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Creating local opportunities to strengthen global connections: Dr. A.H. Somjee gifts Professorship to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

December 12, 2023
Shivaji Mukherjee and Dr. A.H. Somjee photographed at the Professorship launch event.

Gathered in the W.A.C. Bennett Library in early September, the Dr. A.H. Somjee and Dr. Geeta Somjee Professorship in Indian Political Development was launched - a generous gift from Dr. Somjee to the Department of Political Science.

Author, SFU professor emeritus, and researcher Dr. A.H. Somjee has held many titles in his lifetime, and a loyal philanthropic supporter of SFU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ (FASS) Department of Political Science is one more that must be added to the growing list.

On September 11, 2023, in the W.A.C. Bennett Library, academics, donors, students, and staff gathered in celebration for the launch of the Dr. A.H. Somjee and Dr. Geeta Somjee Professorship in Indian Political Development. Thanks to Dr. Somjee’s generous and ongoing contributions, the Professorship recognizes an SFU faculty member in FASS for superior scholarly achievements in Indian political development. The Professorship is supported in part through a generous bequest gift in Dr. Somjee’s will.

The appointment of Dr. Shivaji Mukherjee as the inaugural Dr. A.H. Somjee and Dr. Geeta Somjee Professor in Indian Political Development was announced during the event. Mukherjee’s research focuses on political violence and conflict in India, insurgencies in South Asia, state formation, legacies of colonial institutions, the Kashmir insurgency and Hindu-Muslim violence and vigilantism. The enthusiasm from Mukherjee was palpable as he listed some of the plans he aims to carry out with the new Professorship. Mukherjee hopes to expose undergraduate students both in and outside of FASS to politics and the development of South Asia; furthermore, he hopes to pass on his knowledge by training both undergraduate and graduate students.

Addressing Dr. Somjee at the podium during the event, Mukherjee pledged, “I promise to strive my best, to convert your dream into a reality, and to continue the legacy you started at SFU.”

“I promise to strive my best, to convert your dream into a reality, and to continue the legacy you started at SFU.”

- Shivaji Mukherjee, inaugural professorship recipient

The celebration took place only a few doors down from the newly named Dr. A.H. Somjee and Dr. Geeta Somjee Research Commons Room named in recognition of a generous donation made by Dr. Somjee to the W.A.C. Bennett Library. Dr. Somjee’s contributions to SFU as a beloved charter professor, prolific author and researcher, and valued donor have made a tremendous impact on the Department of Political Science.

Dr. Somjee’s gifts have created innumerable opportunities for students, including graduate students Zarrar Saeed and Denis Dogah, both of whom were present – and spoke – at the professorship event. Saeed, a recipient of the Dr. A.H. Somjee and Dr. Geeta Somjee Graduate Student Scholarship, recounts the scholarship as being a huge relief for alleviating the burden of holding down three jobs. Dogah, another former scholarship recipient, expressed his thanks directly to Dr. Somjee.

Zarrar Saeed, former scholarship recipient
Denis Dogah, former scholarship recipient

“This Graduate Scholarship is more than mere financial assistance, it represents Dr. Somjee’s confidence in the research capabilities of generations of graduate students working to develop cutting-edge solutions to developmental problems in the global South.”

- Denis Dogah, former scholarship recipient

Amongst new faces, Dr. Somjee was greeted by familiar ones as well. SFU Chancellor Emeritus, Anne Giardini, and FASS Dean, Laurel Weldon, were students of Dr. Somjee’s while they completed their undergraduate degrees at SFU. Coming full circle, Weldon was able to host Dr. Somjee, honouring his generosity and the impact he continues to make on the lives of many.

“Professor Somjee left his mark on the study of Indian Politics and Society, political development more generally, and on all of us who were his students and colleagues,” says Weldon.

Dr. A.H. Somjee and Chancellor Emeritus Anne Giardini
FASS Dean Laurel Weldon and Dr. A.H. Somjee

“Through this Professorship, he continues this legacy, bringing Canada and the world to India,” she continues. “His gift of scholarships and this Professorship emphasizes attention to the most vulnerable, the poor and rural parts of the global South, advancing the understanding of Indian politics and society, and enriching social science knowledge of India in Canada.”

We thank Dr. Somjee for giving the opportunity to scholars like Mukherjee, Saeed, and Dogah, whose research will continue to foster international relationships, in turn bridging together international critical thought.

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