The American University in Cairo (AUC) year has welcomed, this academic year, 61 new faculty members holding citizenship from 16 different countries. Since the beginning of the academic year, this crop of professors can be found toiling over research on drinking water technology, relaying their experiences with grassroots organizing in Burkina Faso and brainstorming innovative ways to bring their fields together from psychology to journalism to environmental sustainability. A Ghanaian native, Charles Kaye-Essien, assistant professor in the Department of Public Policy and Administration, comes to AUC with an education shaped by numerous corners of the globe. He holds degrees from four countries and three continents, and lived in the United States -- where he completed his PhD in public affairs -- since 2013, before joining AUC. Kaye-Essien’s current research focuses on decentralization, public sector reform and finance in the Middle East and North Africa region. “I am very interested in working together with my students --especially those in my leadership and public finance classes -- to co-author at least two academic journals before the year ends,” he said.
Julie S. Johnson-Pynn, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, echoed Kaye-Essien’s desire to embrace students’ existing talents while developing their professional skills. She is specifically interested in AUC’s “fertile ground” -- both literally, through initiatives such as the Adopt- a-Plot program, where she tends to her own row of vegetables, and figuratively, in the potential she sees for students to make an impact. She plans on combining her work with sustainability initiatives already underway at the Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment.
“What attracted me to AUC and to relocate to Egypt -- a country I had never visited before -- was an atmosphere of ingenuity and a landscape of possibilities among its youth,” Johnson-Pynn said. “I hope to infuse my research in youth environmental stewardship to develop transformative learning experiences for students by reaching out to other disciplines and partnering with the RISE program. Understanding our ecological consciousness, psychological well-being and capacity to address environmental problems is critical for the conscientious use of natural resources.”
Whether they’re digging in the soil or producing performances downtown, like theater professor Jillian Campana, many faculty members this year plan on using AUC as a platform to meld disciplines and influence the greater Cairo area.
Campana is one of a few professors who aren’t necessarily new to AUC, but are taking on new responsibilities with the start of the 2017 school year. Campana and her students in last year’s Special Topics in Theatre class produced the original documentary play Dream, Hope, Wish, Desire, which opened downtown last spring. “These kinds of opportunities and experiences are what I came to AUC for,” Campana said. “My research and creative work looks at the connections theatre and performance have to other disciplines, including the social sciences, education and cognitive studies. I am excited about AUC's interest in and support of interdisciplinary work, and I am hoping to help students bridge the gap between their studies and artistic work in their communities outside of school.”
Since AUC is a leader within Africa and the Middle East, professors come with a like-minded focus on influencing the region through their work. Mark Deets, an instructor in the Department of History, studies Africa with passion-driven motivations.
“I hope that [my studies] can give us new ways to look at space and place to bring about a more peaceful, just world,” Deets said. “I have already enjoyed getting to know the students in my classes and I have been impressed by their thoughtfulness and dedication to the pursuit of intellectual community. I hope to build further excitement for the study of Africa -- all of it, meaning I prefer to ignore the artificial Western academic silos around ‘North Africa,’ the ‘Middle East’ and ‘Sub- Saharan Africa’ -- at AUC.”
Jaime E. Mendoza, associate professor of psychology, said he too can feel the enthusiasm radiating from his students, as he works with a team of eight interns as director of the Psychology Training Clinic to plan community workshops on topics, including managing stress and improving relationships.