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Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Awarded to Ithaca College Politics Professor

ITHACA, NY — One of the world’s most violence-torn nations will get some help learning about peace from an Ithaca College faculty member. Peyi Soyinka-Airewele, an assistant professor of politics, will spend this spring developing a postgraduate curriculum in strategic and peace studies at Covenant University in Ota, Nigeria.

Soyinka-Airewele is one of 60 scholars who have been awarded a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship. Managed by the Institute of International Education and funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the program facilitates engagement between scholars born in Africa who are now based in the United States or Canada and scholars in Africa on mutually beneficial academic activities. 

“I am very excited by the opportunity to work with the faculty at Covenant University to develop a Ph.D. program in this field,” says Soyinka-Airewele, who is a native of Nigeria. “With the exploding terrorist incursion into the country, I hope this new program will be very valuable to the institution and the nation.”

Soyinka-Airewele will draw upon her own research on the politics of memory to help create a nontraditional curriculum, which will include Web- and classroom-based simulations as well as the use of cinema and other media. She says the university curriculum that has been inherited from the colonial powers doesn’t really meet today’s realities.

“How do you sustain peace in a political system that is constantly changing, where old alliances no longer work and there is a need for a new citizenry?” she says. “We cannot just look for answers in library books when there is violence exploding all around us. I have always worked at the edge of practical theory, and my goal is to develop a pragmatic program where we’ll be stretching and transforming peace studies to answer those questions in a way that meets the needs of today.”

Soyinka-Airewele is no stranger to international collaborative work. She worked with a group of her students to create a film festival supporting the 2005 International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa. She has served as the international director of ACT Africa and as president of the Association of Third World Studies, and recently stepped down as president of the African Studies and Research Forum.

In 2014 she founded Shape our Future Now — a team of African scholars, activists and professionals — in the wake of last April’s kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by the Boko Haram terror group.

“I began this initiative as a way to give those in the African diaspora a way to contribute to shaping a positive future, from raising funds and distributing supplies at refugee centers to focusing world attention on this humanitarian crisis. The United States is a major oil partner of Nigeria, which means it has the capacity to pressure the Nigerian government into taking effective action to help bring these girls home.”

For more information on the fellowship, visit www.iie.org/Programs/Carnegie-African-Diaspora-Fellows-Program.