Northern Illinois University

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Susan Russell
Susan Russell

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

March 3, 2009

Anthropologist Susan Russell wins national award
for contributions to international education

DeKalb, Ill. — Phi Beta Delta, the honor society for international scholars, will present its 2009 Faculty Award for Outstanding Contribution to International Education to Northern Illinois University’s Susan Russell.

Russell, a cultural anthropologist who specializes in the Philippines, will accept the award in early April at the society’s international conference in Miami.

Russell served as director of the NIU Center for Southeast Asian Studies from 1999 to 2005 and was named NIU’s International Educator of the Year in 2003. She has an impressive record of international outreach.

For the past six years, Russell has directed a U.S. Department of State-funded initiative to bring peace to a conflict-torn region of the Philippines. Each spring, she and Lina Ong, director of the International Training Office, have run a month-long institute at NIU for adult leaders and youth activists from the Mindanao region of the southern Philippines.

The Philippines is a young representative democracy, but the country has been prone to corruption, civil unrest, ethnic clashes and threats from terrorist groups.

The NIU-run institute, known as the Cultural Citizens and North-South Dialogue project, aims to promote partnerships between U.S. and Filipino groups, strengthen understanding of democratic values, develop an appreciation for American governmental structures and cultural diversity, and strengthen participant skills in methods of citizen participation.

“Sue is very deserving of this national recognition,” said Chris McCord, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “When I had the opportunity to visit the Philippines and observe first-hand the work that Sue and her colleagues have been facilitating, I was quite impressed and humbled by the courage and dedication of the young Filipinos. The work she’s done has truly made a difference in people’s lives.”

The NIU project has brought together students from Moro, Catholic and Lumad backgrounds to learn peace-building methods and ways to strengthen cross-cultural, inter-ethnic dialogue. Participants have gone on to develop grassroots-level, social-improvement projects, from environmental cleanups to book programs for needy children. In all, the Department of State has provided $1.5 million in funding for the NIU project.

“Sue’s research expertise in the Philippines, her strong administrative skills and inspiring goal of building peace among Moros and settlers have helped her create excellent learning opportunities for the institute participants,” said Deborah Pierce, associate provost of International Programs at NIU.

“With Dr. Ong’s help, Dr. Russell has established a solid track record for NIU in international exchange and in training for peace-building,” Pierce added. She noted that Russell is the first NIU faculty member to be nominated for the Phi Beta Delta award.

“I have personally witnessed the passion she brings to international education through the Philippines project,” said NIU Presidential Teaching Professor Richard Orem, who nominated Russell. “We need more projects like these in a world experiencing increasing levels of conflict.”

Russell continues to be active in international education efforts on campus as well.

She was a member of the organizing committee that created the petition for Zeta Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Delta at NIU. And she is helping to lead an informal group of faculty and staff who are working to mount a proposal for federal funding for a project to create a research, teaching, and service focus for faculty who are internationally active in regions other than Southeast Asia.

“I feel like this award is recognition for a lot of hard work with people here at NIU, particularly at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies and the International Training Office, as well as with people in the community and non-governmental organization leaders in the Chicago region who work with us on our projects.”

Russell teaches courses in Southeast Asian cultures, corporate cultures, economic anthropology and introductory anthropology.

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