The UNC African, African American and Diaspora Studies (AAAD) department is in the process of developing a graduate program in Africana Studies.
The department’s request to establish an M.A. and Ph.D. program in Africana Studies was approved by the University in November 2021. Now, the department is preparing to admit its first cohort of graduate students in the fall of 2025, Department Chairperson Claude Clegg said in an email.
To prepare for the program’s first cycle of applicants, the department is currently working to build a curriculum, hire new faculty members and write a handbook.
“This proposal was years in the making and involved various departmental faculty members, the College dean’s office, the Provost’s office, the University Graduate School and other elements of the University’s administration,” Clegg said. “The department is grateful for the support and commitment of all of these stakeholders.”
According to the UNC Catalog, students will be admitted into one of three major geographic fields upon entry to the graduate program: African America, Africa, or African Diaspora (non-North America).
By the end of a student’s third semester of enrollment, they will declare two major thematic concentrations within the major geographic field: Literary Studies and Cultural Production; Gender, Sexuality, and Feminism; Development, Public Policy and Social Change; and Histories and Africana Critical Theory.
The combination of options will influence student coursework.
Nancy Andoh, a second-year graduate student in UNC’s Department of History, said current courses that focus on AAAD are very limited for students studying in African Studies in the history department's graduate program.
“We have to take other courses from other fields, like global history, and we have to take courses on international studies," Andoh said. "It gives you a broader perspective about life, you know, and it gives you a lot of knowledge. However, we also want to delve directly into what we want to do. I think that an addition of a AAAD grad program would really be helpful in that regard.”
As a coach of international students, Andoh said she has spoken to undergraduate students that are interested in African history but are unaware of many AAAD courses at the University.
“We have to let students know that these courses are available, and you should take them to help you make up your mind towards the next steps you want to take, especially for graduate school,” she said.
AAAD major Aleenih Carter-Kee’s senior year has been dedicated to searching for graduate programs, she said. Although she will be attending Duke University for her master’s degree in the fall, Carter-Kee’s goal is to return to UNC for a Ph.D. in African-American studies. For her, the commencement of the AAAD graduate program in 2025 would be “perfect.”
“I’ve made a lot of close relationships with the professors, the department chair and the faculty. I know them, and I’ve learned a lot from them, and I would like to continue working with them,” Carter-Kee said. “So, this (program) would impact it a lot. UNC would probably be my number one choice for a grad program.”
But for many prospective graduate students, Andoh said the fear lies in the belief that the University's department of African-American, Diaspora and African history is not as strong as it could be.
Andoh said she is sure the number of applicants to a potential AAAD-specific graduate program at UNC would be is going to be “phenomenal.”
“I really am looking forward to this, and I’m glad it’s happening,” she said. “It would help a lot of people that are coming on board.”
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