ecology in the College of Social Science. Over the past several decades, Hitchcock has served as a cultural anthropologist, archaeologist, and in international development consultant on issues ranging from indigenous peoples rights and land use planning to social impact analysis and community-based natural resource management, particularly in Africa and North America, with brief work in Central and South America. Research Interests: His focal areas of concern are human ecology, international socioeconomic development, resettlement, human rights of indigenous peoples, women, refugees, and minorities, and conflict resolution. Some of his work focuses on hunters and gatherers and deals with socioeconomic change among societies that engage in foraging for part of their livelihoods.

Kay Holekamp Department: Department Integrative Biology
Countries/Research: Kenya
Email: holekamp(at)

Read Biography

Biography: Kay Holekamp's research focuses on mammalian behavioral development and its physiological substrates. She and her students are currently investigating how social, ecological, and endocrine variables interact during an individual's early development to influence its subsequent behavior and its reproductive success as an adult.

Thomas Jayne Department: Ag, Food & Resource Economics
Countries/Research: Zimbabwe; Kenya; Zambia; Ghana; Ethiopia
Email: jayne(at)

Read Biography

Biography: Thomas Jayne’s career has been devoted to working with African colleagues to promote effective policy responses to poverty in Africa.  Jayne is Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University.  In June, 2015 he was named MSU Foundation Professor. He is also Adjunct Professor at the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute in Lusaka, Zambia, and is a Distinguished Fellow of the African Association of Agricultural Economists.  He has mentored dozens of young Africa professionals and played a major role in building MSU’s partnerships with African research institutes, serving as co-director of several grants from the Gates Foundation focusing on building sustainable research capacity in Africa. He has over 25 years of experience conducting research on agricultural productivity and markets. 

John B. Kaneene Department: Director of Ctr for Comparative Epidemiology
Countries/Research: Uganda; Tanzania; Etthiopia
Email: kaneene(at)

Read Biography

Biography: Dr. John B. Kaneene's research emphasis includes the epidemiology and mechanisms of antibiotic resistance; surface water contamination; bovine tuberculosis; and disease surveillance. A focus is on the epidemiology of food-borne pathogens and their relationships to the development of antimicrobial drug resistance in animal and human populations, particularly Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli. He is also actively involved in epidemiological studies and risk assessments of bovine tuberculosis in wildlife, livestock, and pets. As director and founder of the Populations Medicine Center, Kaneene addresses issues involving epidemiology, preventative medicine, and public health on a variety of diseases.

Candace Keller Department: Art and Art History
Countries/Research: Mali
Email: kellercm(at)

Read Biography

Biography: Candace Keller earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the Department of the History of Art at Indiana University, where she majored in African art and minored in African Studies and African American art. Her work is driven by a commitment to intellectual and cultural diversity. She strives to bring African cultural practices and theoretical perspectives to the conceptual awareness of global audiences, emphasizing their critical value within our increasingly interconnected, transcultural world. With a specific focus on vernacular art and photography, her work centers on the power of representation. She investigates the ways in which cultural knowledge and markers of social identity are constructed, perpetuated, and contested via visual language systems. In this vein, she considers how individuals—artists, patrons, and audiences—ascribe meaning to images as they traverse cultural contexts, cultivating a sense of social belonging, individuality, or exclusivity, to appreciate how local means of visual expression can have far reaching significance for global citizens. Her research and courses center on issues of identity, personhood, and complex agency, as well as processes of transculturation, globalization, nationalism, and postcolonialism. Since 2008, Dr. Keller has held a joint appointment as Assistant Professor of African art in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. She is core faculty in the African Studies Center, Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities, and African and African American Studies. Her research on the histories of photography in Mali, West Africa, has appeared in several publications, invited lectures, and conference presentations and has been generously supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the British Library, Fulbright-Hays, Indiana University, and Michigan State University.

John Kerr Department: Community Sustainability
Countries/Research: Egypt; Malawi; Tanzania; Zambia
Email: jkerr(at)

Read Biography

Biography: John Kerr received his PhD in applied economics in 1990 at the Food Research Institute, Stanford University. Before joining the faculty at Michigan State University in 1999 he worked at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, DC. His research interests are in international agricultural development and natural resource management. Focal areas of his research have been on adoption of agricultural technology and natural resource conservation practices, collective action and property rights related to natural resource management, and the interaction of these things with rural poverty in developing countries. He has lived in and conducted research in India, Mexico, and Egypt,, and conducted short term research in many other countries as well.

Mohammad H Khalil Department: Religious Studies
Email: khalilmo(at)

Read Biography

Biography: Mohammad Hassan Khalil is an associate professor of Religious Studies, an adjunct professor of Law, and Director of the Muslim Studies Program. Before returning to his hometown of East Lansing, Michigan, he was an assistant professor of Religion and visiting professor of Law at the University of Illinois. He specializes in Islamic thought and is author of Islam and the Fate of Others: The Salvation Question (Oxford University Press, 2012) and editor of Between Heaven and Hell: Islam, Salvation, and the Fate of Others (Oxford University Press, 2013). He has presented papers at various national and international conferences, and has published peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on various topics, from bioethics to early Islamic historiography to contemporary conversion narratives to soteriology to jihad.

Maria Lapinski Department: Comm Arts and Sciences Dean
Email: lapinsk3(at)

Read Biography

Biography: Dr. Maria Lapinski is joint-appointed as a Professor in the Department of Communication and Michigan Ag-Bio Research at Michigan State University (MSU). She is currently serving as the Associate Dean for Research for the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and in this role facilitates interdisciplinary research partnerships and identification of funding sources for faculty research. Dr. Lapinski received her doctorate in 2000 from MSU and her Master of Arts from University of Hawaii, Manoa. Her research examines the impact of messages and social-psychological factors on health and environmental risk behaviors with a focus on culturally-based differences and similarities. To this end, Dr. Lapinski has conducted collaborative research projects with her students and colleagues in a number of countries in Asia, the Pacific Rim, Central America, and Africa. Her work has been presented at national and international communication and public health conferences, published in refereed journals including The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Health Communication, Communication Monographs, and others. Her research has been funded by agencies such as the National Science Foundation, World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health, and United States Department of Agriculture. Her favorite courses to teach are International Health Communication, Risk Communication, and Health Communication for Diverse Populations.

Mara Leichtman Department: Anthropology Social Science
Countries/Research: Senegal; Morocco
Email: leichtm1(at)

Read Biography

Biography: Dr. Leichtman is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, and she focuses on West Africa and the Middle East. She earned her Ph.D. in Socio-Cultural Anthropology from Brown University, and she also holds an M.A. from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in International Relations and African Studies and a B.A. in Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the University of Michigan. Her research highlights the interconnections among religion, migration and politics, and conversion to Shii Islam, through examining Muslim institutions and the communities they serve. She investigates the location of Shii Islam in national and international religious networks, the tension between Lebanese and Iranian religious authorities in West Africa, and the development of a vernacular Shii Islamic movement in Senegal.