Four African American Women Appointed to Endowed Chairs at Bowdoin College in Maine

Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, has announced the appointments of four accomplished scholars to new endowed faculty professorships. The four endowed professorships all honor distinguished Black graduates of Bowdoin College. These new positions, which are fully funded by donors, will focus on the interdisciplinary study of race, racism, and racial justice and across themes of environmental justice and belonging, citizenship, and freedom.

“Our new colleagues in these important professorships will benefit the college in several critical ways,” said Clayton Rose, president of Bowdoin College. “They are poised to bring new and dynamic intellectual insights to campus and enhance our students’ understanding of crucial issues as we prepare them to become leaders. We are grateful for the incredibly generous and anonymous gifts that are making this possible for the college. Their generosity is a shining example of the critical role that our donors play in moving Bowdoin forward.”

Jamella Gow has been appointed the Rasuli Lewis Assistant Professor of Sociology. Lewis was a co-founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, and one of the creators of the Peace March and a leader of the Peacemakers program.

A sociologist who specializes in the combined dynamics of immigration and Blackness, Dr. Gow studies notions of citizenship and belonging among international immigrants, especially among the African diaspora in the Caribbean. Dr. Gow comes to Bowdoin from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where she has been an assistant professor of sociology since 2020. She is co-editor of Modern Migrations, Black Interrogations: Revisioning Migrants and Mobilities Through the Critique of Anti-Blackness (Temple University Press, 2022). Dr. Gow is a graduate of Texas Christian University, where she majored in English and sociology. She earned a master’s degree in cultural studies from Claremont Graduate University in California and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Allison Guess has been named the Iris W. Davis Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies. Iris Davis was a student leader in the early days of coeducation at Bowdoin College, an outstanding athlete, trustee of the college, environmental scientist, and policy leader in Massachusetts.

Dr. Guess comes to Bowdoin from Williams College, where she has been an assistant professor of Africana studies since 2021. A scholar of Black Atlantic geographies, Dr. Guess is at work on her first book, which focuses on sixteenth-century Hispaniola. Dr. Guess is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh where she double majored in political science and Hispanic languages and literatures. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. both in earth and environmental sciences with a geography specialization, from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Michele Reid-Vazquez has been appointed the E. Frederic Morrow Associate Professor of Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies and Africana Studies. During the Eisenhower administration, Morrow was the first Black person to hold an executive position in the White House. He was a civil rights advocate, author, and business leader.

An interdisciplinary historian, Dr. Reid-Vazquez has focused her research and teaching on the history of the African diaspora in the Caribbean and Latin America and on Afro-Latinx communities in the US. She has been at the University of Pittsburgh since 2013, most recently as the founding director of the Center for Ethnic Studies Research and an associate professor of Africana studies. She is the author of The Year of the Lash: Free People of Color in Cuba and the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World (University of Georgia Press, 2011). Dr. Reid-Vazquez earned a bachelor’s degree in music and Spanish at Emory University in Atlanta. She holds a master’s degree in ethnomusicology and jazz studies from the University of Maryland College Park, and a Ph.D. in Latin American and Caribbean history at the University of Texas at Austin.

Bianca Williams has been named the Matthew D. Branche Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Anthropology. Brnache was the first Black student to serve as class president at Bowdoin College and the first African American at the college to be pledged by a chapter of a national fraternity with a membership policy of racial exclusion.

Dr. Williams has been an associate professor of cultural anthropology at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, since 2017. A cultural anthropologist, Dr. Williams has focused her scholarship on Black feminism and Black women’s meaning-making and emotional wellness, the anthropology of race and racism, and the dynamics of anti-racist social movements. She is the author of The Pursuit of Happiness: Black Women, Diasporic Dreams, and the Politics of Emotional Transnationalism (Duke University Press, 2018). Dr. Williams earned a bachelor’s degree with a double concentration in cultural anthropology and African American studies, followed by a master’s degree and doctorate in cultural anthropology, all from Duke University.

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