AU Press Releases

Alumna to present look at life of refugee Somali women

The Alfred University (AU) Women’s Leadership Center (WLC) will host Alumna Marnie Shaffer ’00, as the next guest in the Women of Influence series, Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 5:30 p.m. in the Judson Leadership Center.

Shaffer will address gender relations in Johannesburg, South Africa’s Somali community. The program is open to the public free of charge.

Shaffer’s discussion, “Does (Re)settlement Empower Women? Insecurity, Opportunities, and Gender Contests in Johannesburg, South Africa’s Somali Community,” will address the adversity faced by Somali refugee women to provide for their household in spite of threatened safety as foreigners in South Africa.

Prior to her doctoral studies, Shaffer worked with refugees in Columbus, Ohio as a resettlement case manager and immigration paralegal.

Her current and future research plans include working with Somali refugees who lived in South Africa prior to the resettlement in Columbus, and developing a comparative, multi-sited study in Somali communities through the diaspora (movement) with researchers in South Africa and Italy.

Shaffer earned a master’s degree in social anthropology from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and a Ph.D. in anthropology from The Ohio State University in December 2012. Her research explored the dynamics of gender relations in Johannesburg’s Somali community, where she spent a year conducting fieldwork.

The WLC builds on Alfred University’s heritage as the first truly coeducational institution in the nation. The Women of Influence program brings powerful female role models to campus, providing opportunities for inspiration and guidance through lectures and small group discussions. Past Speakers have included a NYS Supreme court judge, a dean of a medical college, and a lobbyist from Albany.

Founded in 1836, Alfred University became the first coeducational institution in New York State and the second in the nation. About 2,000 full-time undergraduate and 400 graduate students work and live in 52 buildings on a scenic 232-acre hillside campus adjoining the village of Alfred.

The University is comprised of the privately endowed College of Professional Studies, housing the School of Business; the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and the state-sponsored College of Ceramics, housing the Kazuo Inamori School of Engineering and the School of Art and Design. Bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees are awarded.

For more information about the Women of Influence Series at Alfred University, contact Heather Folts at or call the Women’s Leadership Center at 607.871.2971.