UC San Diego Approves New Undergraduate Degree in Black Diaspora and African American Studies


When Alicia Yancey started her freshman year at UC San Diego, she looked for spaces where black students like her could thrive. For the community, she approached the Black Resource Center and was president of the Black Student Union for two years. For academics, she took as many courses as she could on the black experience and eventually got a minor in African American studies.

And as she graduated in 2020, it was this year – just as the campus approved the university’s very first major in Black Diaspora and African American Studies – that Yancey said. she was really proud.

“It’s more than just a major; it could be one of the first places on campus where black students feel seen. It’s broad and expansive, and it’s an example of a way forward, ”said alum, who majored in political science. “My heart is really full of joy.

Thandeka Chapman
Professor in the Department of Educational Studies Thandeka Chapman, Director of the African American Studies Program.
Credit: Erik Jepsen / UC San Diego Communications

Thanks to dedicated students like Yancey, as well as faculty, staff and alumni from across campus, the new Bachelor of Arts will not only enhance academic offerings at UC San Diego, but promote collaborative study. for students and faculty regarding the current experiences and stories of people of African descent.

Accepting new majors starting in the fall term of 2022, the African American Studies program at the Institute of Arts and Humanities will administer the new degree, while continuing to offer the established minor.

“One of the overarching goals of the new degree is to help students understand the critical spaces of black people in society: culturally, politically, economically and socially,” said program director Thandeka Chapman. “It will also provide theoretical and conceptual tools for students to learn about the complexities of race and racism, capitalism, colonization and imperialism.”

Interdisciplinary by design

A professor in the Department of Educational Studies, Chapman said studies of the black diaspora and African Americans are, by design, interdisciplinary. The minor was established at Thurgood Marshall College in 2005, graduated to its first cohort in 2007, and became a Division of Arts and Humanities program in 2014. Graduates of the minor represent 23 different disciplines, from biology to visual arts, and Chapman said the socio-historical understanding gained in the program is essential for careers in public policy, law, STEM and social justice.

“There are only a few areas of study where researchers have not investigated the links between people of African descent and social, political, artistic, economic, health outcomes, experiences and legacies. impact and influence, ”she said. “Studies focusing on the diverse and complicated histories of people under the aegis of African descendants are embedded in almost all academic disciplines.”

February 2020 BRC Change-A-Thon
At the BRC Change-A-Thon in February 2020, students joined a creative problem-solving incubator focused on the Black experience.
Credit: Erik Jepsen / UC San Diego Communications

Students will have the opportunity to specialize in one of three concentrations: the first focusing on Africa and the Black Diaspora, the second on African American Studies, and the third will be interdisciplinary, allowing students to focus on topics or issues selected across multiple departments.

Along with African American Studies, the Institute of Arts and Humanities administers 15 cultural degree programs, including Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Japanese Studies, and the recently launched Studies of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The institute is located in the Division of Arts and Humanities, and director Nancy Kwak said the interdisciplinary study helps students to think critically about broader questions of identity, creation of place and place. social justice.

“As with each of our programs, we invite all students to consider a major or minor in Black Diaspora and African American Studies,” said Kwak, associate professor in the history department. “It’s clear, now more than ever, how badly we need this kind of research and learning. Students will be better equipped to make a difference in the world we live in.

Chapman was quick to thank everyone involved, and said staff will be busy preparing to welcome majors into the program by creating three new lower division courses and seven upper division courses, developing a plan curriculum and expanding the faculty members who will be affiliated with the program. Courses offered range from racism and global imperialism to legacies of research on disenfranchised communities.

The 52-unit program also provides for the establishment of specific service-learning courses, as well as a comprehensive course and academic work or research internships. The core African American Studies faculty members who served on the program committee included Chapman, Zeinabu Davis of Communication, Makeba Jones of Education Studies, Hanna Garth of Anthropology, and Jessica Graham of the story.

Develop efforts on campus

Graham is also the director of the Black Studies Project in the Division of Social Sciences, which in October 2020 received a commitment of $ 2.5 million from the university to strengthen and expand its reach. She explained how similar study programs emerged in the late 1960s related to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. The resurgence of Black Lives Matter, she said, has even more people ready to understand anti-Black and systemic racism through higher education.

“The best academics in the field will be drawn to our campus, our students will not only be able to study and research innovative topics, but they will also have access to a larger and more diverse pool of mentors and advisors,” she said. said about the impact of the new degree. Students will work with faculty researchers affiliated with the Black Studies Project for the internship and service learning components.

“I hope the major will help our campus recognize the relevance and importance of this research to our collective academic mission, even in STEM fields, and strengthen the sense of community and belonging among researchers.” in black studies and black students, faculty and staff, ”Graham said.

Black Legacy Mural featuring historical figures standing behind young children
San Diego artist Andrea Rushing’s “Black Legacy Mural” was unveiled at UC San Diego Price Center on February 11, 2015.
Credit: Erik Jepsen / UC San Diego Communications

The establishment of the major and the financial commitment to the Black Studies Project are two steps in the campus’s broader efforts to promote diversity and social justice in academic offerings, and help advance the Black Academic initiative. Excellence of the university. In addition, the Office of the President of the University of California has awarded the university two Advancing Faculty Diversity Grants totaling $ 700,000, which will in part lead to the hiring of 13 new professors who will focus their research on racial disparities. and ethics in STEM.

The Faculty Diversity Grants, Black Studies Project and Black Academic Excellence Initiative funding are coordinated efforts led by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Vice-Chancellor Becky Petitt , and Chapman said they were essential in establishing the new major.

“Currently, the African American Studies program doesn’t have a lot of STEM-related courses, and hiring professors in these areas will give science students the chance to see each other. Many students come to UC San Diego for STEM training, but we don’t have a concrete way to talk to them as African American and Black students in their field. Now we are doing it, ”Chapman said.

The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion also oversees the seven campus resource centers. research that will potentially be produced.

“Ida B. Wells said ‘The way to right wrong is to turn on the light of truth on them,’” said Curry. “Our campus has always sought to create solutions to world problems – and wrongs – through scholarship and research. As we aim to combat anti-black racism and all other related forms of oppression as a campus, this major becomes an essential tool for our success in this work. “


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