Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, January 18, 2018

African-American and African Diaspora studies major to be added in fall 2017

New major to be introduced by the Critical Race, Gender and Culture Studies Collaborative

African-American and African Diaspora studies major to be added in fall 2017

A new major, called African-American and African Diaspora Studies, will be available for students in fall 2017, as part of the Critical Race, Gender and Culture Collaborative in the College of Arts and Sciences. The major is an expansion of a minor under the same name that the University has offered since 2013.

The major will be 36 credits and will require an internship as well as a senior capstone, said Dr. Keith Leonard, a professor in the literature department and the adviser of the multi-ethnic studies minor and the African-American and African Diaspora studies minor, who proposed the major.

“The primary reason for why the major is being added now is that we’ve got a critical mass of faculty teaching courses in the field, so there’s enough courses to sustain a major,” Leonard said. “It was a student driven effort, and while I wrote the proposal this year, part of the reason to do so was because I had been getting inquiries from students as to why this wasn’t already a major.”

Professor Theresa Runstedtler, the chair of the Critical Race, Gender and Culture Studies Collaborative, also said that the addition of the African-American and African Diaspora Studies major has been influenced by students.

“If I had to credit the timing of the creation of the major, I would say that it has a lot largely to do with student protests on campus,” Runstedtler said. “I think the other thing that helped has been the creation of this unit, the Critical Race, Gender and Culture Studies Collaborative … we’re hoping that with the creation of this new unit, it’s going to help to get more resources and more visibility to the program itself.”

The Critical Race, Gender and Culture Studies Collaborative was formally created last spring. The collaborative houses and administers all interdisciplinary studies that deal with questions of race, gender and culture at AU. This includes American studies, Arab world studies, Asian studies, women’s, gender and sexuality studies, multiethnic studies and African-American and African Diaspora studies.

Devontae Torriente, the outgoing student government president, is planning to add the African-American and African Diaspora studies major as a double major once it is available, in addition to his Justice and Law major. He completed the minor a year ago, so he will do the internship and the capstone to complete the major next year.

“It’s important that our students have options and are able to study and really dive deep into topics they are interested in,” Torriente said. “Having this major shows that we will also cater to students like myself who want to become well versed in the history and context of my ancestors and my own life as a black person.”

Leonard said that one of the goals of the major is to help students enrich their vocabulary to talk about race and culture issues on campus.

“Part of the goal -- the internship, for example -- is to help students enter the workforce and think about race as a framework rather than only a subject or theme in a course,” Leonard said. “The history of African-American studies is generally that there’s a kind of activist component to it, and creating helpful vocabulary and common language for scholar activists to do their work on campus will help to create a more inclusive environment.”

adonohue@theeagleonline.com


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