UF is on its way to establishing a new major.
Pending approval from the Board of Trustees, an African-American studies major will start in Fall 2013. It was approved by UF’s Faculty Senate on Thursday.
The African-American Studies Program began its efforts to implement an African-American studies major in 2010. The program will celebrate its 45th anniversary in the Fall, said Sharon D. Wright Austin, director of the program.
She said this is the perfect time to have the major established because it would coincide with the program’s anniversary.
Establishing the major will cost the university nothing. The classes necessary for the major are present at UF under the minor, she said.
The major would include classes in politics, philosophy, history and religion. Students would need 120 credit hours, including the 30 hours of African-American studies courses required. Students would also need to complete a research methods requirement and 15 credit hours of African-American studies courses at the 3000 level or higher.
Austin said the faculty and students involved with the program feel that only having an African-American studies minor at the university is insufficient.
“We’ll be able to use the major not only to educate students but to do more things to educate the broader community in Gainesville,” she said.
There is a great demand from students for the major, Austin said. Students wrote letters to the university, which were included in the initial proposal.
Khama Jamaal Weatherspoon, academic chair of UF’s Progressive Black Men Inc. and vice president of UF’s Black Political Science Association, was one of them.
He said the major is necessary because it equates African-American studies to that of other history studies majors such as Jewish history.
“If we have studies of other cultures or whatnot, I think it would only be fair if we had one for African-American studies,” said the 21-year-old UF political science senior. “The major gives it recognition and potency.”
Weatherspoon said he would have chosen to major in African-American studies instead of political science if it was around when he was a freshman.
The major will offer students a variety of career opportunities, Austin said.
The program plans to hold a panel discussion in either March or April to inform students of the career opportunities available to them as African-American studies majors.
Austin said students would have the ability to pursue careers in the government, anthropology, political science, politics, civil rights, law and nonprofit organizations.
If the major is approved by all the boards, students can begin registering for it as early as March and begin taking classes in the Fall, she said.
Austin said the program’s next endeavor, once the major is approved, would be to establish a UF department of African-American studies.
“Right now, we’re just taking it one step at a time, trying to get the major in place, but at some point, we would like to have a department,” she said.