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Graduate Degree Information:


African American and Diaspora Studies

Paul C. Taylor, Head of African American Studies
133 Willard Building

Degree Conferred

Students electing this program through participating departments will earn a degree with a dual-title at the Ph.D. level.  Our dual-title Ph.D. partners are:


The Graduate Faculty

  • Robert Bernasconi, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX), Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy
  • R. Keith Gilyard, Ph.D. (NEW YORK UNIVERSITY), Distinguished Professor of English and African American Studies
  • Lovalerie King (UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL H), Associate Professor of African American Studies and Women's Studies
  • Maha Marouan, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM), Associate Professor of African American Studies and Women's Studies
  • David McBride, Ph.D. (COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY), Professor of African/African American Studies and African American History
  • AnneMarie Mingo, Ph.D. (EMORY UNIVERSITY), Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Women's Studies
  • Shirley Moody, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND COLLEGE PARK), Assistant Professor of English
  • Courtney Morris, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN), Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Women's Studies
  • Jeanine M. Staples, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA), Associate Professor of Education
  • Paul C. Taylor, Ph.D. (RUTGERS, STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY), Associate Professor of Philosophy and African American Studies
  • Nan E. Woodruff, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE AT KNOXVILLE), Professor of Modern U.S. History and African American Studies


The primary objective of the dual title degree program in African American Studies is to expand teaching, research, and scholarship on the nearly one billion people of African descent scattered across several regions of the world. As a program committed to integrating knowledge produced across disciplines and to crediting the importance of historical considerations, it will reinforce and broaden the knowledge that students acquire and that scholars typically cultivate in the traditional disciplines. This effort depends on and benefits from the efforts of faculty in allied disciplines, beginning with our partners in History, Art Education, and English, but also including colleagues in Political Science, Philosophy, and Comparative Literature.

Graduate students who successfully complete the program will be able to describe, analyze, and evaluate the practices, phenomena, and policies that both issue from and structure the experiences and possibilities of African-descended peoples in the Americas and around the world. Students in more traditional disciplines such as English or History who want to acquire formal knowledge about African Americans and the African Diaspora beyond what is offered by their home departments will be able to acquire that knowledge through the seminars offered in this program. The program aims to produce Penn State doctoral graduates with a competitive advantage for African American and Diaspora Studies-related employment in academia and elsewhere.


Admission Requirements:

Requirements for applicants who are new to Penn State University

Students may apply to the dual degree program when they apply for admission to graduate school at Penn State. Please follow the guidelines for applying established by the co-operating department and indicate clearly on your application that you are applying to the dual degree program in African American and Diaspora Studies. Send all materials to the co-operating department but be sure your personal statement reflects your interest in this interdisciplinary degree. The co-operating department is responsible for the first years of funding and assistantships.

To view participating program requirements please follow the links below:

Requirements for students currently enrolled in a co-operating graduate program at Penn State University

Ph.D. candidates must have applications to the dual degree program approved before Ph.D. candidacy exams. Students are encouraged to discuss their application in advance with either their advisor or the African American and Diaspora Studies Graduate Officer.

Students already enrolled in a co-operating program at Penn State may apply by submitting the following to the African American and Diaspora Studies Department in 133 Willard Building:

  • A copy of your Graduate School Application which was originally submitted to your home department
  • Official transcripts from all previous coursework (Photocopies of transcripts sent from the home department are acceptable)
  • Official GRE scores (Photocopies of GRE scores sent from the home department are acceptable)
  • A writing sample
  • A personal statement that describes how the dual degree program fits with your scholarly interests

Students applying to the dual-title degree program should be aware that participating in a dual-title program may require additional time to complete the degree; students should plan ahead to secure sufficient funding.

GPA and GRE Requirements

Applicants entering with only an undergraduate degree should have a junior/senior cumulative average of at least 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale), and, where applicable, a minimum GPA of 3.50 for all graduate work previously undertaken. Exceptions to the minimum GPA requirement may be made for students with special backgrounds, abilities, and interests. Each applicant must submit the scores of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) taken within five years previous to the date of application.

Degree Requirements

The minimum course requirements for this dual-title Ph.D. degree are as follows:

15 credits of coursework related to African American and Diaspora Studies, all at the 500 level or above. Of these 15 credits, 9 must come from the required core course sequence in African American and Diaspora Studies, which comprises the following courses:


501. Seminar in African American and Diaspora Studies (3 crs)
502. Blacks in the African Diaspora (3 crs)
503. Sexual and Gender Politics (3 crs)

Students must also take 6 elective credits, all of which must come either from the list below or otherwise have the prior approval of African American and Diaspora Studies Graduate Faculty Officer. Over time, additional courses may be added to the list of acceptable electives. The director of graduate studies in the Department of African American Studies will maintain a comprehensive list of approved courses. Particular courses may simultaneously satisfy requirements in the partner unit and in African American and Diaspora Studies. Students who already hold a master's degree from another institution may petition to have up to 6 equivalent course credits recognized.

AFR 501. Key Issues in African Studies (3)

PHIL 539. Critical Philosophy of Race (3)

HIST 547. Slavery in the Americas (3)

HIST 549. Topics in African-American History (3)

HIST 551. The African American Freedom Struggle in the Twentieth Century (3)

HIST 572. Race and Empire in the Americas, Caribbean & Pacific (3)

ENGL 565. Period Studies in African-American Literature (3)

ENGL 566. Genre Studies in African-American Literature (3)

ENGL 567. Thematic Studies in African-American Literature (3)

ENGL 568. Gender Issues in African-American Literature (3)

Last Revised by the Department: Spring Semester 2013

Blue Sheet Item #: 41-07-001

Review Date: 04/03/2015

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