James H. McDonald holds a PhD from Arizona State University, an MS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a BA from the University of Arizona—all in anthropology. Prior to coming to the University of Montevallo as Provost, he served as Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Southern Utah University from 2008-2017. From 1995-2008 he earned the rank of Professor of Anthropology and held a variety of administrative positions at the University of Texas at San Antonio, including Department Chair, Senior Associate Dean, and Associate Vice Provost. He began his academic career at the University of Michigan-Flint in 1992.
He is an applied cultural anthropologist with 30 years of fieldwork experience in rural Mexico and the Maya Western Highlands of Guatemala. Much of his research centers on problems concerning rural development, inequality, globalization, power, governance dynamics, and the anthropology of higher education. He has published two books and 37 articles or book chapters. Most recently he co-edited Crisis of Governance in Maya Guatemala: Indigenous Responses to a failing State (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013), which won the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Knudson Latin American Prize. He also served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist at the School of Governance and Economics in Rabat, Morocco.
Over his administrative career, McDonald has advocated for high-impact engaged learning, supported high-quality faculty development, championed diversity initiatives, expanded undergraduate and graduate program offerings and accreditation, and spearheaded new forms of teaching-learning assessment.
He has served as a Phi Kappa Phi chapter president and is an active member of Rotary International, most recently serving as the team leader for a RI vocational training team in Marrakech, Morocco.