University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Laura L. Hunt

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Jun 17, 2008 
UWM establishes a new doctoral program in Africology
Africology Faculty
Members of the Africology faculty (L-R): Ahmed Mbalia, Doreatha D. Mbalia, Osei-Mensah Aborampah, Sandra E. Jones, Abera Gelan, Joyce Kirk, Winston Van Horne, Erin N. Winkler, Patrick Bellegarde-Smith

MILWAUKEE – Ten years in the making, a doctoral degree program in Africology
will begin next year at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM).

Approval from the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents this month made UWM only the eighth university in the nation – and the only one in Wisconsin – to offer such a program.

Most of the other doctoral programs are at universities on either the East or West coasts, including Harvard, Yale, the University of California-Berkeley and Temple University.

“We’re talking about some of the strongest universities in the American academy,” says UWM Professor Winston Van Horne. “It will be good to have UWM situated among them.”

And yet, these few programs are not meeting the need for faculty in the discipline, says Associate Professor Joyce Kirk, chair of the UWM Africology Department.

UWM will be positioned ideally to educate the next generation of both global and local scholars and practitioners.

“The Regents’ approval is a powerful statement that demonstrates further testimony to UWM’s long-standing commitment to African American culture, heritage and community,” says UWM Chancellor Carlos E. Santiago. “Such a program will produce graduates who can enhance discourse on global and regional issues.”

The political, economic, social and cultural status of African nations affect other parts of the world, says Kirk, and the continent’s rich natural resources make it vulnerable to exploitation. But it also is a part of the world most people know the least about.

Graduates of the program will also fill a void in Wisconsin, says Van Horne.

“One can readily see individuals with this degree working in both the public and private sectors of society, especially in business and our public school systems,” he says.

The approval of the doctoral degree, says Kirk, “sends a strong signal to Wisconsin and Milwaukee residents that this program is an institutional priority.”

She says about five candidates will be accepted the first year, and the department expects to attract applicants worldwide.

UWM’s Department of Africology currently offers a four-year bachelor’s degree, but does not offer a master’s degree. Instead, the Ph.D. program should take the average full-time student without a master’s degree about six years to complete. It could take less time for a student with a master’s degree to complete the doctorate.

There are currently 26 U.S. universities, including UW-Madison, that are turning out graduates with a master’s in Africology.

UWM’s doctoral program will involve substantial cross-disciplinary collaboration.

The program is organized around three areas of focus:

  • Political Economy and Public Policy
  • Culture and Society: Africa and the African Diaspora
  • A concentration outside the department in the student’s area of interest

Eleven faculty members in UWM’s Department of Africology teach and conduct research on a wide variety of topics pertaining to political economy and public policy as well as the cultures and societies of Africa and the African Diaposa. They focus on countries such the U.S., Canada, Haiti, Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi and South Africa.

The department got its start on May 7, 1968, with the establishment of the Center for Afro-American Culture. The center began offering undergraduate courses in the 1968-69 academic year, making UWM the first four-year campus in the U.S. with a program in African American Studies.

Besides UWM, Temple, Yale, Harvard and UC-Berkeley, other universities that offer a doctoral program in Africology include the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Michigan State University and Northwestern University in Illinois, which began accepting students into its African American Studies Ph.D. program in 2006.

To read the complete entitlement document describing the proposed UWM doctoral program in Africology, log on to