Samuel Zalanga

Job Titles

  • Professor of Sociology Emeritus
    History, Philosophy, and Political Science College of Arts and Sciences
    Social Work (M.S.W.), Graduate School
  • Professor of Social Work Emeritus
    Social Work, College of Arts and Sciences
    Social Work (B.A.) College of Adult and Professional Studies


Zalanga's doctoral fieldwork focused on the comparative role of ruling elite coalitions in development policy formulation and implementation in Malaysia and Nigeria. He specifically studied the process and politics of neoliberal economic reforms and implementation in the two countries as part of a broader global political-economic issue of the relative role of states and the market in the contemporary incarnation of global capitalism. Zalanga grew up in the rural, social margins, and periphery of the northeastern region of Nigeria and brings an international and interdisciplinary perspective to the department.

Started at Bethel



  • Bayero University, Nigeria - B.S. in Sociology, 1986
  • Bayero University, Nigeria - M.S. in Sociology, 1989
  • University of Jos, Nigeria - M.S.C. in Sociology, 1994
  • University of Minnesota - Ph.D. in Sociology, 2000


Samuel Zalanga's broad area of specialization is development studies and social change. He completed his doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota's Department of Sociology. The title of his dissertation was: "The Postcolonial State and the Development Agenda: A Comparative Study of the Role of Ruling Elites in Development Policy Formulation and Implementation in Malaysia and Nigeria." In conducting this research, he lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for six months. Before moving to the United States in 1993 to pursue graduate studies, he lived and taught at College of Agricture in Bauchi, Bauchi State, Northeastern Nigeria. He completed his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Sociology at Bayero University, Kano, and University of Jos, respectively in Northern Nigeria.

Statement of Calling as a Teacher

Zalanga's calling in teaching is informed by the desire to help students to effectively infuse their vocation with an informed ability to make meaning out of their existential experience in the contemporary advanced modern age that is rooted in the invented modern self. He does not believe that four years of university education as such can teach students all the knowledge, skills, and experiences that they need in order to live a productive, meaningful, and satisfying life in the future. Consequently, he stresses the need for students to learn important conceptual principles that can be applied in a variety of challenging situations and social contexts that they will encounter throughout their lives, whether they decide to work or immediately pursue graduate studies. He works hard to create a relaxed and secure environment for students to express their concerns and ask questions freely without fear of being demonized as conservative or liberal. Zalanga detests indoctrination; instead, he cherishes dialogical exchange of ideas with full disclosure and candor.

In particular, he is inspired in his teaching by Paulo Freire's pedagogical method of dialogical education. He perceives the role and vision of Christian liberal arts education as a very challenging one in the sense that if our students are going to be productive in the complex and cosmopolitan global community, they have to not only know what other students in non-Christian liberal arts universities and colleges know. In addition to knowing what other students regularly know, they need to develop the sophisticated ability to reflect on the implications of what they learn for their faith, for other people's faith, and for society at large. Consequently, he personally does not see a Chistian Liberal Arts University as an intellectual ghetto where Christian students will be sheltered from the realities and complexities of mainstream American society and the global community at large. Rather, Zalanga perceives Christian Liberal Arts University as a place where students will receive very rigorous, competitive, and challenging academic and professional preparation. He truly sees Christian Higher Education having a more challenging goal than simply teaching in a regular liberal arts university because the role of faith in human existence in general runs through the whole gamut of our academic and professional programs. To totally banish faith or relegate it to a residual category in the process of education is to ignore a quintessential part of all human existential experience. In one wayy or another, we have to come to terms with the role of faith, and its diverse expression and manifestation in any serious social scientific analysis of human society.

Courses Taught

  • Social Inequality
  • Religion in Society
  • Sociocultural Theory
  • Urbanization: Growth and Development of the Modern City
  • Peoples and Cultures of the United States
  • Peoples and Cultures of Afica
  • Social Responsibility in the Marketplace
  • Western Humanities
  • Socioeconomic and Justice Issues in Market Economies
  • Social Justice and Christian Responsibility
  • Race, Ethnicity, and Peacemaking
  • Introduction to Anthropology
  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Social Change and Community Development
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Social Welfare History (Bethel University & Concordia University, Saint Paul, Minnesota)
  • Sociology of Crime and Deviance
  • Peoples and Cultures of China
  • Sociology of Third World Development (Semester Abroad Course in Antigua, Guatemala)
  • Work and Family Dynamics (College of Adult and Professional Studies)
  • Leadership in Diverse Cultures (Graduate School, MA in Organizational Leadership)
  • Beyond Diversity (Graduate School, MA in Strategic Leadership).
  • Sociology of Development



1. Director of Research and Publications, Africa Studies and Research Forum (, 2018 to 2022.

2. US Fulbight Fellowship for Teaching (Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra State, NIgeria, 2017-2018).

3. Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Visiting Professorship (Federal University Gashua, Yobe State, Nigeria, Summer 2017).

4. Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Visiting Professorship (University of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, Summer 2015).

5. Association of Third World Studies Outstanding Service Award: Associate Editor of the African Section of The Journal of Third World Studies, 2008-2014. Award for Outstanding contribution to the improvement of the scope and quality of the Journal of Third World Studies (Denver, Colorado, October 18, 2014).

6. Faculty Excellence Award for Scholarship (Bethel University, 2011).

7. Association of Third World Studies Presidential Award (Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, November 20-23, 2011).

8. Association of Third World Studies Outstanding Service Award, for contributions to the Journal of Third World Studies as Associate Editor for Africa, 2009

9. Edgren Scholarship, Bethel University (Conducted Research on the Topic "The Global and the Local in Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala: Using Micro-Case Study to Interrogate the Structure and Consequences of Social Marginality in the Third World," Summer 2005).



Professional Organizations, Committees, and Boards

1. Midwest Sociological Society

2. African Studies and Research Forum

3. North American Association of Christians in Social Work (NACSW).

4. Council on Social Work Education

Hobbies and Interests

Travel, meeting new people, learning, watching documentary films, visiting museums and reading scholarly books on history, ideas, economic development and sociocutural change.

Areas of expertise

Zalanga's doctoral fieldwork focused on the comparative role of ruling elite coalitions in development and public policy formulation and implementation in Malaysia and Nigeria. He specifically studied the process and politics of neoliberal economic reforms and implementation (i.e., market reforms), which is a global issue of concern since the last quarter of the 20th century. His areas of scholarly interests are broad: Social theory; the evolution of Western social thought and civilization; the sociology of economics and public policy; political economy and politics. Other areas of his scholarly interests are: the relationship between capitalism, the market and religion, issues of race and ethnicity and their implications for public policy; the working class and the truly disadvantaged and how they fit in public discourse; the postcolonial state and development in the Global South; social justice and its implications for the environment, public policy, politics and race relations. The main vision that undergirds his scholarly interest and work is the commitment and goal of creating a more just, fair and inclusive society for all. Zalanga grew up in the northeastern region of Nigeria and brings an international and interdisciplinary perspective to the department.

Research interests

Interdisciplinary Studies.

Teaching specialty

Zalanga's teaching philosophy is fundamentally built on insights from Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed", where he asserted that the critical starting point for any teaching engagement is to try to understand where the learners are situated conceptually and contextually, before proceeding from there to engage the students in the exploration of ideas, concepts, and social reality with the hope of elevating the dialogical learning process to a higher level. Ultimately, the goal of teaching for him is to conscientize students to a level they can in a constructive way critically self-examine themselves, their social environment, the social and institutional structures surrounding them and the global community, for the purpose of transforming social reality in order to create a more just and fair society for all through dialogue and peaceful community participation as highlighted by Alexis de Tocqueville in his book "Democracy in America". I belong strongly to the pedagogical tradition that sees learning taking place in a socially constructivist process and context. This means not relying on the banking concept of education where the students are perceived as empty buckets to be filled with knowledge. Rather, it means the teacher engaging the students in a dialogical learning process where they actively participate in making meaning out of what they are learning and applying it to bring about social transformation. I therefore attach great significance to the fact that social interaction is central to the process of reaching greater social and cross-cultural hermeneutical understanding, which helps in the creation of meaning and strategies for creatively applying knowledge in an increasingly diverse and globalized world. I value individual student initiative in learning. Consequently, I create opportunities for students to practice the application of what they have learned. But by and large, I have come to recognize that individual learning can only lead to a certain level of understanding when complemented with the creation of a social environment for collaborative learning. When an appropriate and supportive environment is created in and outside the classroom for collaborative learning, students’ learning potential can be elevated beyond what would be the case otherwise. But achieving this entails nurturing a healthy interpersonal relationship between a professor and individual students, between the professor and students in the classroom, among academic staff / colleagues, and between academic and administrative staff.


"The Owl of Minerva Flies Only at Dusk" --- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel