Appreciating Neil Kodesh

The African Studies Program would like to express our gratitude for Neil Kodesh. Neil is a History Department Professor and has served as the longstanding African Studies Program Director. Neil guided the African Studies Program through a challenging transition in 2016 when both the former Associate Director, Jim Delehanty, and Assistant Director, Catherine Reiland, accepted new roles on campus. He extended his directorship for two additional years to train the newly hired Associate Director, Aleia McCord. He has successfully shepherded ASP through two cycles of the U.S. Department of Education Title VI applications. In addition to his home department’s service responsibilities, Neil has selflessly and reliably served the African Studies Program and International Division on countless committee assignments. Neil regularly teaches the African Studies Program’s African 277 and led an effort to overhaul the curriculum by creating a suite of digital learning materials that allowed the course to be taught online beginning in Summer 2020, a prescient initiative in the face of the current pandemic.

In all areas of his work, Neil shares a passionate commitment to intellectual production and African Studies. To graduate students, he offers endless encouragement and generous guidance. To African Studies staff, Neil exceeds the expectations of his position. In 2016, Neil created the conference, “Big Stories + Close (Up) Research: Health and Science in the African World,” which aimed “to explore the relationship between deeply grounded research and the larger narratives we tell about health and science in the African world.” The conference’s focus on multidimensional methods in African health and science research is a testament to Neil’s appreciation for interdisciplinary debate. In another example, Neil taught a cross-listed graduate-level course for two semesters to explore developing online courses and practice creating modules with students. He has also supported our Outreach Program and brainstormed with us about how we can improve the Program as it relates to supporting graduates, inspiring meaningful conversation, and considering the ethics of our work.

According to Aleia McCord,

Faculty members like Neil Kodesh are what make our African Studies community such a wonderful place to study and work. His dedication to his craft inspires all those who work with him. Neil is widely respected as an outstanding educator, caring mentor, careful scholar, and trusted colleague. He will shun these accolades because of his intrinsic humility, but we all know that Neil is part of the heart of our African Studies community. He has worked quietly and tirelessly to honor the legacy of this program while also leading our community to imagine new directions for service and scholarship. Thank you, Neil, for all that you have done and continue to do for our community!

We cannot thank Neil enough for his unending commitment to African Studies and the students our Program serves.


By Carly Lucas and Aleia McCord