LAWRENCE — Elizabeth MacGonagle, associate professor of history and African & African-American studies at the University of Kansas, is the recipient of the 2022 George and Eleanor Woodyard International Educator Award.
MacGonagle will give a talk on what it means to be an international educator at an award presentation and reception at 3:30 p.m. April 19 in the Burge Union, Forum A. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP by April 14.
The award recognizes MacGonagle’s strong support of the Global Scholars Program, leadership of the Kansas African Studies Center and collaborative work with International Affairs and the area studies centers through public humanities projects such as Coming to the Heartland and the ColLAB: Bridging East Africa’s Health Divides. Along with her research in African studies, the committee also highlighted MacGonagle’s mentorship and support of students from diverse backgrounds, dedication to securing funding for students to research and study abroad, and efforts to bring African students and scholars to KU.
“Dr. MacGonagle’s unanimous selection among a very strong field of candidates recognizes and celebrates her substantial and lasting impact on international education at KU,” said Megan Greene, selection committee chair and professor of history. “The committee recognized her sustained and consistent commitment to international education, research, service and internationalization of the curriculum.”
MacGonagle, associate chair of the history department and Donald Crook Honors Faculty Fellow, came to KU in 2001. For eight years, she served as the director of the Kansas African Studies Center, where she built research networks and secured more than $3 million in federal grants.
Working closely with International Affairs, MacGonagle was named as the director of the Global Scholars Program last fall. Prior to that she taught the Global Scholars seminar twice and served on the selection committee for several years. As part of the American Council on Education’s Internationalization Laboratory process, MacGonagle served as co-chair of the Curriculum, Co-curriculum and Learning Outcomes subcommittee.
In a joint nomination letter, Shawn Leigh Alexander, professor and chair of African & African-American studies, and Luis Corteguera, professor and chair of the history department, wrote: “She has demonstrated a rich and robust international scholarly commitment, inside and outside the classroom. Additionally, she has worked tirelessly to build an international curriculum and research platform that not only benefits her own scholarly interests but has in many ways been more beneficial to her students and colleagues.”
MacGonagle’s research focuses on the process of identity formation in African and diasporic settings. Her work crosses historical, geographical and theoretical boundaries to examine linkages among nation, culture and ethnicity.
Integral in the enhancement of the popular African and African diasporic studies curriculum, MacGonagle developed courses and secured federal grants that supported innovative teaching practices for other instructors. She regularly offers classes on modern Africa and African history, and she created new courses on sexuality and gender in African history and the liberation of southern Africa with her colleague Hannah Britton, professor of political science and women, gender & sexuality studies.
In nomination letters, colleagues praised MacGonagle’s mentorship and support of students, particularly those from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. She has mentored or led research on 18 undergraduate international research projects and worked closely with 24 graduate students on internationally themed theses and dissertations. Her students have gone on to win external grants, such as the Rotary International Scholarship to study in Ghana, a Fulbright for dissertation research in Namibia and Honors Program Writing Awards.
“These students have won these prestigious awards, in part, because of her diligent attention,” wrote Kathryn Rhine, associate professor of African & African-American studies and geography & atmospheric science, in a nomination letter. “Dr. MacGonagle motivates students to take crucial analytical risks in their work, provides all her mentees with clear and timely feedback. She balances praise with constructive criticism. She knows when to push and when to hold back, allowing students to gain the autonomy they need to become successful scholars and professionals in international studies.”
Along with Rhine, MacGonagle is co-director of ColLAB: Bridging East Africa’s Health Divides, a humanities-based lab focused on health access in East Africa. As part of that project, MacGonagle was instrumental in recruiting exceptional students, securing funding and selecting a faculty member from a minority-serving institution to join the lab’s two-week field school in Tanzania.
“Her collaborative spirit and commitment to student-centered programming in global contexts embodies the characteristics of recipients of the Woodyard International Educator Award,” Rhine wrote her nomination letter.
MacGonagle has also partnered with Marta Caminero-Santangelo, chair of the English department and former director for the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, on the public humanities project Coming to the Heartland, which focuses on the diversity, adversity and struggles of Latin American and African immigrants in the Midwest. Supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, the project examines how the digital age affects the stories that immigrants tell, as well as the possibilities for their visibility in the wider community. The project supported the involvement of four Pell-eligible students from underrepresented backgrounds in KU’s Emerging Scholars program.
“Coming to the Heartland is just one example of Liz’s commitment to social justice and the creation of a more inclusive environment for her communities at home and abroad,” Caminero-Santangelo wrote in a nomination letter. “Her leadership priorities reflect a firm commitment to prepare citizens to lead meaningful and socially responsible lives by fostering a critical engagement with the complexities of the world.”
The late George Woodyard, the first dean of international studies, and his wife, Eleanor, endowed the award, which KU International Affairs coordinates. The award recognizes faculty on the Lawrence campus who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in strengthening KU’s international reach in such areas as curriculum development, study abroad programs, relationships with international partner institutions and collaboration with international colleagues in significant research and publications. The award includes a $1,000 stipend.
A full list of previous recipients is online.