Study abroad office set to welcome new director

contact: Margaret von Steinen
| WMU News
Photo of Dr. Lee Penyak.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's Office of Study Abroad will welcome Dr. Lee Penyak to campus May 23 to serve as the unit's new director.

Penyak will come to WMU from the University of Scranton, where he has served as a professor and in various aspects of international education since 2000. He replaces Dr. Jane Blyth, who was promoted to executive director of the Haenicke Institute for Global Education in May 2015 and since then, has also been serving as interim director of study abroad and global program development.

"I am very pleased Dr. Penyak has accepted this position," says Dr. Wolfgang Schlör, associate provost of the Haenicke Institute. "With his leadership, we will continue to strengthen our study abroad participation while creating international education opportunities for all our students."

Dr. Lee Penyak

A historian predominately focused on Latin America, Penyak served as director of Scranton's Latin American studies program for eight years, earning the University's award for excellence in advancing global education. He has also served as translator and coordinator for student and faculty excursions abroad.

For more than a decade, Penyak lived in Mexico, where he taught Mexican history to local high school students and to students from two North American universities at their respective study abroad centers, for which he earned the Search Associates International School Teacher Award. He has secured funding from the American Historical Association, the Fulbright-Hays Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education to conduct research in various archives throughout the Americas.

His teaching interests lie in the area of colonial and modern Latin American history and his courses explore the themes of gender, race and religion. He is co-editor of "Religion in Latin America: A Documentary History" and "Religion and Society in Latin America: Interpretive Essays From Conquest to Present," as well as editor of and a contributing author to "Vida y Muerte de Una Cultura Regional," which examines haciendas in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. His articles have appeared in "Hispanic American Historical Review," "The Americas" and "Colonial Latin American Historical Review," among other journals.

Prior to coming to WMU, Penyak earned the ranks of assistant, associate and professor of history at the University of Scranton and was an associate member of the women's studies program.

He earned a bachelor's degree in history from Fairfield University and a master's and doctoral degree in Latin American history from the University of Connecticut.

For more information, contact the Haenicke Institute at or (269) 387-5890.

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