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Rogers Park Resident Named New Director for UIC African-American Cultural Center

Posted on July 21, 2011


Lori Barcliff Baptista, an interdisciplinary scholar and artist whose
work has focused on addressing social issues in minority communities,
has been named director of the African-American Cultural Center of the
University of Illinois at Chicago. The appointment, subject to approval
by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, is effective August 1.

Baptista, a resident of Rogers Park, comes to UIC from Chicago’s
Field Museum. As urban anthropology manager in its division of
environment, culture and conservation, she led efforts to engage
members of Chicago’s diverse communities in climate action projects
that emphasized quality of life issues, healthy living, food and heritage
practices, and engagements with nature.

“Lori is a creative scholar and leader, and particularly well known for
her community building skills,” said Bette L. Bottoms, vice provost for
undergraduate affairs and dean of the Honors College, who oversees
UIC’s six Centers for Diversity.

“She brings an intriguing vision for the center that will immediately
engage and support UIC students, faculty, and staff members and create
bridges to the community. We are fortunate to welcome her to the
African-American Cultural Center.”

Baptista says she intends to strengthen the center’s presence and
impact on and beyond the UIC campus through cultural, social, and
scholarly activities that highlight campus and community assets and
address important social matters.

“I’m looking forward to collaborating with campus and community
stakeholders to strengthen the African-American Cultural Center’s
capacity to serve as an engaging, creative space, a dynamic hub for
information and resources, a campus ‘home,’ and a bridge to other
communities and publics,” Baptista said.

Baptista has more than 15 years of experience with research,
development, and participation in cultural programs and initiatives
that convene artists, civic leaders, students, faculty and staff,
cultural institutions, and grassroots organizations to address social

As a fellow at the University of Chicago’s Civic Knowledge Project, she
developed a multimedia project that explored food production, food
access, and urban agriculture in Chicago. Her most recent research, an
ethnographic study of Chicago’s Roseland community, highlighted urban
agriculture as a creative model that the predominantly African-American
community could use to address concerns such as food access, crime and
safety, and youth development.

Baptista has served as a mentor and tutor to diverse college student
populations, supervised undergraduate student research projects, and
conducted writing and presentation workshops at Northwestern
University. She has also taught film, literature, and performance-based
courses and developed course materials for public school teachers and
community educators.

Her experience also includes serving as a liaison to film and music
festivals in the San Francisco Bay Area and in her hometown of Newark,
N.J., where she was an advisory committee member for events such as the
Newark Black Film Festival and Sounds of the City.

Search committee co-chair Rebecca Gordon, director of the Women’s
Leadership and Resource Center at UIC, said that under Baptista’s
leadership students will find the center to be “a place where they can
creatively engage in culture, arts, history and contemporary issues
that face the African-American and African Diaspora communities.”

Baptista earned a Ph.D. in performance studies from Northwestern
University, a master’s degree in liberal studies from Rutgers
University, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of
California at Berkeley.

The African-American Cultural Center of UIC contributes to the academic
mission of teaching, research, service, and diversity by promoting the
expression and analysis of all African-American creative and cultural
traditions and trends and their sources and influences.

For more information about UIC, please visit


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