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The work of NIU professor Mark Schuller is attracting attention, grants and awards—and NIU students are among the beneficiaries.
In 2015, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Schuller, a cultural anthropologist, with the prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant in the amount of $425,000. Since then, Schuller has won another grant and two significant recognition awards for his research and advocacy work in Haiti.
Schuller holds a joint appointment with NIU’s Department of Anthropology and Center for Non-Governmental Organization Leadership and Development and is an affiliate of the State University of Haiti. He has been researching Haitian nongovernmental organizations, disaster-relief efforts and foreign-aid effects for more than 15 years. As an activist for Haiti solidarity and other global-justice efforts, he also has presented before Congress, the World Bank and other international agencies.
NSF’s highly competitive CAREER grant, dispersed over five years, supports early-career faculty who are making a difference in the world through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.
“You have to be really relevant and focused on the methods in terms of the scientific merit for the award,” Schuller said. “It also requires that you make a broader impact in building research infrastructure and expanding opportunities for underrepresented populations.”
Schuller uses some of the grant money each year to prepare graduate students from across the country for work in Haiti.
He and sociologist Ilionor Louis of the State University of Haiti will hold a week-long training on campus next month, addressing Haiti’s post-earthquake transition and providing emerging scholars and aid professionals with an opportunity to discuss the social, political and infrastructural obstacles that still stand in the country’s way.
“Our hope is for participants to gain perspective, get moved to learn more and become inspired to take action to address issues of social justice,” Schuller said.
Last year, two NIU students participated in the training and later worked in Haiti with Schuller. This summer, anthropology graduate student Heather Prentice-Walz, a recipient of an NSF Graduate Student Research Fellowship, will conduct research there for eight weeks. Schuller himself will spend most of his summer teaching classes in Haiti and traveling by motorcycle to visit the eight field sites in the CAREER study.
“What I enjoy most about my work are the relationships with a range of people—activists, scholars, NGO professionals, neighbors and friends from many years,” Schuller said. “I have seen people grow up, students go on to becoming leaders in the community and colleagues advance their skills.”
Schuller won the 2015 American Anthropological Association and Society for Applied Anthropology’s prestigious Margaret Mead Award and was named the association’s Anthropology in Media Award winner in November 2016. The American Anthropological Association heralded him as “one of the most productive and dedicated scholars on the contemporary anthropological scene” and someone who “embodies the best attributes of the contemporary engaged and activist anthropologist.”
“These awards frankly mean I need to try even harder to explore new ways of getting anthropological ideas to an even greater public,” Schuller said. “There has never been a greater need for what can be called the anthropological imagination.”
Additionally, earlier this year Schuller was awarded a $38,000 NSF grant for Rapid Response Research (RAPID). He is using the funding to study the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.
“Since we have a long-term engagement with the areas, I felt a personal and professional obligation to use this study to understand the disaster and the response to Hurricane Matthew,” Schuller said. “The RAPID grant will help us to do that.”