Eric Cheyfitz, the Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell, has been named director of the American Indian Program (AIP), effective July 1.
He succeeds Associate Professor Jane Mt. Pleasant, who served as director for the past six years and in 1995-99 and will continue to remain active in the program through research and teaching.
"There is a consensus among us that the American Indian Program should continue to increase its visibility here at Cornell, nationally and internationally," Cheyfitz said. "Given Cornell's stated interest in diversity and sustainability issues, as well as the importance of these issues to the world at large, the AIP has a lot to contribute in informing these matters -- in the courses we offer, the research we do and the outreach opportunities we provide."
Cheyfitz said he would like to continue the tradition of interdisciplinary study that the AIP offers by encouraging increased enrollment across campus in American Indian classes and involvement in outreach programs. "Because of Cornell's location in Haudenosaunee country, we want to continue to strengthen our fine Iroquois studies program as well as develop AIP's academic and socio-cultural interests in a range of Native communities in the Americas," he said.
Cheyfitz, who joined the Cornell faculty in 2003, earned his Ph.D. in comparative literature from Johns Hopkins University. His publications have focused on furthering the understanding of American Indian traditions, identity and literature, particularly in their relationship to federal Indian law.
"Jane Mt. Pleasant is leaving the AIP with a strong, stable foundation on which to build," said Susan A. Henry, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "Under Jane's leadership, the rigor of AIP courses has improved, and the program has made important strides in student support, academics and outreach."
Among Mt. Pleasant's most notable accomplishments is the hiring of jointly appointed faculty in several academic departments, including anthropology, art, education, history of art and natural resources. Coupled with AIP-associated active faculty in other academic departments -- such as development sociology, earth and atmospheric sciences, English, history, horticulture and law -- AIP's academic reach and collaborative disciplinary involvement expanded under Mt. Pleasant's leadership.
Formally established in 1982, the AIP offers an undergraduate and graduate minor, about 20 courses and extensive recruitment and support services for Native American students.
Marissa Fessenden '09 is a writer intern at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.