Holly Hanson

Holly Hanson
Faculty Award for Teaching

Welcome to Holly Hanson’s classroom. It’s time to turn off your electronic devices and all preconceived ideas you may have formed about Africa past, present, or future. You’ll need a good pair of mental shoes, because you’ll soon be on an intellectual, physical, and moral trek into global inequality, food and family, and violence and social change. You might be asked to dance; you might have to dramatize a conflict; you might have to plant garlic; you will need to read and then read some more; you will need to write and then write some more; you will definitely have to think for yourself, every day. Don’t expect to come out of the course unchanged by what you hear, read, or discuss. And by the way, you’ll need to check at the door any notions you hold dear about what constitutes “work” in a college course. Students who liked Holly’s courses say: “I put more effort into the class than I knew I had in me,” or “Massive, lengthy, time-consuming course ... it was a shame we missed a few classes because of college breaks,” or an especially trenchant comment, “Holly asks for more ... and she gets more.” You get the idea. Resistance is futile.

Of course, Holly is that good in the classroom because of her own educational background, and because of what she does outside the classroom. Holly earned her doctorate, with distinction, from the University of Florida after getting her B.A. at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her book, Landed Obligation: The Practice of Power in Buganda, appeared in the Heinemann Social History of Africa Series in 2003 and she has published both scholarly articles and books and articles for a nonacademic audience on social justice and violence.

Holly has worked in, and on, Kampala, past and present, for decades. She has researched and published on land control and what that means for food, famine, equity, and political accountability. She has supported rural education in Uganda. She has briefed everyone from her colleagues in the field to the State Department. Her historical work on Buganda kingship is unmatched.

At Mount Holyoke, Holly’s courses are the “first stop” for students beginning their study of African history, development, politics, and culture. And often her advanced courses are the “last stop” for graduating seniors. She helps her students write grant applications and win awards, facilitates summer research, hosts the parents of African students at graduation, supervises thesis research, sponsors an informal writers’ workshop for history majors, partners with local high schools, and, let’s not forget, throws an annual African dance party at her house. She has energized the Nexus program. Her thirst for a new method, a new assignment, a new technique, a new technology is insatiable. She is a magnet for the cultural experiences and scholarly work of students interested in Africa, whether they are in history, anthropology, or international relations. Mostly, she just inspires those around her by practicing Mount Holyoke’s historical call to purposeful engagement with the world.

Holly, don’t stop. Don’t even slow down. We are honored by your place in the community and take great pleasure in presenting you this Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching.