Abu Bakarr Bah
Professor, Department of Sociology
What year did you start working at NIU? 2003.
Where is your hometown, and where do you live now? DeKalb, IL.
Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
New School for Social Research, New York, Ph.D.
What do you like about working at NIU?
I enjoy research and teaching. I am inspired by students. I always want to teach and learn from them. I like interdisciplinary research. I enjoy working with colleagues with similar interests on issues of peace and conflict, international security, democracy and governance, and multiculturalism. I work with colleagues in several departments.
What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
There are a lot of opportunities to learn and grow at NIU. Students need to be involved and explore. Professors are always a good start, especially when you are taking their classes.
Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
My most recent works have been on international security and peacebuilding issues. One of the recent works along that line is the methodology for costing peacebuilding needs. This began as a project I and Nikolas Emmanuel did for the United Nations to help them find effective ways to do budgeting for multi-year international peacebuilding missions in countries that have undergone civil wars. The work has been published at Administrative Theory and Praxis.
The other recent work is on post-conflict institutional design in African countries. The work examined several cases of efforts to redesign political institutions in order to enhance peace and democracy in African countries. That work was just published by Zed Books and distributed by University of Chicago Press. This work is important for the United States, too, as the country moves into a new phase of its experience with democracy. When it comes to democracy and diversity, there is a lot that the United States can learn from African countries.
I led study abroad programs to Sierra Leone in 2010 and 2013. Those were great experiences for students, not only in terms of gaining international experience but also the connections they have been able to establish with peers in Sierra Leone.
What do you hope students take away from your class?
The biggest takeaway is for students to be creative thinkers and socially conscious global citizens. These are qualities that will prepare them for the world, and enable them to be relevant and prepared for any job given the fluid nature of work and career paths. Students in my classes understand that knowledge is not just about accumulating information. Rather, it is about being thinkers and problem-solvers.
What is your favorite campus event?
Class time is my favorite event on campus. For me every single class meeting is an event. I enjoy being in the classroom and having intellectual gymnastics with the material and engaged students. The university is a place for learning — that happens every time in the classroom.
What is your favorite memory of NIU?
Working with students, especially on their theses and dissertation projects. Those office visits during which we debate their ideas, raise questions, and try to find solutions to the huddles in their research are extremely memorable.
Who has influenced your professional path?
My family is always number one — my wife and children are a constant source of inspiration for anything I do.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
Oh, life is a series of accidents. Some of us are more fortunate than others. I have learned to do my best in whatever I am doing. The rest will fall into place. I became a professor by simply responding to the opportunities that came my way. It is not any kind of grand plan or dream. I feel very fulfilled and happy. Life is an open book. I approach it with deep thinking, best of efforts, and strongest of faith.
Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am the founding editor of Africa Conflict and Peacebuilding Review (ACPR). ACPR is now a premier academic journal on issues of peace & conflict in Africa. It is published by Indiana University Press in partnership with the West African Research Association. I led the effort to establish the journal in 2010, and today am editor-in-chief.
I am also the African editor for Critical Sociology, the premier journal for the field of critical sociology.
What community organizations are you involved in?
I was a founding board member of Friends of Jane Adeny Memorial School. JAMS is a girls boarding school in Kenya founded by two NIU professors. Friends of JAMS works with the DeKalb-area community to support the mission of JAMS.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
Staying with family is my relaxation. It brings deep appreciation for life in its myriad ways of manifestation.