RIT Names Benjamin Lawrance as Conable Chair of International Studies

Educational and research programming will focus on African politics and society

Rodman S. Reilly

Then RIT President M. Richard Rose, right, presents U.S. Congressman Barber Conable with a gift in honor of his support for RIT, during a visit to campus in 1981. The new Barber B. Conable Jr. Endowed Chair in International Studies at RIT was created to honor Conable’s lifetime of public service and his commitment to global understanding.

Benjamin Lawrance, an internationally recognized expert in African politics and society, has been appointed the new Barber B. Conable Jr. Endowed Chair in International Studies at Rochester Institute of Technology.

In the post, Lawrance will teach and conduct research in African studies, international human rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, while also furthering the development of RIT’s degree programs in international studies, history and anthropology.

The new position honors the former Rochester-area politician and diplomat who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1964 to 1984 and as president of the World Bank from 1986 to 1991.

“Barber Conable was a global humanitarian whose legislative and diplomatic accomplishments continue to impact society into the 21st century,” Lawrance says. “In my role as Conable chair it is my intention to draw on the legacy of this eminent global public servant to enrich the lives of my students and the RIT community as a whole.”

Prior to joining RIT, Lawrance taught at the University of California, Davis, and California State University, San Bernardino. His awards include the University of California President’s Fellowship in the Humanities and a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition. He is the author or editor of three books, with two additional publications forthcoming on the subject of trafficking in women and children in Africa. He has served as an expert witness in over 115 U.S. and European court cases, involving West Africans fleeing political, religious and cultural oppression.

Lawrance holds master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Stanford University and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from University College London.

The Conable Chair was created through a grant from the Starr Foundation and is housed in RIT’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology.


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