Current Students

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Abel Djassi Amado, a native of Cape Verde Islands, West Africa, is a PhD Candidate in Political Science. His doctoral dissertation analyzes the impact of language policy on the quality of democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa. He is also interested in (and has written on) politics of colonialism and decolonization, contemporary African political thought and post-colonial politics in Portuguese Speaking African Countries (PALOP). He is a part-time faculty member at Boston College and the University of Rhode Island, where he teaches African Politics and Politics of Race.

Lara Ayad studies Art History, with a particular focus on mid-20th century Egypt. She analyzes representations of women in avant garde painting made before, during, and after the Revolution of 1952, and how these paintings and artworks used pre-Pharaonic artistic elements to renegotiate modern Egyptian identity, shifting gender roles, ethnic marginalization, and class disparities in an Egypt wresting itself from British imperialism and the khedival monarchy. Since 2009 Lara Ayad has also studied Arabic language as a FLAS recipient.

Kristen Carey began working toward a PhD in history in 2013. She focuses her research on childhood and youth in East Africa.  She is interested in how contemporary national youth policies stem from competing conceptions of childhood in postcolonial Africa, using her minor field of political science to inform her research.  She also explores Atlantic history as a teaching field.

Christopher Conz is a PhD candidate in the Department of History. He earned a Masters of Education from UMASS, Amherst in 2004 before teaching high school history for several years. Following two years of Peace Corps service in Lesotho, Chris began his studies at BU where he focuses on the environmental history of Lesotho and southern Africa more broadly. Specifically, he is interested in the historical interaction of knowledge systems, agrarian change, and rural development. Chris has also developed a minor field in anthropology and will be in Lesotho conducting dissertation research for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Lynne Cooney, PhD student in African art history, is a recent recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Award and she will spend this coming academic year in Johannesburg, South Africa researching contemporary art in that city. Her work will address Johannesburg’s changing urban landscape and the ways in which artists are engaging with and transforming the city. She will specifically highlight public art initiatives and alternative exhibitions spaces, as well as the work of individual artists and collectives that have played a significant role in redefining Johannesburg as an inclusive, multiracial metropolis.

Zophia Edwards is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology (started in 2008). Her current research and teaching interests include international development, globalization, political sociology, and colonial legacies. She brings these interests together to understand the factors that influence development in the Global South. Specifically, her dissertation is a cross-national study that uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the roles domestic and global forces play in shaping economic disparities between oil- and mineral-rich developing countries. Her field research was conducted in Trinidad and Tobago and Gabon.

Claire Felter is a Master’s candidate in Journalism in the College of Communication. She holds a B.A. in International Relations and Africana Studies from Tufts University. Her area of focus is East Africa and she is in her sixth year of studying Kiswahili. She has spent time working and studying in Kenya and Tanzania, primarily on the coast.

Zachary Gersten is a Master of Public Health candidate concentrating in Global Health and African Studies at the Boston University School of Public Health. His research interests include the application of Lean Management to healthcare organizations operating in low-resource settings and using local languages, scripts, health vocabulary, and health epistemology to improve global health education programs. Zachary has worked in organizations that provide secondary and vocational education programming for low-income Latino/Hispanic high school dropouts and orphaned young adults in Dakar, Senegal, respectively. Languages: English (native), Wolof (advanced), French (advanced), Korean (beginning)

Maya Guttman-Slater studied psychology and African studies at Smith College.  She spent part of her junior year in Botswana with the School of International Studies.  After graduating, she worked for Doctors Without Borders in their New York office before traveling to southern Africa and working in Malawi for a year.  Maya volunteered at a nursery school and community center in Nkhata Bay, Malawi called Butterfly Space.  She spent the summer working for the Canadian Red Cross with their disaster management department.  She is currently a global public health student and hopes to work in logistics of international disaster relief.

Karl Haas is a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology and a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellow in the African Studies Center working on traditional music and masculinity in urban West Africa. Since 2006, Karl has been researching music and oral history with Dagbamba warriors in Tamale, Ghana. His dissertation project examines the linkages between local ideals of manhood and the spatial, temporal, and material aspects of traditional culture, focusing on the intersections of the geo-political fragmentation of pre- and post-independence Ghana, evolving gender roles, and anxieties over “culture loss” in Ghana’s historically marginalized North.

