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Faculty Directory

The Michigan State University African Studies Center has close to a hundred Core Faculty with experience on Africa, probably one of the largest in the nation. The Center features many scholars in social science, agricultural economics, African languages, the arts and humanities, education, health and medicine and many other fields.

The faculty members are listed alphabetically by college and departmental affiliation, noting geographical areas of Africa experience, and teaching and research interests.

If you are interested in becoming a part of the African Studies Center's Core Faculty, please fill out the Membership Request form

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Jessica Achberger-Martin Department: History
Countries/Research: Zambia
Email: achberg2(at)

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Biography: I am currently the African Studies Librarian at Michigan State University, where I am also Adjunct Assistant Professor of History. At MSU, I am responsible for the selection of all African Studies materials (including special and archival collections), their preservation and accessibility, and reference services to the MSU community, as well as for outside researchers. I am available to serve on the committees (comprehensive and dissertation) for graduate students in the Department of History. I have a particular interest in digital methods for preservation, access, and research dissemination, including forums like the Africa Past and Present Podcast Series, for which I am a new co-host. Originally from Florida, I received a BA in History (Hons) from the University of Central Florida before moving to the University of Texas Austin for my graduate studies in African History (MA, 2010; PhD, 2012). My PhD dissertation, which focused on bilateral relations between Zambia and the People’s Republic of China, is now being finished as an expanded monograph entitled, Negotiating for Development: Zambian Economic Development in the Cold War. I received my Master’s in Library and Information Science (MLIS) from Florida State University in December 2016. Prior to coming to MSU, I was a Senior Research Fellow at the Southern African Institute for Policy and Research (SAIPAR), based in Lusaka, Zambia. At SAIPAR, and in collaboration with other regional institutions, I was actively involved in collection development and management, particularly with digital library and archival digitization projects. I am still on the international advisory board for SAIPAR, as well as on the editorial board of the Southern African Journal of Policy and Development and the advisory board for Zambia Social Science Journal. Previously, I have been Associate Director of Research and Programmes and Associate Research Fellow at SAIPAR. I also held a post-doc at the African Studies Centre in Leiden, where I am currently a Fellow Community Member. At SAIPAR, I worked on a number of research projects, including work on Zambian economic development history, Chinese migrants in Zambia, and information needs and access of university faculty in Zambia, amongst others. My current research interests include endangered material preservation, digitization and digital libraries, and the interaction between archives and historical study.

Nwando Achebe Department: History
Countries/Research: Nigeria
Email: achebe(at)

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Biography: Nwando Achebe is an award-winning author and professor of history at Michigan State University. She is the founding editor-in-chief of the new Journal of West African History (maiden issue, spring 2015), to be published by Michigan State University Press; and Co-Convenor of the African Studies Association Women's Caucus. Nwando Achebe's research interests involve the use of oral history in the study of women, gender, and sexuality in Nigeria.

Adesoji Adelaja Department: Agriculture, Food, & Resource Economics
Countries/Research: Nigeria; Ghana
Email: adelaja(at)

John Aerni-Flessner Department: Residential College in the Arts & Humanities (RCAH)
Countries/Research: Lesotho
Email: aernifL1(at)

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Biography: John Aerni-Flessner earned a BA in History from Grinnell College in Iowa. He taught high school in rural Lesotho (a country in southern Africa) and in the Yup'ik Eskimo village of Kwethluk, Alaska before returning to graduate school. He earned a PhD in African and World History from Washington University in St. Louis and taught at SUNY Cortland in Upstate New York before coming to Michigan State. His main research focuses on how ordinary people grappled with the idea of independence in mid-20th century Africa, and how they came to terms with their changing relations to the state during the decolonization process. As a social historian, his classes tend to focus on big ideas like nationalism, slavery, sport/leisure, development, etc. and then examine how ordinary people interacted with these ideas, were changed by the ideas, and how they were able to change them in subtle ways.

Dalen Agnew Department: Veterinary Medicine
Email: agnewd(at)

Peter Alegi Department: History
Countries/Research: South Africa
Email: alegi(at)

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Biography: I am a  historian of late 19th- and 20th-century South Africa. My work focuses on the relationships between popular culture, politics, and social change. I’m the author of Laduma! Soccer, Politics & Society in South Africa and African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World’s Game, and co-editor (with Chris Bolsmann) of Africa’s World Cup: Critical Reflections on Play, Patriotism, Spectatorship, and Space and  South Africa and the Global Game. Current research projects include work on digital South(ern) African history and on community beauty pageants in apartheid South Africa. I am Editor of the “African History and Culture Series” at Michigan State University Press; Editorial Board member at the International Journal of African Historical Studies and African Studies; and book review editor for Soccer and Society.

Laura Apol Department: Teacher Education
Email: apol(at)

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Biography: Laura Apol is an associate professor of teacher education. Her research interests include literary theory and children's and adolescent literature, issues of diversity in children's and adolescent literature, critical reading and response to literature, and historical children's literature. Recent projects include using writing to facilitate healing among high school- aged orphans in post-genocide Rwanda, and publishing stories of Rwandan Tutsi genocide for children of Rwanda and of the world. She has co-edited a collection of poetry for children and, as a published writer and poet, she conducts creative writing workshops and classes for teachers and students on all levels.

Ann Austin-Beck Department: Educational Administration
Countries/Research: South Africa
Email: aaustin(at)

Titus Awokuse Department: Ag, Food & Resource Econ.
Email: awokuset(at)

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Biography: Dr. Titus Awokuse is Chairperson and Professor in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University.  Prior to joining AFRE he was Chairperson and Professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics at the University of Delaware.  He is an internationally respected scholar who has consulted for private businesses, national governments, international development agencies, and non-governmental organizations.  He has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in international trade, agricultural and natural resource policy, and applied statistics.

Safoi Babana-Hampton Department: Romance & Classical Studies
Countries/Research: Morocco
Email: babanaha(at)

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Biography: Safoi Babana-Hampton is Associate Professor of French in the department of Romance and Classical Studies at Michigan State University. Her primary areas of teaching and research are 20th and 21st century French and Francophone literatures and film. Her book Reflexions littraires sur lespace public marocain dans loeuvre d'Abdellatif Labi (Summa Publications, 2008) critically examines of the role of culture in the construction of civic consciousness and the formation of a modern public space in Morocco. Her current research project is a comparative study of images of multicultural and transnational citizenship in literary and filmic productions from the Maghreb and the Maghrebi diaspora in France.