Minor focused on African American and African Diaspora Studies promotes equity on campus

Graphic by Oluwaseun Adeyemi | Mercury Staff

A year has passed since the institution of the African American and African diaspora studies minor, or AAADS, which has provided a platform for historically underrepresented students and positively impacted student’s coursework.

The AAADS minor was formed in summer of 2020 to address justice and racial equity issues on campus. The course of study focuses on the contributions of people of African descent so that students can gain the cultural and historical knowledge needed to unite the UTD community. Anne Fischer, one of the core drafters of the original proposal for the AAADS minor and administrator of the program, said that it helps students understand the generational impact of inequity.

“Our contemporary world is profoundly shaped by these long legacies of oppression and colonialism,” Fischer said. “By minoring in this program, students are saying that they want to gain a deeper understanding of how these historical events structure everyone’s lives. They also want to take advantage of courses so that they can think deeply about what justice looks like, particularly through the variety of offerings for the AAADS minor.”

In AAADS courses, which are interdisciplinary, students apply what they’ve learned through various creative and artistic projects. AADS classes include topics in visual arts, literature, history, music, political science and healthcare studies. Fischer said that this range of topics could become even broader with the merger of A&H and ATEC.

“Our vision is right that this academic program would be part of an at-large strategy to recruit and retain faculty of color and scholars of color campus-wide,” Fischer said. “This was one of the key recommendations that came out of the 2020 mobilization that inspired faculty to get moving on this, and that remains one of our ongoing goals in terms of the minor itself.”

This summer, professor Maurine Ogbaa will be leading a study-abroad program for AAADS students to Ghana. On this trip, students will explore Ghanaian literature outside the classroom and build critical thinking skills that can be used in any career. AAADS can help students foster a sense of purpose and belonging in their careers and everyday lives, contributing to a more unified community. Olivia Banner, an associate professor of critical media studies that co-authored the proposal for the ethnic studies minor, said that a better understanding of diversity encourages inclusion for all.

“If you’re a doctor or a nurse, you still have to practice what’s called cultural competency, which is … [being] able to make your healthcare practice accessible to people who may not be a part of your particular culture,” Banner said. “So in other words, the minors help students get a grasp on issues around things like diversity.”

Students who want to minor in AAADS are required to take six semester credit hours in African American history and the course “Survey of African American and African Diaspora Literatures.” The rest of the 12 credit hours are four courses chosen from electives in film, history, criminal justice, literature, music, psychology and more.

Those interested in the AAADS minor should contact the school of AHT for more information.

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