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

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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.

Lenis Liverpool-Tasie Department: Ag, Food and Resource Economics
Countries/Research: Gambia; Ethiopia; Nigeria
Email: lliverp(at)

Carolyn Logan Department: Political Science
Countries/Research: Kenya; Uganda; Somalia; South Africa; Rwanda; Lesotho
Email: clogan(at)

Sarah Long Department: Music
Email: longsar5(at)

Marsha Macdowell Department: Art & Art History
Email: macdowel(at)

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Biography: I received my B.F.A, M.F.A. and Ph.D. from Michigan State University and have been employed as a curator since 1977 at the Michigan State University Museum. There, in addition to my curatorial activities, I have served as coordinator of the Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a state folk art partnership of the MSU Museum and the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs and the founding director of the Great Lakes Folk Festival. Within the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, I have taught courses (including summer abroad programs), regularly lectured in art history courses, and co-founded the MSU Museum Studies program where I have served as interim director, coordinator of internships, E-newsle tter editor, and as chair of the faculty advisory committee. I have curated over 30 exhibitions, some local and some international; those of note include ones at the Smithsonian Institution, American Fol k Art Museum (NYC), Nelson Mandela Museum, and many at the Michigan State University Museum. Currently I am invited curator for a national touring exhibition that will feature the recipients of the National Heritage Awards, the National Endowment for the Arts’ highest award for artists in this country. I have served in many different professional service capacities in the museum, folklore, and quilt study field, including the following: founding and current editor, H-Quilts; founding board member, The Alliance for American Quilts; past-president, American Quilt Study Group; current elected member of the Executive Board of the American Folklore Society; current member, international editorial board for Museum Anthropology; and current member, international program planning board for the 2011 South African Visual Art s Historians (SAVAH) Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art (CIHA) Colloquium at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Charles Mackenzie Department: Pathology and Diagnostic Investigation
Email: mackenz8(at)

Upenyu Majee Department: Institute of Ubuntu Thought and Practice
Countries/Research: Zimbabwe; Ghana; South Africa
Email: majeeupe(at)