In January 2023, Cajetan Iheka, Professor of English, was appointed as the new Chair of the Yale MacMillan Center’s Council on African Studies (CAS). In an interview with the Office of International Affairs, Iheka shared his personal passion and vision for CAS.
Iheka explained that he has long had a heart for elevating African Studies. Born in Nigeria, he moved to the United States for graduate school with an interest in addressing the African Studies gap within academia. His role as the new Chair of CAS is an opportunity to make this dream a reality. He will specifically focus on investing in faculty, attracting students, and expanding CAS’s impact.
Iheka said, “When I think of this new role, I see an opportunity to build and develop African Studies here. My vision during my tenure, however long that is, is really to work with our colleagues across campus and with administration to build African Studies, to equip more faculty. More faculty also means we are able to recruit more graduate students to work here because they can see that there is a viable community of African scholars and thinkers.”
Highlighting the uniqueness of CAS, Iheka stated, “One of the things that’s exciting about the work of CAS is the way that it is at the intersection of intellectual research work and a kind of praxis.” He highlighted as an example Through The Eyes of She, a Yale gender equality initiative focusing on Africa that CAS sponsors and that blends scholarship with practice.
Iheka commented about the future of CAS, “We have more faculty members doing work in Africa and bringing all of that energy to the Council to revitalize, to energize. There’s a force already in the Council. But also [we want] to continue to provide a home for African students on campus to feel a sense of belonging in the Council and to have a bigger African footprint here on campus but also for CAS to have a bigger impact on the continent of Africa itself.”
Iheka has significant plans for CAS and encouraged the larger Yale community to engage with the Council, which is currently hosting a dynamic African Studies lecture series.