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African American and African diaspora studies minor now available

Chelsea Armstrong posing on campus

Chelsea Armstrong. Photo by Doug Stremel

From The Ichabod - Spring 2022
By Jensen Simons

Washburn’s African American and African diaspora studies minor was developed not only from a need, but an expectation brought forward by students and faculty to help address the topics of race, power and privilege.

In summer 2019, Washburn University created a committee focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion in response to students and faculty wanting to address certain issues surrounding social justice inequities, which – while alive in the public consciousness for many years – were now circulating at a national level. Subsequently, the committee’s findings resulted in the creation of the AAADS minor.

Mary Sundal, sociology and anthropology department chair and professor with an emphasis in biocultural anthropology and African Studies, serves as director for the new course study.

“Folks were ready to have this at Washburn,” Sundal said.

As an interdisciplinary course study, the minor is comprised of classes that span the fields of anthropology, psychology, history, English, art, sociology and mass media. A sampling of the course work includes: People and Cultures of Africa, The Civil Rights Movement, Race and Ethnic Relations and African American History. Each of these classes offer students the opportunity to use a critical lens to better understand social movements, society and disparity.

Chelsea Armstrong, senior psychology major and AAADS minor, finds many of these courses to be important for all students, regardless of their majors or backgrounds.

“These issues are relevant everywhere, and you can’t be a person in the U.S. and not learn about the history between White and Indigenous people, White and Black people – the narrative we’re taught is from a White perspective. Everyone needs to hear many voices and perspectives,” Armstrong said.

This minor is also significant to Armstrong as a mixed-race person.

“It’s personal to me. I’m Black and White, so I have grown up being very aware of racial issues. Having a White mom and a Black dad, seeing how each one was treated by society, and then also how people reacted to them being a couple and toward myself and my two siblings – it is an important part of who I am.”

In addition to falling in love with many of her classes, finding validation has been at the height of her experience with the course work

“Having your feelings validated is one of the most therapeutic things you can experience,” Armstrong said.

The next step for the minor is a focus on building awareness. “The minor has been up and running for two whole academic years,” Sundal said. “My job right now is to spread the word.”

Sundal did just that by participating in Washburn’s annual Day of Giving in February, a campus-wide fundraiser. AAADS raised $1,555 from 16 gifts. These donations will go to student scholarships and academic opportunities, as well as additional training for faculty. 

The Ichabod Magazine Winter 2022 cover - Memorial Union with snow, pine needles in the foreground

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