Carnegie Mellon University

African and African American Studies Minor

Edda Fields-Black, Associate Professor of History, Faculty Advisor

The African and African American Studies minor exposes Carnegie Mellon students to the following regions: sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, and the Caribbean and the early modern, modern, and contemporary time periods.  Broad geographic coverage and a comparative framework encourage students to make connections between Africa and the African Diaspora, as well as among Diasporan communities.  The minor offers undergraduate students the opportunity to undertake an empirical and theoretical examination of the cultural, political, social, and historical experiences of Africans and people of African descent.  This unique minor brings together six departments (History, English, Modern Languages, Social and Decision Sciences, Art, and Music) and two colleges (Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and College of Fine Arts) within the university and allows students to develop analytical skills particular to the arts, humanities, social sciences, public policy, and management. The African and African American Studies minor is also designed to enable students a considerable degree of freedom in their choice of electives and independent research projects, including opportunities to study and conduct research in a relevant foreign language.

The minor is composed of fifty-four units—two core courses (eighteen units) and four elective courses (thirty-six units). The elective courses must include one project course.  Students may take an additional two core courses as electives, but not more than four total courses.  Students must take courses in at least two of the four regions (African, African American, Latin American, and the Caribbean) between their core and elective courses.

Since the inception of the African and African-American Studies Minor in 2008, six students have completed the minor.  Two additional students who have declared the AAAS Minor are scheduled to graduate in Spring 2015 and Spring 2016.   The minors who have graduated to date have completed majors in Business (1), Economics (1), Ethics History and Public Policy (1), History (1), International Relations (1 additional major), Policy Management (1), Political Science (1).  During their tenure at CMU, two AAAS Minors, Rotimi Abimbola and Godwina Titus, had inspiring summer study abroad experiences to the African continent. Timi spent two summers in two different countries in Africa.  In 2008, Timi conducted a self-designed internship in Ghana; in 2009, she worked with CMU’s own TechBridge World in Tanzania.  In 2012 and 2009, Godwina Titus and Behest Heidary respectively won The John Hope Franklin Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in African and African-American History given by the History Department.  Behest matriculated to law school.  AAAS minors are making promising careers in public history (Dionti Davis), undergraduate admissions (Godwina Titus), management consulting (Rotimi Abimbola), global marketing (Brianna Agyemang), and corporate law (Behest Heidary).  Jessica Wallach, one of the two Minors who will graduate in Spring 2016 has declared the first self-defined African Studies major.  Jessica is also writing an honors’ thesis on agriculture and women in West and East Africa.

The AAAS Minor is Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies & the Economy (C.A.U.S.E.’s) undergraduate initiative.  Since 2008, CAUSE has helped to create community for undergraduates and supported undergraduate education through the AAAS Minor.  The Faculty Advisor of the AAAS Minor has served as the Faculty Advisor of SPIRIT (the African-American students’ organization), YALA (the African students’ organization), and DSO (a student organization devoted to global development).  In support of the AAAS Minor, CAUSE has provided funding for SPIRIT’s Brain Bowl (a Black history game show) and YALA mixers.