Mark Schuller ’96, of DeKalb, Illinois, is an associate professor of anthropology and NGO leadership and development at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. His research before and after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake examines why multi-billion-dollar humanitarian aid efforts failed to relieve the poverty and suffering of the Haitian people.
“Six years ago, the world wept with Haiti,” Schuller says, “and along with our tears came one of the most generous humanitarian responses in history.” Private individuals contributed over $3 billion and governments pledged $13 billion. Why did all this well-intentioned aid produce so few benefits?
The answers, Schuller says, “go far beyond the blame-game, requiring us to take a sober look at the humanitarian enterprise itself.”
Schuller scrutinizes these failures and suggests new approaches for foreign aid in two books: Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti, published in 2016, and Killing with Kindness: Haiti, International Aid, and NGOs, which won the 2015 Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association and Society for Applied Anthropology. He is also the author of 30 scholarly articles and book chapters. In addition, Schuller has co-edited five books, including Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake.
Schuller co-directed the documentary film Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy, which was based on his field research in Haiti. “The documentary is an important tool in human rights advocacy,” says Faye V. Harrison, a professor at the University of Illinois and president of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences.
Schuller, who grew up in Des Plaines, Illinois, earned a bachelor of arts with honors and distinction in anthropology, sociology, and philosophy from Morris, and a PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Before joining the faculty at Northern Illinois University, he taught at City University of New York and Vassar College.
Schuller’s growing body of published work is “recognized nationally and internationally,” says Donna Chollett, Morris professor emeritus of anthropology, who calls him “one of the most influential young voices in contemporary anthropology.” Adds Olson-Loy: “He clearly demonstrates that Morris alumni can—and do—change the world.”