New African Studies major in the works?

Students, faculty push for opportunities for African scholars to major in their field

The University has recently faced growing demand for the creation of an African Studies major within the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. The major would be distinct from the existing AAS interdisciplinary major and the African Studies minor.

The University’s African Studies Initiative and Black Student Alliance hosted a forum Monday evening to discuss the prospects for the major.

At the forum, members of the African Studies Initiative and Black Student Alliance acknowledged that creating a major will take time, but emphasized keeping an active dialogue about the major was an important step in gaining momentum for the program.

“The problem with the African-American and African Studies major here is that it tends to lump Africa as one entity,” a forum participant said. “If they do focus on African history they tend to focus on Western Africa. There’s a lot more to it than that, and a lot of it tends to be ignored.”

The lack of administrative attention to the issue has been attributed to the low enrollment in the African Studies minor, which currently has six students.

Despite these numbers, Lisa Shutt, director of undergraduate programs at the Woodson Institute, said Africa is a necessary component of any global education offering. The existing program allows most students to design their field of study, but Shutt said the African part of the program is often overlooked — with many people mistaking the acronym for African-American Studies.

“There are many people who have been credentialed as African Studies experts,” Shutt said, but they are not recognized as African Studies Majors.

Cecil White, a third-year Commerce student and chief financial officer of the Black Student Alliance, said the lack of attention on the part of the administration can also be attributed to a lack of understanding.

“From the student perspective it seems like the University doesn’t really see the significance or engage the complexity of the African study in its entirety,” White said. “It seems like the administration is not educated on the complexity of African studies in general.”

related stories