A Letter from the Director, Summer 2012
"The momentum I see in the growth of African Studies at Stanford is extraordinary..."
In September 2011, I returned to Stanford after two inspiring years at the White House, where I had the privilege of serving on President Obama’s national security staff. While I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to play a role in shaping U.S. policy on issues of global poverty and democracy and human rights, I am thrilled to return to Stanford, to resume my research agenda on African political economy, and to take up the leadership of the Center for African Studies.
The momentum I see in the growth of African Studies at Stanford is extraordinary. Just in recent weeks, former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bill Gates have spoken to packed audiences of Stanford faculty, staff, and students about the changes underway in Africa. Blair described his innovative approaches to tackling governance, offering up a new model of partnership designed to help reformers deliver the transformation their citizens are demanding. Gates expressed his excitement and optimism about trends in Africa, and described concrete things people are doing that are changing millions of lives on the ground. These high-profile speakers are furthering the already tremendous growth in student interest on campus, and making clear the contribution that Stanford has to make – through our research, teaching, and service – in addressing the many challenges and opportunities on the African continent.
I am privileged to inherit the Directorship of a Center that is thriving, and appreciate the tremendous leadership of Richard Roberts over many years and the indispensable Laura Hubbard, our valued and beloved Associate Director. Together, our community has embraced a set of ambitious goals that will guide our efforts in the years ahead: a focus on preparing students to engage Africa, a commitment to fostering greater intellectual exchange on campus, new initiatives to connect Stanford with Africa and Africa with Stanford, and the creation of new opportunities for student research and service.
"I am inspired by the progress we have made in building the Center for African Studies, and excited about the possibilities that lie ahead..."
In support of this exciting agenda, I am thrilled to share the news of the Center’s first major endowment gift. Susan Ford Dorsey has made an extraordinary gift of $2.5 million to endow the Directorship of the Center for African Studies and a permanent graduate fellowship to support dissertation field research in Africa. Her leadership gift will be matched with $1.7 million in matching funds from the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford, made possible by the Hewlett Foundation. Susan has been a strong supporter of the Center in recent years, and this gift is a signal of her deep commitment to growing Stanford’s global footprint through our teaching, research, and practical impact.
I am inspired by the progress we have made in building the Center for African Studies, and excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. This year we have welcomed new faculty in Economics (Pascaline Dupas) and the Business School (Katherine Casey), who put us at the forefront of the research frontier in economic development and global health. Our community of graduate students continues to grow, with students from across the university competing for summer research funds to undertake pre-dissertation fieldwork in Africa. Our overseas program in Cape Town is blossoming, and this summer the Center will support eleven Stanford undergraduates who wish to turn their academic experience into a summer service fellowship. And we have undertaken a wide-ranging review of graduate and undergraduate curriculum, with the goal of making concrete changes that respond to the imperatives outlined in the recent, university-wide Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES).
This is an exciting time to be a part of African Studies at Stanford. Best wishes for productive summer, and I look forward to another year of intellectual excitement, continued growth, and new possibilities.