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University mourns death of Professor Samira Sayeh

Thursday, March 13, 2014

LAWRENCE – University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Caroline Jewers, chair of the Department of French and Italian, released the following statements regarding the death of Samira Sayeh, associate professor of French and Francophone studies.

Gray-Little: “On behalf of the entire university family, I offer sincere condolences to the loved ones, colleagues and students of Samira Sayeh. My thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”

Jewers: “Samira’s dedication to her interdisciplinary research on the literatures, history and cultures of the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, and her enthusiasm for teaching and mentoring made her a valued member of our department and community. She made a lasting impact on her students and on those with whom she worked. We will never forget her time among us, and she will be greatly missed.”

Samira Sayeh, 44, died Feb. 3 of cancer.

She joined KU in 2005 as an assistant professor in the French and Italian department with a courtesy appointment in African and African-American Studies. She became an associate professor in 2011 and directed the Haitian Studies Institute from 2012 until her death. She wrote extensively on Francophone studies, especially on colonial and postcolonial Algeria, and she addressed complex and rich questions concerning cultural identity and the diaspora in France and the Maghreb, as well as focusing on North African and sub-Saharan female writers. She spoke at many national and international conferences about her work and was a participating member of C-RICEFM (Research Institute on Francophone Studies, York University, Canada), and on the Board of Directors of the International Council for Francophone Studies. She was very active in her professional associations and in encouraging Francophone studies on the KU campus, collaborating with colleagues in many departments. In 2011 she received the Del Shankel Teaching Excellence Award, honoring her outstanding performance in the classroom, and was also awarded the Jessie Marie Senor Cramer and Ann Cramer Root Faculty Award for meritorious teaching in the Department of French and Italian in 2007.

A memorial service is planned from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10, in the Pine Room of the Kansas Union. For further information, contact Caroline Jewers by email.


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The Kansas African Studies Center has received $140,000 in funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to launch public discussions, community programming, and the creation of educational resources in local communities to discuss the challenges and opportunities surrounding recent demographic changes in the region. Visit www.migrationstories.ku.edu to learn more. 

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