Lilly Havstad is a PhD candidate in the Department of History. Prior to joining the program in 2010, she completed a BA in History at the University of California, Davis in 2008. She studied for one year at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College in Durban, South Africa, in 2006-2007. Since then, she has focused her studies on nineteenth and twentieth century southern Africa. For her dissertation, Lilly is researching changing foodways and the emergence of an African middle class in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, from the early twentieth century to present times. She is using food as a lens to explore social and cultural change in an urban setting. Lilly is particularly interested in understanding processes of cultural mixing and gender dynamics that have shaped Maputo’s middle class over time. Her fieldwork is supported by a 2014-15 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship, the BU African Studies Center, and a BU Graduate Research Abroad Fellowship.

Karen Kirk is an MPH candidate in Global Health at Boston University School of Public Health. She graduated in 2011 from Davidson College with a BA in French and a minor in Gender Studies. Karen plans to pursue a career promoting women’s sexual health and reproductive rights in Africa. She has studied and worked in Senegal and Kenya. She has summited Mount Kilimanjaro.

Martha Lagace studies the daily negotiation of rights, responsibilities, and risks in northern Uganda’s Gulu region, which is emerging from a 20-year-long insurgency. Martha was recently awarded a Fulbright-Hays doctoral dissertation research grant for 2015. She is a PhD student in BU’s Anthropology department and has also been learning African languages such as Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, and Acholi.

Shandirai Mawokomatanda is completing his doctorate in religious studies. His area of study is social and ecological ethics with a minor in global ethics and African studies.

Bill McCoy is a PhD candidate in the history department. His research focuses on the history of leprosy care in Swaziland, a subject that intersects with his interests in social history and the history of Christianity in Africa.

Gareth McFeely is a PhD candidate in History whose primary research interest is in social/leisure history in West Africa. He is currently completing work on a dissertation project on cinema ownership and attendance from the 1920s to the 1970s in Ghana, where the state itself owned cinema theaters. He plans to defend in Spring 2015.

Philip Rotz is a Ph.D. candidate in African history at Boston University. A 1999 graduate of Eastern Nazarene College (Boston, MA), prior to graduate study, he worked for nearly a decade in public health programs for the Harvard School of Public Health and the Clinton Health Access Initiative—first in Botswana, and then across several Southern and East African countries. Phil’s research interests center on the history of public health in Southern Africa, particularly the intersection of environmental, urban, and health history. He is in South Africa through 2015 to conduct research for his doctoral dissertation on the history of dengue fever in Durban and the coastal sugar belt of KwaZulu-Natal. His fieldwork is supported by a Graduate Research Abroad Fellowship (GRAF) from BU and a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Abroad Fellowship.

Leslie Sale is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science.  She received her BA from James Madison University in International Affairs and Economics.  Leslie is interested in comparative politics but more narrowly, post-conflict state and nation building as well as rhetorical analysis. Regionally she is focused on Southern Africa, particularly the Lusophone states of Mozambique and Angola.

Ela Soyemi received her MSc. in International Public Policy from University College London in 2006 and her BA from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom in 2005. Ela specializes in political philosophy. She also focuses on comparative politics, with especial interest in the Nigerian state and society. Prior to becoming a Ph.D student, Ela worked at the British Houses of Parliament. She was based there in the press lobby as a parliamentary researcher and administrator for the Guardian Newspaper. Prior to that, she worked at Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs). Ela has published articles in the Guardian and academic book reviews in International Affairs and African Affairs.

Chelsea Shields Strayer studies anthropology, with a particular focus on Asante indigenous ritual healing ceremonies. She is interested in the interactive relationship between biology and culture as it applies to witchcraft, ritual, religion, social support, stress, epigenetics, and placebo responses. Chelsea matriculated at Boston University in 2005 where she worked on a Masters and a PhD in both biological and cultural anthropology and a graduate certificate in African studies. She is currently writing her dissertation and teaching a few classes at Towson University in Maryland. For over a decade she has conducted field research in Central Ghana, West Africa, and is now trying to figure out how to condense it all into one coherent thesis.

Aberra Tesfay is a PhD candidate in the Political Science Department specializing in comparative politics with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. He is currently working on his dissertation that examines the impact of decentralization reforms on local government in Ethiopia.

Ben Twagira is a PhD student in history. He focuses on East Africa with a specific emphasis on the Great Lakes. He is interested in comparative social history of the Great Lakes along one or more of these themes: identity, livelihoods, and public health and well-being.

Hannah Webb is a Master’s candidate in the Department of Global Health in the School of Public Health. Her focus is upon planning, implementing and evaluating community-based health projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. She is currently researching the use of surgical technicians to perform emergency obstetric care in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Sarah Davis Westwood  is a PhD candidate in the Department of History. Her dissertation project focuses on the wars between French colonial forces and the armies of pre-colonial Senegalese states.  She is particularly interested in military culture and modes of warfare in West Africa and the Atlantic world.  At present, Sarah is a Visiting Scholar at Northwestern University.