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After job talks, visiting professor hired permanently

Visiting Assistant Professor Martha Johnson was offered a permanent position at Mills College after participating in job talks for the Department of Government.

Applicants for the position of Assistant Professor of Government with an emphasis in Comparative Politics, each of whom specialized in a particular world region, presented their research to a committee of faculty and students in a series of lunchtime lectures early February.

Johnson’s main area of research focuses on developmental politics in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“In my talk, I addressed how donor involvement in Senegalese politics has influenced the state bureaucracy,” said Johnson. “It is part of a larger research project on the challenge of building greater state capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa in the face of widespread clientelism.”

The other candidates were Jennifer Piscopo, from UC San Diego, whose expertise lies in the politics of gender in Latin America, Enze Han from George Washington University, who spent over a year conducting field research about ethnic identity and politics in China, and Nikki Velasco from Stanford University, who specializes in political economy and has previously taught at Mills.

Johnson will join Professors of Government Fred Lawson and  Paul Schulman in the department, teaching courses already offered as well as new ones.

“The new faculty member will be responsible for developing the curriculum in comparative politics, which makes a crucial contribution both to the majors in government and international relations and to PLEA,” said Lawson. He also explained that the department hopes Johnson will promote study abroad programs as well as help build links between the Government Department and other departments that deal with world affairs.

Students from last semester’s senior seminar, who wrote theses for the Government Department, were asked to participate in the selection process by spending time with the applicants, attending the presentations and providing feedback on the candidates.

“Our job is to try and communicate with the potential [candidates] to see if they fit into the Mills community and see what we feel they can bring to the department,” said Clare Morter, a senior who was part of the student panel. “Our goal is to ask them questions about what we would like to see [in the department].”

Though the committee was not responsible for hiring any of the potential candidates, they recommended Johnson to the Dean of Faculty. The decision to hire her was announced by Provost Sandra Greer via e-mail on Feb. 22.

“Dr. Johnson has been a Visiting Professor at  Mills since Spring of 2009, and has already proven herself to be an able teacher,” Greer said in her campus-wide e-mail. “We look forward to having her join our community.”