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Message from the Director

A quick note to wish everyone a wonderful summer. It’s been quite a year here at UF. We weathered hurricanes and white-nationalist rallies, only to end the year with a bungled graduation ceremony. Goings-on at CAS have been much more successful, and inclusive.

Building on hard-work of graduate program assistant Riley Ravary, we welcomed our first class of CAS Undergraduate Ambassadors: Elisabeth Rios-Brooks, Moustapha Hoyeck, Melody Mullally, Carli Snyder, and Morgan Ungrady. Chosen for their commitment to African Studies, academic excellence, and intercultural competency, the group took on peer-advising and classroom outreach.

CAS also made its mark on campus with a historical marker celebrating more than 50 years of African Studies at UF.  Located near the Nelson Mandela and Wangari Maathai commemorative trees, the Grinter lawn is starting to reflect the greatness of Africa. The rainy installation ceremony begat the beautiful music of Pauzeni Sauti African Choir and the thoughtful remarks of campus leaders, from CLAS Dean Richardson to Political Science major Josee Kapseu, outgoing African Student Union President.

The buzz of baraza, conferences, and steady stream of visitors continued apace. We co-hosted the SEAN-SERSAS African Studies conference with UNC’s African Studies Center and welcomed established and emerging Africanists from across the region. This was followed by the Carter conference featuring the UF Library’s extraordinary Papa Mfumu’eto Comic Collection from Congo-Kinshasa. Spilling over from Smathers to the Harn, the event brought CAS into the heart of Gainesville, including Depot Park and Eastside High school. Fiston Mwanza’s keynote was unforgettable. His book TRAM 83 should be on everyone’s summer reading list!

The semester wound-down with yet another remarkable event sponsored by the Sahel Research group and co-chaired by 2016 UF PhD Mamadou Bodian, visiting from Dakar. Involving leading scholars from across the region, the symposium examined Islamic activism on university campuses and addressed questions of secularism, sectarianism, gender, inter-religious alliances and more. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the symposium was the presence of Dr. Walar Abakar from Chad’s King Faisal University, arriving less than 2 weeks after the removal of Chad from the US travel ban.

There was also an unforgettable African Student Union showcase in the Reitz Ballroom featuring food, fashion, gumboot dancing, and the ever personable MC, Mr. Cocoyam.

As for summer, plans are already in full-swing. Eight students received pre-dissertation travel awards: Jesse Borden, Netty Carey, Aaron Ellrich, Mustapha Mohammed, Zoliswa Nhleko, Audrey Smith, Ben Smith, and Sarah Staub. These awards would not be possible without the contributions of the Madeline Lockhart, Hunt and Jean Davis, and Alumni Endowments. We appreciate your support!

Many other students and faculty are also planning summer research in Africa. Aided by additional funding from UFIC, we have three faculty leading undergraduate research tutorials this summer. Abdoulaye Kane is wrapping up three weeks in Morocco and Senegal where he is researching religion and migration with three UF students in tow. Initiating an exciting partnership between CAS and IFAS, Cheryl Palm is traveling to Kenya with two students to study livelihoods and ecosystems. Renata Serra will be heading to Ethiopia with a group of three students to examine agricultural and food policy in tandem with colleagues from UF’s USAID Livestock Initiative.

Sponsored by a Fulbright Hays award, CAS Graduate Assistant and Anthropology PhD candidate Riley Ravary is leaving for dissertation fieldwork on environmental governance in Uganda. UF English Department May 2018 PhD and Fulbright Fellow, Mandisa Haarhof, is returning to South Africa to take up a teaching post at the University of Capetown. Safari Nzuri! Sauka Lafiyaa! Wishing them both safe travels and best of luck in these new ventures. Read about Riley and Mandisa below.

The close of the semester also marks the retirement of longtime CAS faculty and former Center Director Peter Schmidt. A big thanks to Dr. Schmidt for his tremendous dedication to CAS and investment in training and educating the next generation of Africanists.

I look forward to seeing everyone in August. Thanks for another great year of African Studies at UF.

Brenda Chalfin