Waller waves farewell to KSC: Dr. James Waller to join University of Connecticut in the fall after over 10 years at the Cohen Center

Dr. James Waller, professor and former chair of the Holocaust and Genocide Studies (HGS) department, announced he would be taking a position at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in the fall. Waller had made the announcement to his classes in early April. 

According to Keene State College’s website, Waller joined the college in 2010 as its first-ever endowed professor. Waller later became the chair of the HGS department and served in that role until the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year, which saw Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey assume the position. 

Waller has been something of a giant in the field of genocide studies, having authored six books on the subject. His book “Becoming Evil” is commonplace in Keene State Holocaust & Genocide Studies syllabi. 

He has also worked with numerous government agencies to recognize warning signs of genocide and teach steps to prevent it. Waller has procured numerous honors in the field over the years, including a First Voice Humanitarian Award given by the Chicago Center for Urban Life & Culture. 

Following Waller’s announced departure, Joeden-Forgey helped organize a surprise farewell celebration to be held after Waller’s final class at KSC. In an April 17 email sent to HGS students, Joeden-Forgey said that Waller will be taking a position as the inaugural Christopher J. Dodd Chair in Human Rights Practice at UConn. 

Emotions ran high during the April 26 farewell celebration, as a surprised Waller was met with students, both old and new, expressing gratitude toward the professor. 

“In the three months that I’ve taken your class, I just feel like I’ve grown so much as a student and I just feel so lucky that I got to know you, it’s one of the best experiences of my life,” one student remarked. 

“You helped me find my passion and what I want to do, and really helped me define my academic goals and dreams… you and just this entire department drove it in that I can strive for anything so I just wanted to thank you so much,” another student said. 

“You’ve done a great job at helping many of my classmates, as well as myself, learn to think critically about the actions we make and the long-term effects of the actions. The Cohen Center and Keene State are so lucky for everything you’ve done for this college,” one student said. 

During his tenure at the department, Waller was known for his teaching of the introductory class in the HGS program, which is also an Integrative Studies Program (ISP) course. 

Junior James Ronning, an HGS major, spoke on Waller’s teaching style. “His classes are extremely engaging, he wants everyone to participate, everyone has the chance to participate, even in his Intro to Holocaust and Genocide Studies Class,” Ronning said. “Everything ties into together… all bits of his curriculum flow together in one giant stream that I think really benefits students,” he said.

Ronning also remarked on how Waller’s prominence in the academic field benefited the department over the years. “His connections, being able to travel and bringing in what other scholars think… I think those are great connections that he’s brought to Keene State. He was able to facilitate discussions with survivors and people around the world that I don’t think we’d have the ability to bring in without his time here,” Ronning said. “I think his legacy here is building the program, and taking it to the next level. He will be extremely missed, and he’s very dear as a professor to many of us,” he said. 

Senior Program Assistant at the Cohen Center Michele Kuiawa, who helped organize the farewell party, spoke on how Waller transformed the program. “Our program was pretty much just getting its feet out from underneath of it, so he’s really helped build the major up by teaching the intro classes, students loved to learn from him… and they would be drawn to the program,” Kiuawa said. With Waller’s departure, Kiuawa said that the professor’s connections in the field will stay with the program long-term. “I think we can keep some of those connections, I don’t think that they’ll leave with Dr. Waller,” she said. 

In terms of Waller’s impact, Kiuawa said “The legacy you saw here was the students.”

Nathan Hope can be contacted at


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