GW does not have an Africana studies major, but Student Association Sen. O.G. Oyiborhoro (CCAS-U) is working to bring the degree to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences by the end of the academic year.
Oyiborhoro, a junior, said he is not the first student to lobby for an Africana studies major, but that this time the prospects of success seem much more likely.
“We are in the multicultural epicenter of Washington, D.C.,” Oyiborhoro said. “It is essential we have this program.”
As opposed to African studies, Africana studies emphasize both African and African-American subject matter.
CCAS only offers a minor in Africana studies and includes courses that focus on African and African-American history, culture, policy and race relations. For a student especially interested in the subject, the Africana studies minor at GW is, at best, insufficient, said Nemata Blyden, director of CCAS’s Africana Studies program.
“The minor consists of 21 credits,” Blyden said. “Seven courses can only scratch the surface of knowledge available on Africa.”
Jim Miller, chair of the American studies department, said he agreed with Blyden.
“Obviously a minor is not sufficient for a student who wants to pursue more in-depth work in the field,” he said.
With the help of University President Steven Knapp, Blyden, CCAS administrators, faculty and the Student Association, Oyiborhoro is pushing for the major to be established by late spring 2008.
CCAS Dean Marguerite Barratt said Oyiborhoro’s request is being considered much more seriously than those of students who have lobbied for the major in the past. She attributes this to past students’ hesitation to bring an Africana studies major to the table until they are in their senior year.
“Students who tried to do this in the past were coming very late in the game – that’s not how this works,” Barratt said.
Oyiborhoro said he is engaging Knapp in the process to add credibility to his push.
Oyiborhoro expressed gratitude for Knapp’s support, citing his oversight in the creation of the Center for Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
“My approach was very different this year – I went straight to President Knapp and he helped,” Oyiboroho said.
Now that the request is under serious consideration, CCAS is looking into the administrative changes that would need to occur in order to establish the major.
“It is not an overnight process,” Blyden said.
It is clear that many expect the program’s creation to be complete by the end of the spring 2008 semester.
Statistics in the Journal of Black Studies show that American universities offer more African studies degrees than the average amount of degrees offered in Asian studies, European studies, Latin American studies and women’s studies.
Blyden said the chances of having the major are increased since many more students have demonstrated strong interest in the subject recently.
Miller said the demand for an Africana studies major extends beyond the GW community.
He said, “The most pressing need is for scholars in the field of African-American history.”