August 20, 2014
“Faculty [in VCU’s College of Humanities & Sciences] share a distinctive passion for the transformational role they play in facilitating the development of deeply meaningful lives and careers of VCU’s diverse student body and for transforming the human condition through research, scholarship and creative arts” VCU-CHS Dean Jim Coleman, Quote from draft of college’s strategic plan, May 5, 2014.
As a student, you’ll probably never come across the strategic plan for the College of Humanities and Sciences. The actual document is archived in a file cabinet in the deep recesses of Blanton House. Its virtual clone stored somewhere in a password-protected cloud hovering above Monroe Park.
But rest assured the spirit of the strategic planning document resides in the hearts and minds of the professors in the Department of African American Studies; and is visibly evident in the hallways and classrooms of the College’s academic buildings.
As a premier undergraduate program, the Department of African American Studies is committed to providing students with a high quality education that utilizes multiple teaching approaches to advance the study of Black experiences. African American Studies professors “meet students where they are”, and allow students the opportunity to create their own interdisciplinary degree based on their academic interests and plans for career and graduate or professional school.
Dr. Adam Ewing, Assistant Professor of African American Studies, is one of several faculty members in the Department of African American Studies who embraces the College’s goals for transforming the lives of students.
“As a teacher I strive to build a bridge between academic and social practices, to find relatable access points for the study of disciplinary methodologies, and to demonstrate the value of academic discourses in the pursuit of students’ nonacademic goals. I try my best to give students a glimpse of the wonderful store of knowledge and inspiration that can be unlocked by my discipline”, says Dr. Ewing.
Professors in the Department of African American Studies feel an inherent responsibility to prepare students to solve problems of social change, instilling within them a sense of collective purpose, knowledge discovery and a guide to action.
“My aspiration is to aid [students] and to enhance their critical thinking skills, so that they feel empowered to profoundly impact their field of choice and to perceive themselves as significant members of the relevant movement of global solidarity” explains Dr. Dannelle Gutarra, Assistant Professor of African American Studies.
Dr. Gutarra received her doctorate in History from the University of Puerto Rico and teaches African Diaspora Experiences as well as several other courses that explore diasporic communities and their movements.
While increasing students’ content knowledge and sense of connection to global communities is important to African American Studies professors, they also seek to enhance students’ critical thinking skills, to empower them to unlock their own future and to realize their potential to effect change.
"[African American Studies] doesn't just teach students about the history and ideas of the diaspora; it uses these lessons to form a novel perspective that degree holders use to navigate, challenge and improve the world. The goal of my teaching is to develop the AFAM spirit of inquiry", says Chioke I’Anson, Instructor in the Department of African American Studies.
The interdisciplinary nature of African American Studies provides a context for sharpening students’ critical thinking skills and for inciting their desire for inquiry, which is at the heart of transformational change.
According to Dr. Mignonne Guy, Assistant Professor of African American Studies, our “students [leave VCU] with a unique set of skills to enter a variety of careers to include education, business, government, science, or health care while consciously bringing to light issues surrounding social justice and a dedication to community and service.”
The Department of African American Studies would love the opportunity to discuss the multitude of ways you can play a transformational role in the lives of others. Visit our department today to meet with a student adviser in our Academic Success Office located at 816 W. Franklin Street, Room 203.
McKayla and McKenzie Stokes edited this feature story. McKayla is a double major in African American Studies and Criminal Justice. McKenzie is a double major in African American Studies and Psychology. Both students will graduate in May 2017.