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June 14, 2023

Exploring Black experiences and cultivating belonging

The Department of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University is quickly becoming a beacon of excellence and innovation. The department focuses on Black feminisms, Black genders and Black sexuality studies, addressing important and often overlooked aspects of African American and African experiences.

“It is a very exciting time to be at an institution that is thinking very intentionally about transformation and change,” says Ruth Nicole Brown, inaugural chairperson of the department.

A significant milestone in the department’s history is the introduction of the undergraduate major in African American and African Studies, the first of its kind at MSU. In developing the new major, Brown and her colleagues recognized that students are the driving force behind the department’s mission and strive to create a sense of belonging for students from diverse backgrounds.

Students in the major are provided the tools to access their true desires and cultivate their imagination as they work toward creating a better world. By encouraging students to challenge the status quo and envision possibilities beyond current realities, the department fosters critical thinking and prepares students to shape the future.

Brown and her colleagues are setting an example for how institutions can embrace transformation and change by emphasizing the importance of creating spaces where individuals can truly belong and by prioritizing truth and diverse perspectives.

Their efforts are gaining significant support. The department’s excellence was recently recognized with a $500,000 gift to create student scholarships and support faculty’s student engagement initiatives.

By: Anthony Siciliano, Nick Schrader, Jacob Templin-Fulton, Greg Kohuth, Nicole Geary and Ryan Frederick


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Diversity and belonging