MSU welcomes inaugural 1855 Professorship recipients including Dr. Blair Burnette

December 13, 2023 - Emilio Silerio-Gonzalez

The first cohort of 1855 Professorship stand with Trustee Brianna Scott, Trustee Diane Byrum, Teresa K. Woodruff, PhD, and Thomas D. Jeitscho, Phd.

One initiative led by the Office of the Provost is to elevate the academic quality and reputation at MSU. By aligning that initiative with the university’s 2030 DEI strategic theme and the development of the DEI Report and Plan, the office created the 1855 Professorships. These professorships were developed to form a cross-disciplinary group of professors to work together to advance MSU’s DEI objectives, enhance collaborations campuswide and foster new partnerships.

In early December, the inaugural roster of 1855 Professorship recipients, faculty and guests joined for a dinner in the Michigan State University Club Fireplace Room. 

The 1855 professors had the opportunity to engage in conversation and begin building connections across the cohort. The celebration began with a welcome from Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D., and Interim Provost Thomas D. Jeitschko, Ph.D. The 1855 Professorships were created under the leadership of then Provost Woodruff and are named for the year the university was founded.

The professorship aim is to advance MSU’s strategic and diversity, equity and inclusion priorities by transforming the impact made on underrepresented communities, on campus and beyond.    

“There was a thorough process for finding the right fit. We searched for professors who work across disciplines and will contribute to our DEI advancements,” said Jeitschko. “The goal is for these scholars to grow together and support each other as professionals, researchers and individuals.”

Following the introductory remarks, each 1855 professorship recipient was provided time to address the audience to briefly introduce themselves and discuss the themes and goals of their transformative work. 

Current 1855 Professorships

Learn more about the current 1855 professors below.

  • Danielle Brown, associate professor, School of Journalism, College of Communication Arts and Sciences – 1855 professor of community and urban journalism
  • Blair Burnette, assistant professor, Department of Psychology, College of Social Science – 1855 professor of racial and ethnic health disparities
  • Guanqun Cao, associate professor, Department of Computational Mathematics, Science, and Engineering and Department of Statistics and Probability, College of Natural Science – 1855 professor of algorithmic bias
  • Samantha Gailey, assistant professor, Department of Forestry, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources – 1855 professor of forests and green spaces for positive public health and environmental equity
  • John Kuk, assistant professor, Department of Political Science, College of Social Science – 1855 professor of minority politics and urban education policy
  • Blaire Morseau, assistant professor, Department of Religious Studies, College of Arts and Letters – 1855 professor of Great Lakes Anishinaabe knowledge, spiritualities and cultural practices
  • Elan Pochedley, assistant professor, Department of Religious Studies, College of Arts and Letters – 1855 professor of Great Lakes Anishinaabe knowledge, spiritualities and cultural practices

1855 professors are selected for contributions to DEI-related scholarship. Brown shared her focus on “representing minority communities,” reflected through her work. In 2022, Brown launched the LIFT Project, an investigation of the media landscape following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

In addition, Morseau, a citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, whose research interests are in Indigenous science fiction and futurism, will teach an undergraduate course on Native American Religions in spring. Thanks to scholars like Brown and Moreseau, the 1855 Professorships vision is coming to realization.

As the remarks concluded, Woodruff shared her enthusiasm for the 1855 Professorships’ “wonderful beginning to an exciting future.” 

The 1855 Professorship is one of many initiatives MSU is taking to become a national leader in increasing diversity, promoting inclusion, ensuring equity and eliminating disparities on our campus and beyond. This spring, a new recruitment cycle will begin to search for additional professors.

Learn more about 1855 Professorships.