• Richard Mtisi, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History

    "My research and teaching enriches the learning experience for the students, provides me with extra material for discussion and examples, and allows me to serve as a model for students.”

Richard Mtisi

Education and Experiences He Brings to Luther

Mtisi received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Zimbabwe and a Ph.D from the University of Iowa.

While in graduate school, Mtisi gained invaluable practical help on how to teach history to undergraduates effectively. “I learned how to engage students in lively discussions, get them involved in small projects, and use instructional technology to help them learn to think and write historically,” he says.

In his current role, Mtisi appreciates that he can share his unique personal experiences and background (being born in Southern Africa) with the Luther community. “I feel that I help enrich the learning experience of students,” he say. “I also assist in fostering an intercultural understanding among people from different backgrounds.”

Why He Likes His Role at Luther

“With its emphasis on embracing diversity, challenging one another to learn in community, and striving to serve with distinction for the common good, Luther has proved to be an ideal place for me to teach,” Mtisi says.

He knows that his teaching is rooted in broadening the scope of the study of African history and widening its appeal to students who might not otherwise consider taking courses in Africana Studies and history. “It also challenges the assumptions they bring to class,” he says, “Above all, the smaller class sizes allow me to foster in our students skills such as critical thinking, clear writing, and evidence-based argumentation, which will be beneficial in many ways throughout their lives.”

Teaching and Research Strikes a Good Balance

Much of Mtisi’s research focuses on the tension between game conservation and traditional rural life of African peoples. “I’m currently working on a book manuscript entitled Wildlife, War, and Rural People in the Borderzone of Southern Mozambique and Southeastern Zimbabwe, 1950s-2002.” He’s also published or is currently writing several articles concerning similar topics.“My work on wildlife conservation and rural communities in Southern Africa not only contributes to the literature we study on environmental history, but also makes me more effective teacher,” he says.

For example, Mtisi has used some of his scholarly work in teaching his Environmental History course. “I teach it every other year to about 25 students from multiple departments including history and environmental studies,” he says. “Similarly, the research for my section of Paideia 112 is directly related to my academic work including papers that I have delivered at conferences. The fact that I’ve been able to integrate and balance my research and teaching enriches the learning experience for the students, provides me with extra material for discussion and examples, and allows me to serve as a model for students.”

His Study Away Courses in South Africa

Religion professor Guy Nave and Mtisi regularly teach Reconciliation in South Africa, a study-away course that takes Luther students to Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, Eastern Cape, and Cape Town. “With its focus on moral dilemmas and ethical decision making, this course has radically challenged and transformed the lives of nearly every student who has participated in it,” he says. “Seeing the historical sites with their own eyes enlivens and deepens their understanding of history and its connections to the world.”

Mtisi also recently directed the ACM (Associated Colleges of the Midwest) Botswana program, which involved students from multiple ACM schools. In addition to teaching a course that focused on development in southern Africa, he directed students in their independent study projects, and organized frequent field trips. Some of the activities included once-in-a-lifetime meetings with former president of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire, and Earl Miller, U.S. ambassador to Botswana.

His Other Roles at Luther:

  • Student and group advisor
  • Paideia Governing Board
  • Paideia Planning Committee
  • Environmental Studies Steering Committee
  • Faculty advisor for ACM Botswana


  • African Studies Association
  • American Historical Association
  • American Society for Environmental History

Mtisi calls himself an “ardent soccer fan” and supports Chelsea, one of the best English Premier League teams.