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UB professor Deborah Reed-Danahay is a Jean Monnet Chair

Anthropology professor receives prestigious teaching post

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Dr. Deborah Reed-Danahay started off in the same place as many college students. While taking classes at the University of Delaware, she wasn’t sure what major was the best fit for her.

Now she’s a professor with an honor shared with only four other teachers in the United States and 40 people around the world.

This past August, Reed-Danahay, an anthropology professor who served as director of the Center of European Studies (CEUS) at UB from 2010-15, was named a Jean Monnet Chair recipient – a teaching post given by the European Commission for professors with a specialization in European Union studies.

Reed-Danahay is a cultural anthropologist and has experienced an extensive and rewarding career in her field conducting research and educating students on citizens of all different walks of life across Western Europe, with her main focus being contemporary European societies.

A Jean Monnet Chair recipient must be a full-time professor and have a profile as a researcher. Reed-Danahay has five published books. An eligible professor must teach a minimum of 90 hours involving Europe per year, which equates to two courses.

The position itself involves teaching, communication and community outreach.

Reed-Danahay conducts research and educates students on people of all different walks of life in areas of Western Europe, from citizens to immigrants. She describes cultural anthropology as the study of contemporary human societies.

“I think it is really important for American students to know about current events in Europe because we have close ties,” Reed-Danahay said. “It’s important for Americans to understand how the European Union functions and what its effects are on the everyday lives of people in Europe and America.”

After Reed-Danahay graduated from Delaware, she decided to expand her knowledge on anthropology and pursue a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology at Brandeis University right outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

During her tenure at Brandeis, Reed-Danahay met her husband and became pregnant with her first child. This is also when she began work on her dissertation focusing on rural France, spending a year with dairy farmers studying the French school system. She gave birth to her daughter shortly before she defended her dissertation, which then became a published book entitled, “Education and Identity in Rural France: The Politics of Schooling.”

Following the completion of her Ph. D., she and her husband stayed in the Boston area for some time. Reed-Danahay kept her focus on the career path that she set for herself back in Delaware and took a part-time teaching position at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

At that time she became pregnant with her second child and was soon grading papers from the hospital room in which her son was born – authentication for her love of teaching and her work.

But she loves her kids more than her work, she said.

When her children were both in grade school in 1994, Reed-Danahay took a position at the University of Texas-Arlington where she taught and served as associate dean and director of anthropology until 2006.

During that time she conducted a research project on former Vietnamese refugees in the Fort Worth region of Texas.

“After the Vietnam War, many refugees settled in different areas,” Reed-Danahay said. “They settled in Texas for its climate [similar to Vietnam] and its booming economy.”

Reed-Danahay studied how refugee children were coming American and the ways in which they participated in American civic life.

In 2006, Reed-Danahay found an opportunity to take a position as Chair of the Department of Anthropology at SUNY Buffalo State. She conducted more research and taught undergraduates there until 2008 when she was offered a teaching position at UB.

She was intrigued by UB’s offer because it would give her the opportunity to teach graduate students while also conducting research at a well-known research institute.

She returned to her interests in Europe soon after finishing the Vietnamese research and is currently doing a project on French migrants to London.

Since receiving the Jean Monnet Chair, Reed-Danahay has begun teaching a pilot program for the new UB curriculum, a test course for the introduction of the new general education program coming next fall. It is a UB Honors Seminar called “Europe Today” open to freshmen of all different intended majors in the Honors College and focused on contemporary Europe.

Since Reed-Danahay came to UB, she has helped students with interests similar to hers when she was an undergrad at Delaware.

Irene Ketonen, a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, applied to UB in 2009 strictly because she wanted to work with Reed-Danahay.

“I wanted to work with her due to her excellent reputation as an anthropologist [studying] rural Europe,” Ketonen said. “She has also [conducted] much of her research on farming communities and that was also my interest.”

Ketonen is currently doing research on “how the moral and ethical values are utilized, negotiated and contested during encounters between farmers in Northern Ireland and European Union bureaucracy.”

Ketonen now serves as a chair of the committee for the Council of European Studies (CEUS), where Reed-Danahay serves as director.

She said Reed-Danahay is a “wonderful mentor” who has provided her with a plethora of opportunities to learn more about professional academia through Graduate Assistantships with CEUS.

Evan Schneider is a staff writer. News desk can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com.


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