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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “After 20 years, Africana studies becomes major”

    After decades of tireless dedication and lobbying, students, faculty and community members have succeeded in bringing an Africana studies major to the UA.

    “”I am delighted,”” said Charles Tatum, dean of the College of Humanities. “”It’s a major step for this program.””

    The Africana studies major, which will be located within the College of Humanities in fall 2006, will offer four tracks of study next semester, including business and economic development, education, public health, and aesthetics, said Julian Kunnie, director and professor for the Africana studies program.

    “”We talk about science, history, mathematics, philosophy, business, but in ways that talks about different people and the ways that it affects people’s lives,”” Kunnie said.

    The Africana studies major will encourage students to use their knowledge to give back to their communities, Kunnie said.

    “”(Africana studies) is for everybody because this is education that we have all been deprived of,”” Kunnie said.

    “”Africana studies is attempting to redress those historical deprivations while recognizing that it is important to remain with one foot in the community.””

    Currently Africana studies offers only a minor with two tracks of study; Africana theory and methodology or Africana literature and culture.

    Africana studies has about 18 students confirmed as majors and student interest is growing, Kunnie said.

    Tatum said students have been one of the driving forces in Africana studies throughout its history at the UA.

    “”Early on it was really the students, going back to the ’80s and ’90s, who pushed for the major, so student support was crucial,”” Tatum said.

    The College of Humanities plans to hire nine full tenure-track faculty members within the next three years, Tatum said.

    One of the goals of the Africana studies program is to get students involved in shaping society so they can have positive impacts on all people, Kunnie said.

    “”We are preparing students be able to analyze reality so that you can go into graduate studies, law, public health, education, business, the democratic core, armed and equipped with this knowledge of being a different person,”” Kunnie said.

    The education strand of the major will address issues of educational inadequacy, break away from traditional eurocentric teaching styles and continue to work with the Tucson Unified School District African-American studies department, Kunnie said.

    “”Most of our students are victims of a K-12 education system that operates almost like a prison system,”” Kunnie said. “”They say we need these walls and bars. But there is also an idea that young people grouped together are dangerous, this relating mostly to people of color.””

    The business and economic development track offered in the Africana studies major will challenge students to look at business from a communal perspective rather then just thinking of profits as the central concern, Kunnie said.

    “”Economics is not the market, that’s the capitalist’s definition,”” Kunnie said. “”Are people created for the economy or was the economy created for the people?””

    The aesthetics track will focus on art, music and dance with the goal of shaping future artists so they are socially conscious. The public health track will analyze health issues with the goal of giving future health professionals a cultural perspective, Kunnie said.

    “”There is so much to learn from the black world, and this is why we think students can come into our program and make an indelible contribution for the good of all society,”” Kunnie said.

    The Africana studies major, like the minor, will be interdisciplinary and have many cross-listed courses available to students, Kunnie said.

    Tatum said the interdisciplinary characteristic of Africana studies and other departments like Mexican-American studies provide a source of strength for ethnic studies programs.

    “”I think not only this program should be interdisciplinary, but more and more majors in the humanities and the social sciences should push to be more interdisciplinary,”” Tatum said.

    Justin Mashouf, a media arts junior, took two Africana studies classes so far and said the classes were engaging and thought-provoking and had more of an impact on him than any other general-education classes he has taken.

    “”People can major in English literature, but they couldn’t major in Africana studies before, and Africana studies is much more encompassing of the ideas of this and other continents, and it’s important to take in those other perspectives,”” Mashouf said.

    Kunnie said he would like to see the program eventually expand into graduate studies as well as work with other ethnic studies departments to create a doctoral program in comparative ethnic studies.

    “”It’s exciting, and it’s a struggle, and we remind students about both,”” Kunnie said.

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