By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
GALLOWAY – For about 30 years, students at Stockton University could minor in Africana Studies but not major in the subject, which examines the intellectual life, the historical experience, and the cultural understanding of one of this country’s largest racial minority groups.
That changed this semester.
On Tuesday (Sept. 24), Stockton’s Africana Studies program held a meet and greet at its Campus Center to celebrate the upgrading to a four-year major status, allowing students to get a bachelor’s degrees in Africana Studies for the first time.
“We’ve been working on this major for as long as I’ve been here, which has been about 16 years,” said Dr. Donnetrice Allison, the Africana Studies program coordinator. “We got board approval for about a year ago. The last couple of years, we’ve had a lot of administrative support.
“It means so much for students to have it as a choice. We have graduation events for all of our students with Africana Studies minors. For many of them, they said those were the classes they felt most like themselves. It was talks about topics that related to them and surrounded by people like them. So the program was home for so many.”
The curriculum includes five areas of concentration: Arts and Entertainment, Global Perspectives, History/Humanities, Literature, and Social and Political Perspectives. All students will take five required courses that include Africana Studies, The African World. An Afrocentric Approach to American History, and a senior seminar. The program will also include an experiential learning requirement through travel or community service, and a choice of electives.
There are about 40 students on campus minoring in Africana Studies, providing a possible foundation if they change their concentration.
“I think this would give me a chance to learning about my history,” said Stockton freshman Iyia Underwood from Highland Park, who said she may change her minor to Africana Studies. She said she wants to be a sports broadcaster and is majoring in communications.
“I feel like the professors here know what they’re talking about here. I would get to learn about my ancestors and where I come from. Dr. Allison is one of my teachers with Dr. (Christina) Harris and I enjoy learning more about African-Americans.”
About 20 faculty members from a variety of disciplines are contributing courses to the program. Allison, a professor of Africana Studies and Communication Studies and Dr. Patricia Reid-Merritt are serving as the full-time core faculty.
Dr. Darrell Cleveland, who has taught at Stockton for 13 years, said there is a buzz about the program from the people he talks to and believes it will become an attraction for students looking at where to attend college.
“Once I got my doctorate’s degree, I knew I wanted to be a part of the Africana Studies program,” said Cleveland, who attended Tuesday’s meet and greet. “I’m very excited about the program. It’s ashamed that it took this long to get it. We had a lot of resistance, of course. It’ll show that we have another great quality program.”
Allison pointed out that those with Africana Studies degrees have gone on to become doctors, astronauts, entertainers, college professors, community leaders and so on.
Dr. Pedro Santana, assistant vice president in division administration and strategic initiatives, said he wanted to show support the Latino community and believe the program will have something to offer all students.
“I think what it means is a celebration of culture and gives students a chance to discover themselves,” Santana said. “The evolution of this program allows students to connect with their rich history of all cultures.
“I’m here lending support from the Latino community. As Latinos, we’re a mixture of the races. If you look at the Latino community, we represents the whole. We have so many different bloodlines. I’m exciting for what the program means for the future students coming to the university,” Santana added.
READ: Brian Jackson: Stockton Atlantic City Continues to Grow, Impress
Brian Jackson, chief operating officer of the Stockton Atlantic City campus said the program many people have looked forward to having the Africana Studies program on campus and its arrival as a major program is evidence of the progress the university has made a whole toward diversity.
All Photos Courtesy of Meredith Winner, Mer-Made Photography
Note from AC Joseph Media: If you like this story and others posted on Front Runner New Jersey.com, lend us a hand so we can keep producing articles like these for New Jersey and the world to see. Click on Support FRNJ and make a contribution that will go directly in making more stories like this available. Thank you for reading.