Toyin Falola Receives Trifecta of Awards for Scholarship, Teaching, and Service
Posted: August 23, 2013
Prof. Toyin Falola
By Iliyana Hadjistoyanova, Graduate Student of History, UT Austin.
2013 has been a year of exceptional recognition for Dr. Oloruntoyin Falola, the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair Professor in the Humanities and a Distinguished Teaching Professor at UT Austin. Professor Falola has been awarded the Pro Bene Meritis Award by the College of Liberal Arts at UT, the University of Texas System’s Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, and two honorary doctorate degrees.
Dr. Falola’s research explores the vast historical, cultural, and natural significance of the African continent and its place in the world. A native of Nigeria, he is a prominent scholar in the field of African studies. He is the author of over 100 books including Culture and Customs of Nigeria (Greenwood Press, 2000), Economic Reforms and Modernization in Nigeria, 1945-1965 (Kent State University Press, 2004), and A Mouth Sweeter Than Salt: An African Memoir (University of Michigan Press, 2005). The Association of Third World Studies (ATWS) selected Falola’s most recent publication, Ibadan: Foundation, Growth and Change, 1830-1960 (Bookcraft, 2012), for the 2013 Cecil B. Curry Book Award. The ATWS also created an award to honor Falola: the Toyin Falola ATWS Africa Book Award.
The Pro Bene Meritis award honors “individuals who are committed to the liberal arts, who have made outstanding contributions in professional or philanthropic pursuits, or who have participated in service related to the College of Liberal Arts.” Another purpose of the award is to raise public awareness regarding the integral role that liberal arts play in contemporary society and education. Toyin Falola was presented the award this spring as a scholar “known worldwide for his outstanding scholarship, teaching and academic leadership.”
The Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award is a UT System-wide recognition that honors the institution’s commitment to excellent undergraduate education. The awards “are offered in recognition of those who serve our students in an exemplary manner and as an incentive for others who aspire to such service.” The campus-based selection process relies on student and peer faculty evaluations within individual academic departments, followed by evaluation at the department and college levels, and recommendation by the university President.
Professor Falola brings the same energy and enthusiasm to his teaching that he brings to his research, writing, and organizing. He describes his approach to teaching as “one where historical narratives meet wisdom and insight,” and where the classroom becomes a “theater of learning.” His goal is to “impart knowledge of a society’s culture and values through dialogue, humor, and conversations where ideas are exchanged.” He regularly offers lower-division classes such as “Introduction to Modern Africa” and “The United States and Africa” and upper-division seminars like “Historical Images of Africa in Film” and “Globalism, Internationalism, and Transnationalism.” In addition, his monumental reputation as historian of Africa attracts many graduate students for whom he is an attentive mentor.
This year Dr. Falola received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the Adekunle Ajasin University “for his outstanding and wide-ranging contributions to humanity, especially through his scholarly engagements that have served humanity for over the past four decades.” The City University of New York’s College of Staten Island conferred an honorary doctorate upon Falola at its May 2013 convocation. Such recognitions are, virtually, an annual event for Professor Falola. In the summer of 2011 he was selected for the African Studies Association Distinguished Africanist Award in recognition of outstanding scholarship in African Studies and service to the Africanist community.
In addition to his research and teaching, Dr. Falola has organized a number of conferences to promote an interdisciplinary dialogue about Africa and its historical and contemporary significance, locally and globally, for scholars around the world. Since 2000, Falola convenes the “Africa Conference” on the UT Austin campus. The largest conference on Africa outside of those hosted by academic associations like the African Studies Association is organized around a different subject each year. The theme for the March 2013 conference was “Social Movements, Religion and Political Expression in Africa” and was attended by more than 100 scholars from Europe, the U.S., and Africa as well as UT-Austin faculty and students (See Jeremy Thomas, “2013 Africa Conference focuses on politics, religion and social movements,” The Daily Texan, 3/31/13). The theme for the 2014 conference will be “African Diasporas: Old and New.” In addition, in July 2011, the inaugural Toyin Falola Annual Conference (TOFAC) was held at the University of Ibadan in Ibadan, Nigeria. The conference was organized to honor Dr. Falola’s scholarly achievements and the transformative effects of his academic research.
Toyin Falola, remarkably productive and much celebrated for his numerous accomplishments, said “I receive these awards on behalf of the army of scholars, teachers, students, administrators, and community members who have worked tirelessly in this generation to claim responsibility for the future of Africa.”
This fall, Falola is both organizing and being honored in two major conferences. The first, "Art, Social Struggle, and the Nation-State," takes place on September 21, at UT Austin. The other, entitled “Beyond the Boundaries: Toyin Falola and African Historiography,” will take place at the University of North Carolina Wilmington on October 12.
Dr. Toyin Falola
Professor of History; Jacob & Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities; University Distinguished Teaching Professor