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Board approves degree in African American studies

by Karen A. Grava - February 11, 2008

A new bachelor’s degree in African American studies – the first to be offered at a public university in Connecticut – was approved recently by the Board of Trustees.

The major will provide interdisciplinary coursework in art and art history, dramatic arts, history, music, political science, psychology, and sociology, provided by more than a dozen faculty members – 10 of whom hold joint appointments in the Institute for African American Studies.

The degree program, to be headed by Jeffrey Ogbar, associate professor of history and director of the Institute, will allow students to study the history, culture, contributions, and experiences of people of African descent in the United States and abroad.

“As a nation, we continue to struggle with the notion of how race, as a social and historical construct, has shaped our world,” Ogbar says.

“African Americans have made enormous contributions to this nation, yet many of them have not realized the American dream.

“Clearly, understanding why and how that exclusion of African Americans from mainstream America occurs requires both a comprehensive perspective and a sound knowledge of the African American experience. That is what we will provide in this major.”

Offering the major puts the University in the company of outstanding public institutions such as the Universities of California, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Although students can major in African American studies now, they do so as individualized majors. The new program expects to enroll 12 students a year into the major.

Options for students who graduate from the program include graduate school in areas including African American studies, history, sociology, or psychology, or law or business school.

Graduates with the major also may pursue employment in federal, state, or local governments and non-profit agencies.

The major will help the University establish strategic partnerships with other institutions in Connecticut and the nation, and will complement course work already offered in Asian American studies, human rights, Puerto Rican and Latino studies, and women’s studies.

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