Director's Message

A message from our director

Dear African Studies students, faculty, and friends,

Welcome back to a new and very different academic year. I hope that you were able to find some time of rest and renewal over the summer, and that you and yours are well. 

If you are new to IU and the African Studies Program (ASP), or a potential student, please browse through our website to gain a sense of the program, our outstanding faculty, and the numerous opportunities and support we offer our students. As well, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you might have:

This summer saw the transition of John Hanson out of the ASP directorship and fully into his position as the executive associate dean of the Hamilton Lugar School. I want to thank him for staying on a year beyond his original appointment, serving African Studies so well, while teaching and leading HLS. I am serving as interim director until January 1st, at which time Beth Buggenhagen will begin her tenure as director. 

Our academic and personal lives changed drastically last spring, and I would like to take a moment to thank you for your perseverance. Thank you, ASP students: you continued to show up, participate and thus make our courses richer. The ASP appreciates all the work that faculty and our graduate Associate Instructors did to help our students successfully finish their spring semester. I learned last week through our external Title VI reviewers, Thomas P. Miller & Associates, that student surveys taken at the end of fall semester, middle of spring semester, and then again at the end of the spring semester, noted student satisfaction with course instruction actually increased from “agree”/“strongly agree” to  a unanimous “strongly agree”! This, with everything faculty and AIs had to do to quickly shift to online teaching. That speaks to your dedication and commitment to our students. They felt strongly supported by you. Thank you.

I would also like to extend a sincere thank you to all those donors who contributed to the ASP’s emergency funds this summer to assist students who were unable to pursue internships, planned employment or in some cases return to their families outside the U.S. for the summer. All funds were immediately made accessible to them. Basic needs were met. Your impact was profound. If you are able and have not yet donated, please consider a gift to the ASP’s IU Foundation account. We prioritize student needs. 

To our students, we know that you had wished for something different this fall. We did, too. Right now, we may not literally be sitting in our offices with doors open (and snacks at the ready!), but know that as always, we are here for you. Please reach out to us. For general questions and communications, please email me ( or Marilyn Estep ( You may contact me directly for undergraduate and graduate advising questions.

We will unfortunately not be holding a fall reception this semester. However, we will be highlighting our 2020-2021 academic year Foreign Language and Area Studies fellows, our new affiliate faculty, visiting scholars, events, and your successes on our social media sites and updated website throughout this semester. Please share your news with us, and check @iuasp on Instagram and FB. Finally, let us hope we can come together for our annual ASP Student Award Reception in person this May!

African Studies was busy this summer supporting students, offering a Summer Swahili Program for middle and high school students, and presenting timely teacher education workshops, including a four-part series on “Teaching in Crisis” with educational experts and teachers from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria and elsewhere. Teacher participants were not only from Indiana, but from across the US, Europe, and Asia. We will be highlighting these and other activities from 2020 in our annual African Studies Newsletter

I encourage African Studies faculty, students, alumni and emeriti to send news of your recent activities, publications, and other accomplishments for the 2020 ASP newsletter. We also ask for proposals for longer stories on research or other activities that you or your students had over the past year meriting greater attention in the newsletter. Please send information and relevant images to me (, or our new ASP graduate outreach assistant, Dana Vanderburgh ( We hope to have submissions by November 1st.

Our events this fall will be held virtually. A benefit is that those of you residing beyond Bloomington will be welcome to attend and present. This includes the ASP’s Friday Colloquium, which will begin September 25th. Check our Friday Events email bulletin and our Events page for virtual programming and links to attend. We open our fall events this month by partnering with Lotus to bring Habib Koité and Ricardo Lumvo to the Lotus World Music Festival. In October, look for ASP’s public event Transnational Solidarities: BLM and Human Rights Movements in Africa. In between, and going forward, we will have much more that we hope you will find relevant, timely, and engaging. Enjoy!