Gretchen Bauer
Political Science and International Relations
University of Delaware

I am professor and chair in the department of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware where I have been since finishing my PhD at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1994. I first went to Africa (Kenya) as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the early 1980s, in one of several groups of ‘rural women’s extension agents.’ While in graduate school, I returned to Kenya as a Ford Foundation intern and then spent two years conducting dissertation research in Namibia, shortly after independence, leading to my 1998 book, Labor and Democracy in Namibia, 1971-1996. From the early 2000s my research focus changed to my current interest in women’s political participation in sub-Saharan Africa – something I investigated during two sabbaticals – Namibia in 2002 and Botswana in 2009. This research led to two co-edited volumes, Women in African Parliaments (2006) and Women in Executives: A Global Overview (2011). Complementing these studies of women’s political leadership in SSA, I am now working on a co-edited volume on women’s increasing presence in judiciaries across the continent. The goal of this work has been to determine the impact of more women; it turns out there are many. After making a UD study abroad trip to Ghana in winter 2013, I hope to return there on sabbatical in 2016.

At UD I have served as an administrator for more than a decade – as associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences for four years and as head of department for the past seven. I still teach African politics; African women in politics; and African politics and literature. I also still work with my diverse graduate students, most who do research in Africa, and mentor an eager group of undergraduates. In summer 2014 I will serve as academic director for the Young African Leaders Initiative program to be hosted at UD. Having experienced an African studies program with a Title VI grant while at UW, and from years at UD I know what it is like to be part of a struggling area studies program with few resources, constantly having to educate senior administrators on the value of area studies.  

I have always felt more like an Africanist than a political scientist and the African Studies Association has always been my favorite professional association. I have served on many ASA committees and I was a member of the board of directors from 2007-2010. I have seen the association recover from financial and organizational peril to return to being a vibrant organization with important core missions beyond the dissemination of knowledge of Africa, including holding an annual meeting, publishing peer-reviewed journals, and recognizing outstanding contributions through awards. The ASA is an association that responds to member concerns, embraces coordinate and affiliate organizations, and has consciously reached out to non-academic allies and constituents – primarily due to hardworking and visionary leadership (and staff!). In a leadership position at ASA, I would seek to build on these accomplishments. Current and future initiatives include sponsoring graduate students from Africa at annual meetings and seeking new ways for collaboration between US and African universities and scholars, something I have seen successfully modeled through the APSA’s Africa Workshops, one of which I co-directed in Tanzania in 2010. Pressing concerns for all of us include the steady erosion of African Studies in the US due to federal funding cuts and the need to enhance our connections outside of academia.