Alumni Spotlight

Mesganaw A. Mihiret 2020, PhD

I graduated in December 2020 during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, during the time face-to-face communication between humans was dangerous, and when graduation ceremonies were held virtually. Since I graduated, while the world was half-locked, I took some crash courses on quantitative analysis techniques to better understand qualitative data.

In the first months of 2021, I published my second book in my native language Amharic, titled Melek Hara: Yekatit 11. The first widely read book was published by the end of 2018, titled Gihonism: The Roots and Routes of Amhara. These two books fulfilled my role as an advocate for human rights protection in which I extensively wrote about the problems the Amhara ethnic group was experiencing in Ethiopia due to state and non-state actors. I also emphasized how identity performance and cultural promotions grew into a popular movement in reaction to structural violences that have been rampant since 1991.

In December 2022, I joined Southern Methodist University (SMU) as a Moody School postdoc research fellow, where I am working with professor Neely Myers in the Mental Health Equity Lab of the Department of Anthropology. I got the opportunity to undertake research projects on issues related to culture and mental health, especially on early psychosis intervention studies. Additionally, it was great for me to present my dissertation research findings in the SMU’s 2023 Science and Innovation Week, as well as the Society for Psychological Anthropology Biennial Conference (April 27–30, 2023, San Diego, CA).

At the SMU’s Mental Health Equity Lab, I am part of a team that has made significant progress within our discipline: a research article in press; undergoing data coding and analysis of hearing voices in Arusha, Tanzania; and undergoing a research project focusing on community health providers and coordinated specialty care (CSC) in rural Texas. I am also part of a team that has finalized a research grant proposal for early psychosis research in Mozambique. In addition, I did a limited participation in professor Neely Myers’s book, Breaking Points: Mental Health Crises for American Youth and How We Can Help, which goes to print this fall.

I am currently working on my book project tentatively titled Colonial Discord, Migration, and Nationalism: An Account of the Amhara of Ethiopia in America. The book is based on my dissertation research supervised by professors Robert Quinlan, Marsha Quinlan, Julia Cassaniti, and Mark Caudell at Washington State University. I have benefited from their teachings. They have impacted my academic career radically and helped me integrate my cultural anthropology background with cognitive anthropology, psychological anthropology, and medical anthropology. The project is heavily anchored on the theories and perspectives of culture and mind—a path I took from Cassaniti. Moreover, my training in these areas is helping me better understand the cross-cultural psychiatric research projects I am doing with Myers.

In my leisure time, I love to drive, sit in Starbucks, and walk on trails. I walk three or four times a week in Dallas’s White Rock Lake and enjoy myself while also exercising. Recently, I drove over and visited the Gulf of Mexico via Biloxi and Mobile, Mississippi; New Orleans; the Space Center Houston; and many other places. I have been driving across different states, including in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Atlanta, Michigan, Tennessee, Nashville, Alabama, and Missouri. In so doing, I marvel over nature and am in wonder over the achievements of humanity.