December 5, 2013

Cornell to Launch New York’s Only Ph.D. Program in Africana Studies in 2014

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After years of development, the College of Arts and Sciences announced last week that Cornell will offer a Ph.D. program in Africana studies — the first program of its kind in New York State.

The Ph.D. program marks a milestone for Africana studies, which underwent significant restructuring when the University announced in 2010 that the formerly independent Africana Studies and Research Center would be folded into the College of Arts and Sciences. The announcement was met with immediate backlash from Africana students and faculty, despite the University promising it would increase Africana’s budget by more than 50 percent over five years.

As part of the increased budget, the University has been able to develop and now announce the future launch of its Ph.D. program.

The program, which is projected to enroll 20 to 25 students over five years, will have two tracks that students can choose from — “historical, political and social analysis” and “cultural, literary and visual analysis,” which will be studied in context of a specific geographic area the student chooses to concentrate in, according to a University press release.

Africana studies professors are “extremely pleased” with the establishment of the program, according to Prof. Noliwe Rooks, Africana studies, interim director of graduate studies for the ASRC.

Rooks said she credits the University and its support in creating the program.

“None of this would have been possible without the faith, good will and support of the administration at Cornell, from the offices of the President, Provost and Dean of the Faculty and the efforts of Graduate School dean and her staff,” Rooks said in an email.

She also said collaboration between faculty in the ASRC were instrumental to the program coming to fruition.

“It’s important to keep in mind that over the five or so years since the faculty in Africana formed a Ph.D. special committee, the faculty in our unit have collectively strategized, planned and worked hard to shepherd the degree through to this conclusion,” she said. “As a result, this is a victory that we all share.”

Currently, there are only 10 doctoral programs in Africana studies in the country, making Cornell’s program an “important contribution to the field,” the University said in a press release.

Since the University established a master’s degree program in Africana studies in 1973, 150 students have attained their master’s degree, with nearly a third of those students continuing their education at other universities, the press release said.

ASRC Director Prof. Salah Hassan, Africana studies, said in a press release that “it is with much excitement that we look forward to welcoming our first class of doctoral students in Fall 2014.”