UNC Charlotte’s Africana Studies Department is at the forefront of the discipline, cultivating collaborative opportunities across campus. And, it is earning accolades for its efforts – most recently, the National Council for Black Studies bestowed its Sankore Institutional Award upon the department.
Named for the 14th-century university in Timbuktu (present-day Mali), the Sankore Institutional Award honors outstanding achievement in Africana Studies. The National Council for Black Studies (NCBS) was established in 1975 to formalize the study of African and African American experience, otherwise known as Black Studies, as well as to strengthen and expand programs devoted to this endeavor.
Last year, UNC Charlotte hosted the 40th annual conference of the council, which can trace its origins to discussions that occurred on campus through efforts led by Bertha Maxwell-Roddey, the first chair of the University’s Africana Studies Department.
In returning to Charlotte in 2016, NCBS leaders had an opportunity to see firsthand the exponential growth that has occurred within the department, stated Akin Ogundiran, chair of Africana Studies.
“I think they were impressed by our community outreach efforts through the Maxwell-Roddey Lecture and the Africana Studies Artist-in Residence program,” Ogundiran said. “Both of these programs started in the last nine years, and they demonstrate how we have become more engaged in the life of the greater Charlotte community by bringing in experts in the field to foster discussions on a variety of topics.”
Historically, UNC Charlotte has encouraged robust interdisciplinary initiatives, and the Africana Studies Department has affiliate faculty in a number of other College of Liberal Arts & Sciences units, as well as the College of Arts + Architecture and Cato College of Education.
“In the past six years, our curriculum has changed dramatically with the addition of 21 new courses, a concentration in health and environmental studies and the Graduate Certificate in Africana Studies. Black Studies must expand and evolve to meet the needs of new generations. The health and environment concentration enables our students to explore issues related to health care, social causes and environmental justice,” explained Ogundiran. “We believe, and I think the NCBS agreed, that we have a department that many institutions could aspire to model.”
In just a decade, the department has increased its number of majors by approximately 200 percent, and it offers twice as many course credit hours. Faculty scholars in the department continue to earn accolades too. For example, Ogundiran was named a National Humanities Center Fellow; Tanure Ojaide, the Frank Porter Graham Professor of Africana Studies, is a prolific writer who was awarded the Nigerian National Order of Merit; and Honore Missihoun recently received a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship for research and teaching at the University of Jos, Nigeria.
Phillip Brown | Assistant Director for Internal Communication|
UNC Charlotte | Office of University Communications|