Concentrating on the theme of “Making Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice a Reality”, the college’s Office of Institutional Diversity hosted their fifth annual Diversity Week. With numerous events taken place from Oct. 6 through the tenth, participants indulged in an array of outreach, social, and cultural programs sponsored by college departments. Highlights of the week included guest presenters such as Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Sonia Nazario, Hip-=Hop producer 9th Wonder, and artist Kevin Powell. The week also consisted of forums and lectures, ranging topics concerning issues within the African American community, to suicide prevention among LGBT youth. Capping off the celebration, the annual Diversity Conference workshops and sessions focused on “Building Partnerships to Support Youth of Promise”, while the Diversity Celebration featured activities including speeches, a parade and demonstrations. Reflecting on the event, John Bello-Ogunu, Sr, associate vice president and chief diversity officer says, “All-inclusive and unifying programs such as Diversity Week, help to raise awareness about the centrality of these socio-cultural elements to building and sustaining a more perfect society, where human dignity is promoted and protected.”
Manifesting the efforts and power made by the Office of Institutional Diversity, diversity multiples at the College of Charleston with the brand new African American studies major that also launched this fall.
What once started as a racial and activist outcry by college students, the push for African American studies into the world of higher education began in the 1960s. At the time, with racial riots, marches, and the Black Power Movement at its highest, it was the student led strike at San Francisco State in 1968, that made clear the abundant excitement and demand for Blacks studies on college campuses. Nearly five decades later, that same drive and desire for intellectual learning through the Black perspective, has been embodied at the College of Charleston. With the commencement of an African American studies major, students now have the opportunity to expand and branch out when considering what academic path to take.
To make this a reality, the proposal for an African American Studies major at the college went through a multi-staged process, passing through approval of the provost’s office, faculty curriculum committee, Faculty Senate all before finding its way through several rounds of approval by the SC Commission on Higher Education.
Upon the completion of 33 credit hours of interdisciplinary courses, the goal of the African American studies program is for student to not only gain understanding and knowledge of African American history and culture, but comprehend the African American experience in the context of American and Western history. The college’s take on Black Studies aims to “promote the study of African American history and culture in the larger community; and to make African American Studies an integral part of intellectual life at the College of Charleston”. Working under this program, students are essentially able to engage in diverse conversations, populations, and ideas, making them “highly marketable” when the time and opportunity comes to pursue a job and career. Dr. Conseula Francis, director of the African American Studies program says, “The world is a big place, full of many different kinds of people. This major prepares students to meet the challenges and opportunities offered by that kind of diversity.”
For 18 hours of interdisciplinary coursework, students can also delve into the study and research of the Black experience by minoring in African American Studies.
Despite the fact that African American Studies is a relatively new study to the system of higher education, there are a multitude of opportunities and professions that can be attained with a degree in this major. From fields such as public administration to law, art, and medicine, there are no boundaries to what can be accomplished and acquired with this particular degree on students’ resumé. An African American Studies major herself, senior Siera Barksdale expresses that “All of my courses have been interesting, and the professors have been tremendous.” Upon taking the course Black Images in the Media, she was promoted and motivated to sociological experiments on campus and realize her plans of one day becoming a diversity consultant in corporate America. Adding on to the versatility of the major, professor, Dr. Anthony Greene noted that aside from African American studies being “a good minor to go through” the program is “a great compliment”, in that “classes compliment each other”.
Dr. Francis declared that it’s “gratifying” to have this new major on campus and that there has been a “universally positive” reception from faculty and students. “Students who have been taking these courses are happy to finally be able to major in a subject they really love. Faculty recognize the unique position the College of Charleston is in to offer a truly innovative AAST [African American Studies] major.”
In celebration of the new major to the College of Charleston, the African American Studies department hosted events and affairs to promote and welcome Black studies to the campus. From hosting events that included guest speakers, lectures, book signings and even holding a student discussion panel concerning the topic of “What Can I Do With An African American Studies Major?!”, the department has strongly made its mark on the college’s academic playing field.
For a full list of events and calender of what to expect next from the Office of Institutional Diversity or the African American Studies department , visit http://diversity.cofc.edu and http://blogs.cofc.edu/aast/.