The Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) has named its new director, Dr Krisna UK, who will begin her job in January, replacing Dr Michael Sullivan, who steps down at the end of December after a five year stint at the institution.
Sullivan will relocate to Brittany in France to return to his scholarly research – he hopes to complete his thesis on Cambodian elections from 1993 to 2003.
Dr Krisna UK, a former research fellow of CKS, is a distinguished international scholar, who studied at the University of California-Berkeley and holds Masters degrees from the University of Paris-Sorbonne and Oxford University, as well as a PhD in social anthropology from Cambridge University.
Her previous scholarly work focused on comparative literature and environmental sciences.
Her PhD dissertation in social anthropology was on the Jarai, an ethnic group in Vietnam and Cambodia, whose language she speaks.
Her extensive experience in NGO management includes five years with the Cambodia Trust, as well as five years of development work in humanitarian demining.
She is the first scholar of Khmer descent to rise to executive leadership at CKS.
Dr. Lois de Menil, president of the CKS board, said, “We are particularly pleased to welcome Dr UK and her young family back to Cambodia. CKS looks forward to a period of dynamic new leadership and outreach.”
Dr UK told The Insider that she faces many challenges in her new role.
She said, “Given the current economic landscape where funding sources are limited, the main challenge CKS has to face is in ensuring that the quality of its activities remains high so that it continues to fulfill its role in promoting Southeast Asian studies, undertaking capacity building and strengthening civil society.
“Another challenge deals with human resources in Cambodia, and the difficulty of finding and especially retaining competent, enthusiastic and creative people to work with.”
She said part of her job is to be the public face of the ground-breaking center.
“The director is the spokesperson for the center and liaises with ministries, universities, foundations. On a more individual level, the director is a resource person for the staff, visiting fellows, students and other people who are interested in using CKS facilities and benefiting from its programs.”
Since its founding in 1999, the Center for Khmer Studies, the American Overseas Research Center in Cambodia, located in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, has been dedicated to research and training in the humanities, arts and social sciences.
It sponsors fellowships for American and international scholars to undertake research in Cambodia.
It also supports a free 15,000 volume library at Wat Damnak in Siem Reap and runs training programs and workshops for both students and academic staff of Cambodian universities.