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Mary Pattillo Named Department Chair, Will Serve Three-Year Term

July 15, 2020


Evanston, ILThe Department of African American Studies is thrilled to announce that Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies Mary Pattillo will begin a three-year term as Department Chair on September 1, 2020.

Pattillo, who has been on leave during the current academic year, spent four months of her leave doing research in Cali, Colombia as part of a Fulbright Fellowship. She was the Director of Graduate Studies prior to her leave and has served in numerous leadership roles since joining the department in 1998, including a one-year term as Department Chair in 2001-02.

“There is an adage in academia that being Department Chair is like herding cats,” Pattillo said. “The joke is that cats are notoriously independent and self-directed. They do things on their terms. Luckily, cats just happen to be my favorite animal. So, I take it as a privilege to be able to serve as chair among so many brilliant, inquisitive, daring and cool cats!

Pattillo succeeds Lorraine H. Morton Professor of African American Studies and History Martha Biondi, whose one-year term as Chair ends on August 31, 2020.

"This department has wonderful faculty, an amazing staff and brilliant students," Biondi said. “It has been a unique and challenging year, and I am grateful to all of you." 

Biondi helped steer the department through one of the most significant years in recent American history, as the Covid-19 pandemic forced all classes online and continuing police violence led to nationwide anti-racist protests.

“It is an intense time to become Chair,” Pattillo said. “I am deeply appreciative of the leadership of Martha Biondi for keeping the department functioning at the highest levels through these difficult times. It will be enough work just to keep the proverbial trains running on time as we move forward. But I hope to also build new ways of fostering community, supporting each other’s scholarship and continuing our commitment to Black freedom on campus and beyond.”

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