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Anne Cafer Named Associate Dean of UM College of Liberal Arts

Sociologist Anne Cafer will work to advance research and creative achievement across the University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts in her new role as associate dean of research, scholarship and graduate education. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Nationally recognized rural sociologist Anne M. Cafer has been named as associate dean of research, scholarship and graduate education for the University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts, effective July 1. 

Cafer, a leading scholar of community resilience, brings to her new role a track record of innovations in teaching, research and practice. She joined the UM faculty in 2016 and serves as director of the university’s Center for Population Studies and codirector of the Community First Research Center for Wellbeing and Creative Achievement.

Her career is distinguished by a commitment to working with communities to identify and address complex challenges in the Mississippi Delta and in the sub-Saharan Africa countries of Ethiopia, Rwanda and Zambia. 

“I believe Dr. Cafer is ideal for this position,” Dean Lee M. Cohen said. “She has an exemplary research record in her own right as well as strong administrative experience leading multidisciplinary research groups, which is an asset given the many departments and programs we serve in the college. 

“I am confident that Dr. Cafer will help move the needle in research and creative achievement across the college and I very much look forward to working with her.”

During her time at the university, the associate professor of sociology has received the prestigious Andrew Carnegie Fellowship for her work in the field of community development and the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, the university’s highest honor recognizing service.

“I feel incredibly honored to be able to serve my colleagues in the College of Liberal Arts,” Cafer said. “I look forward to supporting each of our college’s departments and centers in their scholarly work and graduate programming. 

“I’m also excited to explore new pathways and opportunities for research and creative achievement that help us continue to serve our state in innovative ways.”

Growing up in agricultural Pike County, Missouri, north of St. Louis, Cafer said her family and neighbors faced many of the challenges she studies, including food insecurity, poverty, limited access to health care and chronic underemployment. This sparked her interest in helping to improve the lives of rural people.

She earned undergraduate degrees in biology and sociology from Northwest Missouri State University, a master’s in anthropology from the University of Nebraska and a doctorate in rural sociology from the University of Missouri, where she was a Borlaug Scholar in Global Food Security and a member of the Rollins Society. 

She has worked as a consultant with groups such as Land O’Lakes International Development and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. She is former editor of Community Development Practice, a publication of the Community Development Society that presents innovative approaches, tools and techniques that can be used by community development practitioners and applied researchers.

Her research uses a systems approach to examine community resilience and social change around food procurement, agricultural systems, environmental sustainability, and health and nutrition at the community level. To examine these problems and work toward sustainable solutions, Cafer often crosses disciplinary boundaries, working with plant scientists, geographers, veterinary medicine specialists, economists and public health professionals.

She has an interest in the scholarship of teaching, specifically the impact of community-engaged learning on both community and student outcomes. Her advanced courses are community-based, participatory research courses where students are actively involved with community stakeholders to explore collaborative solutions to nonresilient systems. 

Cafer succeeds Charles L. “Chuck” Hussey, associate dean for research and graduate education and a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who retired after four decades at Ole Miss. 

“She will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to this role, areas of the college which are extremely important and quickly broadening,” said Donald L. Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs and a distinguished professor of modern languages. 

“Dr. Cafer will assist the department chairs and the faculty of the college in their pursuit and management of grants as well as with the development of their graduate programs.”

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