Beginning fall of 2015, Africana studies and women and gender studies will no longer be available for undergraduate majors at NC State. Both courses of study will become a concentration under interdisciplinary studies. The reason for this change is to consolidate a few smaller programs into a single program.
The merger of the two degrees into interdisciplinary studies prevents the two majors from having to take the time and energy to defend themselves to the Board of Governors for the risk of program closure due to small numbers, according to Dean of College of Humanities and Social Sciences Jeff Braden.
The UNC Board of Governors requires all universities to review programs every two years. Programs with small numbers of students and/or graduates are identified and asked to take steps to ensure they will meet system-wide productivity and enrollment standards.
“The university should provide appropriate funding [and] faculty lines so we can hire for the programs and [have] time to increase our numbers,” said Smith McKoy, program director of Africana Studies.
The Africana Studies program has been around since 2006. There have been 44 graduates during the past eight years, but the program generally has more students minoring in the studies.
The students currently in the major will continue to take courses and have the opportunity to finish their degrees. However, future students' diplomas will state they have a degree in Africana studies or women and gender studies, the diploma will state students have a degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in Africana studies or women and gender studies, according to Braden.
With six current Africana studies majors, there are two students graduating in May. Those two students will have Africana studies stated as their degree. Jelytza Padro is one of the two seniors in Africana studies and said that her concern is for the future students wanting to study Africana studies.
“The job market in Africana studies is hard already, and to me it seems like a hindrance that future students will not only have to explain what Africana studies is, but also explain interdisciplinary studies,” said Padro. “By making Africana studies a concentration under interdisciplinary studies, it does not feel that it truly reflects the curriculum that it takes to graduate with a degree in Africana studies.”
The dean recognizes a benefit of the merger of Africana studies and women and gender studies into interdisciplinary studies.
“We have the potential to increase options for smaller, but important, interdisciplinary programs in the future,” Braden said. “By offering programs as concentrations inside a larger interdisciplinary degree, we gain flexibility to create new areas of study.”
However, McKoy disagrees that the merger will save resources.
“The merger will cost as much or more as the current system,” he said. “At the present time, it looks as if CHASS will save one course buyout; however, we have been told that CHASS will hire two postdoctoral fellows, which will cost more than the $4,500 course buyout.”
Another challenge the program is facing is the only full-time professor of Africana studies, Deidre Crumbley, is currently in the process of going on phased retirement.
“According to administration, the curriculum for Africana studies and womens and gender studies will stay exactly the same,” Padro said. “However, there is a good chance of classes being taken away. If they do not make a hire to replace Dr. Crumbley, they may not be able to staff all of the courses.”
Padro also worries about the implications of taking away Africana studies and women and gender studies as a major.
“At a predominately white institution where the focus and finances are directed at STEM programs, I worry about the importance this institution puts on interdisciplinary study majors,” she said. “I am also concerned with the fact that the majors that are being put in jeopardy are those that concentrate on marginalized groups in our society.”