Mark Schuller named 2022 Presidential Research, Scholarship and Artistry Professor – NIU Today

NIU has named public anthropologist Mark Schuller, a leading scholar on Haiti, disasters and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as a 2022 Presidential Research, Scholarship and Artistry Professor.
Mark Schuller has been named a 2022 Northern Illinois University Presidential Research, Scholarship and Artistry Professor.
The award is NIU’s top recognition for outstanding research or artistry. It has been given out annually since 1982 in recognition and support of NIU’s research and artistic mission. Award winners receive special financial support of their research for four years, after which they carry the title of Distinguished Research Professor.
Schuller holds a joint appointment in Anthropology and Nonprofit and NGO Studies. Known particularly for his work in Haiti, his research assesses the effectiveness of NGOs at delivering aid based on their relationships with local communities. Activism and social justice are at the heart of all of his work.
Those same motivations were present as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Morris, where Schuller triple-majored in anthropology, philosophy and sociology. In a global history class, he learned about important revolutions worldwide but was struck by the oversight of Haiti, which won independence from France in 1804 and became the first country to be founded by formerly enslaved people.
“It just got to me that there’s this historical amnesia about Haiti and its contribution to freedom around the world,” said Schuller, who’s now worked in the Caribbean country for two decades.
In 2007, he earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and shortly after produced a documentary on Haitian women. Schuller returned to Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake, which claimed 230,000 lives. His subsequent research resulted in the 2012 book, Killing with Kindness: Haiti, International Aid, and NGOs. It won the prestigious Margaret Mead Award from the Society for Applied Anthropology and the American Anthropological Association (AAA).
“Going back after the earthquake charted my course,” Schuller said. “The people I had built relationships with were now living in displacement camps.”
Today he is widely published in top peer-reviewed journals, has published eight books and is often quoted in the news media. He also has over 50 blogs in public venues. For two years during the pandemic, Schuller served as president of the Haitian Studies Association. His work has attracted more than a dozen external grants, including the highly competitive National Science Foundation CAREER award.
“Dr. Schuller has an international reputation in his field and is an amazingly productive scholar whose work has broad impacts.,” Anthropology Chair Leila Porter said.
“His research led to an international campaign to raise the minimum standards that NGOs must meet to work in Haiti. It’s notable, too, that Mark has also helped his colleagues at the State University of Haiti to set up a research lab, a peer-reviewed journal and a series of conferences.”
Schuller has served as a discussant for panels and delivered more than 80 presentations at national and international academic conferences, including four keynotes. He also was recognized by AAA with its Anthropology in the Media Award and by the Haitian Studies Association with the Award for Excellence in Scholarship, an honor that puts him at the very top of his field as recognized by his peers.
Schuller’s latest book, Humanity’s Last Stand: Confronting Global Catastrophe, has attracted attention from media, social movement leaders and anthropologists alike.
“As a species, the warning signs are clear,” Schuller said. “As the creators of this catastrophe, we can turn this around but only by taking deadly seriously the existential threats of climate change, proliferating warfare, xenophobia and racism.”
Despite his many accolades, Schuller is most proud of his students. Five of his undergraduates presented their work at a U.S. Congressional briefing; three graduate students in Haiti published peer-reviewed journal articles; and four of his mentees are BIPOC women, including three Haitian Americans, who are finishing their first years as assistant professors.


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