Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts




African American and Diaspora 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 Art Education, Communication Arts and Sciences, English, History, Philosophy, and Political Science but also including colleagues in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Curriculum and Instruction.

Professor of African American Studies and History
Director of Graduate Studies
Acting Director of Undergraduate Studies
(814) 865-7114

Degree Conferred

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

Note: Students not in one of our partnering departments can pursue a graduate minor in African American Studies.  Information on graduate minors can be found at

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.

The Graduate Faculty

  • W. Oliver Baker, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO), Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies
  • Kathryn Belle, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS), Department Head of African American Studies, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
  • Robert Bernasconi, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX), Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy
  • Ray Block, Ph.D. (THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY), Associate Professor of Political Science and African American Studies
  • Booker Stephen Carpenter II, Ph.D. (PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY), Professor of Art Education and Postbaccaluareate Certification Officer in Art Education
  • Jim Casey, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE), Assistant Professor of African American Studies, History, and English
  • J. Marlena Edwards, Ph.D. (MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY), Assistant Professor of History, African American Studies,  and African Studies
  • Gabrielle Foreman, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY), Paterno Family Professor of American Literature and Professor of English, African American Studies and History
  • R. Keith Gilyard, Ph.D. (NEW YORK UNIVERSITY), Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English and African American Studies
  • Emily Grosholz, Ph.D. (YALE UNIVERSITY), Liberal Arts Research Professor of Philosophy and African American Studies; Fellow of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities
  • Wanda Knight, Ph.D. (OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY), Professor Professor of Art Education, African American Studies, and WGSS
  • Alex Lubin, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA), Professor of African American Studies
  • Maha Marouan, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM), Associate Professor of African American Studies and Women’s Studies
  • Shirley Moody, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND COLLEGE PARK), Assistant Professor of English
  • Zachary Morgan, Ph.D. (Brown University), Associate Professor of History and African American Studies
  • Jeanine M. Staples, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA), Associate Professor of Education
  • Sam Tenorio, Ph.D. (NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY), Assistant Professor of WGSS and African American Studies
  • Darryl Thomas, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN AT ANN ARBOR), Associate Professor of African American Studies
  • Niki vonLockette, Ph.D. (UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN), Associate Professor of Public Policy and African American Studies
  • Dara Walker, Ph.D. (RUTGERS UNIVERSITY), Assistant Professor of African American Studies, History, and WGSS
  • Michael O. West, Ph.D. (HARVARD UNIVERSITY), Professor of African American Studies and History
  • Cynthia Young, Ph.D. (YALE UNIVERSITY), Associate Professor of WGSS, English, and African American Studies

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 345 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)
  • 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 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.

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:


AFAM 501: Seminar in African American and Diaspora Studies (3 crs)
AFAM 502: Blacks in the African Diaspora (3 crs) 
AFAM 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

Minor in African American Studies:

The minor requires 15 credits, which must include AFAM 501, AFAM 502 and AFAM 503, for a total of nine credits.

A Student seeking an AFAM minor must also have the approval of the student’s major field of study and that of the Graduate School.

According to Graduate School regulations, a student may not pursue more than three minors at one time. If a student pursues more than one minor, each minor must have a separate group of courses to support it (i.e., none of the courses may be applied to more than one minor’s requirements).