W&J introduces African American Studies concentration

Created: November 6, 2018  |  Last Updated: December 20, 2019  |  Category:   |  Tagged:

Shown above, members of the W&J BSU stand with Jelani Cobb, diversity speaker and New Yorker staff writer, who the African American Studies Concentration brought to campus for a speaking engagement in October. 

WASHINGTON, PA (Nov. 6, 2018)—Washington & Jefferson College’s (W&J) new concentration in African American Studies will provide a needed piece to many of the College’s existing academic programs.

The program combines courses that were already a part of the College Catalog with new class options developed for the concentration. African American Studies was added to the catalog when both students and faculty saw a need for the program.

“We’ve been offering these courses, but it sort of looked invisible without a category of study, and students may not have realized those courses existed,” said Professor of English Carolyn Kyler, Ph.D., one of the faculty members instrumental in adding the program to the catalog. “We wanted to make these opportunities more visible, give students something to work for and provide a way to show their hard work on their transcripts.”

Kyler worked with the African American Studies steering committee, made up of Assistant Professor of History David Kieran, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy Michael Wolf, Ph.D., Assistant Dean of Student Life for Inclusive Campus Engagement Ketwana Schoos, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship Max Miller, J.D., M.B.A., and Department of Education Instructor David Ryan Bunting to create the concentration. The team planned a curriculum that spans multiple academic programs, including English, music, philosophy, history and sociology.

In addition to the work of steering committee, Associate Professor of Philosophy Gregg Osborne organized the discussions that led to the program, and Assistant Professor of English Michael Lewis helped with the design of a new topics course

Carmen Carroll ’19, Student Government Association (SGA) and Black Student Union (BSU) president, was an advocate for the program’s creation after taking many of the special topics courses that are now a part of the concentration.

“It’s really important for us as black students to have the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of black people in America, and it would be remiss to not have this as part of the curriculum,” Carmen said. “Black history and culture are instrumental in telling the story of the United States. Having classes built around this allows students to see another facet of our nation they may not have otherwise known.”

The course offerings will continue to grow. Dr. Wolf, who serves as the director of African American Studies, said there are currently considerations to add courses to the program in other disciplines, as well.

“A number of faculty members said this program was overdue, and we have others interested in teaching courses [for African American Studies,]” Dr. Wolf said. “I hope more faculty will become involved as we continue to broaden the program’s focus in the future.”

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.