From its inception CAUSE emphasized graduate education and faculty development through its seminars, speakers series, and postdoctoral fellowship program. Beginning in 2007, however, it gave increasing attention to ways to serve undergraduate students interested in the African American experience. Most important, we established a minor in African and African American Studies and encouraged undergraduates to organize events around themes that fit into the larger research, education, and service mission of the Center. In addition to supporting undergraduate summer research project, CAUSE also supported a forum on the larger implications of Barack Obama’s election as the first U.S. president of African descent.
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.
CAUSE - Summer Undergraduate Research
In collaboration with the Office of Undergraduate Research Initiative, the Center helped fund a CAUSE-SURG (Summer Undergraduate Research Grant) for a research project by Dahlia Leibovich, “When I was Young: A Book for Children Highlighting Women’s Contributions to the Pittsburgh Jazz Scene,” (Summer 2002). This study illuminated the role of women in the development of jazz in the mid-20th century Hill and was based around the memories of a grandmother retelling the story of jazz to a young girl who lived in the same house.
Center for the Arts in Society
In collaboration with the Office of Undergraduate Research Initiative and the Center for the Arts in Society, the Center helped fund a Summer Undergraduate Research Grant) project by Dahlia Leibovich, “When I was Young: A Book for Children Highlighting Women’s Contributions to the Pittsburgh Jazz Scene,” (Summer 2002). This study illuminated the role of women in the development of jazz in the mid-20th century Hill and was based upon the memories of a grandmother retelling the story of jazz to a young girl who lived in the same house. This collaboration expanded to include additional co-sponsored projects with the Center for the Arts and Society (CAS), including “Hill District Project: A Multi-disciplinary Collaborative Project with Residents of Pittsburgh's Hill District” (10 February 2003) and “Connecting Community to Knowledge: Sustaining a Youth Inspired Library” (14 October 2003) also a Hill District Project. CAS is also a current co-sponsor of the upcoming film, “(T)ERROR,” with co-filmmaker Lyric Cabral.
Sustainable Landscape Architecture Project (SLAP)
Located in the College of Fine Arts, SLAP (founded by S. K. Woodall) is a community-based, after school, design arts program for low-income, inner city youth. The program uses design as its education framework and emphasizes student involvement in restoring vacant lots in the Pittsburgh Hill District. CAUSE worked with the organization on the development of an urban history component in its work with students.
Following the election of President Barak Obama, the Center supported undergraduates organizing “What’s Next?: The Black Potential in the Age of Obama,” 3 April 2009. This was an undergraduate initiative organized by: Brett Harris, School of Computer Science, Christopher Kamaur Streeter, Tepper School of Business, Chakana Mentore, Humanities and Social Science, and Melvin U. Udeh, Tepper School of Business. The event brought students, faculty, staff, and members of the larger Pittsburgh Community together for an afternoon of discussion about the prospects for African American empowerment and community development during the emerging era of Barack Obama, the first United States President of African Descent. Keynote speaker urban historian Dr. Henry Louis Taylor of the State University of New York-Buffalo focused on the importance of local black communities forging their own development strategies as a means of positioning their communities to take advantage of urban policies that would flow from the Obama administration. Following Taylor’s address, panel presenters included Dr. Kimberly Ellis, Artist, Community Activist, and historian; Matthew Hawkins, Doctoral Student in the School of Education, University of Pittsburgh; Dr. Ralph Proctor, Chief Diversity Officer, Community College of Allegheny County; and Reverend Thomas Smith, Pastor, Monumental Baptist Church.