Dr. Assata Zerai 


 Center for African Studies


Professor Assata Zerai currently holds positions as Director of the Center for African Studies, Associate Dean of the Graduate College and Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign).

Serving as faculty in Sociology at Illinois since 2002, Zerai’s research frameworks (theory and methodology) build from Black feminist thought, intersectionality, and African and Africana feminisms, and her interests have included maternal and child health, health activism, and safe water and sanitation in Africa and the African Diaspora, and in U.S. populations, as well as diversity and inclusiveness in U.S. Protestant congregations, and making the work of indigenous and marginalized scholars and activists more accessible. Dr. Zerai’s Hypermasculinity and State Violence in Zimbabwe: An Africana Feminist Analysis of Maternal and Child Health was published by Africa World Press (2014). She has just completed Intersectionality in Intentional Communities: The Struggle for Inclusivity in Multicultural U.S. Protestant Congregations (in press 2016, Lexington Books). She is author of Dehumanizing Discourse, Law and Policy in America: A Crack Mother’s Nightmare (Ashgate 2002) And her fourth book, Safe Water, Sanitation and Early Childhood Malnutrition in East Africa: An Africana Feminist Analysis of the lives of Women and Children in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, is currently under contract with Rowman and Littlefield.

Most recently as Associate Dean in the Grad College, Zerai has worked with colleagues to establish an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation University Center of Exemplary Mentoring. They were awarded $1M to increase numbers of graduate students underrepresented in STEM. Zerai has been selected for the Larine Y. Cowan “Make a Difference” Leadership in Diversity Award at the University of Illinois in November 2015.

Dr. Maimouna Barro


Center for African Studies


Dr. Maimouna Barro is Associate Director at the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois. She received a Master’s in African Studies, a doctoral degree in education, as well as a minor in Gender Relations in International Development (GRID) from the University of Illinois.

In her role as Associate Director in charge of academic programming and curriculum development, Dr. Barro teaches undergraduate and graduate core courses in African Studies and oversees an undergraduate minor, a graduate minor, a Master of Arts degree, as well as and a joint degree in African Studies and Library Information Science. Dr. Barro’s research interests include issues related to women, gender, education, and social change in Senegal and West Africa.  Her current research addresses questions related to a more people-centered approach to regional integration and focuses on the importance of women’s informal networks in the regional integration project in West Africa.


Dr. Jeffrey Friedman


 Center for African Studies


Dr. Friedman is currently the Program Manager at the Center for African Studies, and has worked at International Programs and Studies and the Center for East Asian & Pacific Studies since joining the university in 2011. He develops and designs international training programs, teaches American Studies Pedagogy for International Audiences, and works with the Area Studies Centers developing new initiatives. Dr. Friedman holds a PhD in International Education from New York University with specializations in Global Education, English Language Education Policy & Practice, and Internationalization of Social Studies Curriculum. He holds an appointment in the College of Education as an Adjunct Assistant Professor, has taught Social Studies foundations to pre-service teachers, and developed a variety of professional development programs for in-service teachers. In his previous career as a secondary level Social Studies teacher, Dr. Friedman taught Global Studies, Psychology, History, and English as a Foreign Language. He also holds an MA from Columbia University in American Studies

Terri Gitler


Center for African Studies


Terri Gitler is the Office Manger at the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Before coming to the U of I, she worked for many years in the publishing field as an editor, administrator, and production manager. Terri received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English and American literature from the University of Illinois.