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Black Studies Program Announcement

I am very pleased to announce that the College of Arts and Sciences is launching a Black Studies program, which will begin offering a Black Studies minor in Fall 2020.

The college’s efforts began with a Black Studies initiative in Fall 2018 that stemmed from a Black Studies faculty cluster hire during the 2017-18 academic year. Curtis Austin, an Associate Professor in our History Department and one of the cluster hires, directed the initiative during the 2018-19 academic year at the same time he advised the Umoja Academic Residential Community (ARC). We are very appreciative of his efforts on behalf of the Black Studies initiative to lay down its important foundations, including his work with Avinnash Tiwari to develop the curriculum proposal for a Black Studies minor.

The program has been led over the past year by Avinnash, a career instructor from our Writing Composition Program in the English Department. He has continued to shepherd the Black Studies minor through the university’s curriculum committees. Avinnash also developed a successful proposal to reinstate the Umoja ARC, which was in hiatus during the 2019-20 academic year. Like Curtis, he has been an important advisor and mentor for Black students on this campus.

Avinnash has also worked with other faculty on campus with expertise in this area to craft the Black Studies minor, and I am deeply appreciative of his efforts and collaborative spirit. I am also very thankful to the many other faculty and staff who have contributed to getting us to this point.

Having this academic program in place will make it possible for the Umoja ARC, a key program for first-year Black students, to begin again in concert with an academic program. The Black Studies program, the Umoja ARC, and the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center will provide a strong foundation to welcome and support Black students on campus.

However, we have much additional work to do to make sure Black students feel welcomed and supported, and that Black faculty and staff have input on the future of Black Studies on our campus. When fall term begins, we will invite Black Studies constituents and allies on campus to participate in conversations about the future of program and to plan curricular and hiring initiatives. We look forward to those conversations and the important work we have in front of us to make real and immediate change in the experiences of Black faculty, staff, and students in our community.

Creating a prominent home in CAS to study, learn, and honor Black culture, history, and people is imperative—as the ongoing national struggles against racism make tragically clear. It’s an important step, but far from the only step we are taking. Next week, we will be announcing other initiatives the college is pursuing immediately to address racial injustice and discrimination toward Black people.

Bruce Blonigen
Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences

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