Course Description

AAAD 489 is a one-credit hour, culminating experience for those in the African, African American, and Diaspora (AAAD) Studies minor program. AAAD 489 requires a substantive research paper and/or other approved project(s), as well as a public presentation, that demonstrate the student’s ability to synthesize learning gained throughout the minor program. Students work with one or more AAAD faculty members to determine the topic, research methods, and project structure. The public presentation must occur at an approved academic venue. Students may build upon coursework that they have completed at the 300 and 400 level. Participation in the International Model African Union also satisfies the AAAD Minor Capstone Senior Research Experience Requirement. AAAD Minors who have been accepted to the IMAU team can earn capstone credit for the experience by enrolling in AAAD 489.

Note: It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that they are registered into the AAAD 489 course.

Course Requirements

Students will meet with the capstone professor as many times as the professor deems necessary, but at least twice. The first meeting will serve to agree on the research topic, necessary revision and timeline, and an appropriate venue for presentation. Subsequent meeting/s will include a review of the student's work and/or revisions and visual aids in preparation for the public presentation. Capstone professors are expected to attend the public presentation. In cases where this is not possible, the student should share their presentation materials (e.g., typed notes, PowerPoint, or Prezi) and complete a practice presentation with the professor. In such a case, the student will have to submit proof of conference presentation to the professor. Supervising professors will submit conference presentation details and grades to the AAAD coordinator who is the 489 instructor of record.

Course Elective Option

Students can also earn additional elective credit toward the minor by re-enrolling in AAAD 489 and completing additional capstone projects in subsequent years (up to three additional enrollments maximum).


Excellent (A-) to Superior (A):

Outstanding mastery of the subject and near flawless exposition and organization of ideas. Contains insightful and persuasive arguments and analysis backed by relevant evidence

Above Competent (B-) to Good (B) to Very Good (B+):

Well above average mastery of the subject and exposition. Well crafted, organized, and clear analysis reflecting above competent comprehension and application of concepts and insight/depth beyond adequate critique or evaluation. Not as original as an “A” project.

Minimally Competent (C-) to Average (C) to Competent (C+):

Comprehension of the basic concepts of the subject and competent exposition. Minimally to adequately responds to all significant parts of the research question/idea. May present some of the following: overly general exposition; lack of detail, depth or clarity; basic/obvious analysis or evaluation; poorly organized; underdeveloped arguments; imprecise application of concept(s).

Poor, but Passing (D) to Less than Competent (D+):

Unsatisfactory but still barely passing. Enough relevant material to warrant a passing grade. May present some or all of the following: only minimally complete; weak organization; lack of detail, depth or clarity; overly general exposition, analysis, or evaluation; ambiguity; incorrect or vague application of concepts.

Failing (F):

Same as D, plus omissions, incoherence, and incomplete exposition and analysis of ideas.

Past AAAD 489 Presentations

Mahogany Baker, Communication Studies, AAAD, WGSS: "Organizing and Implementing an Annual Multicultural Fair to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at James Madison University"


Brieya Sanders, Modern Foreign Languages, Concentration in Spanish, AAAD: "I Am My Hair: Today's Natural Hair Movement"


Eliza Futa, International Affairs, Concentration in Global Human Development, AAAD, Humanitarian Affairs: "The Privileges I Hold: The Social and Political Implications of Colorism" (2021)


Alexandria Pahides, Biology, Pre-Veterinary, Pre-Forensics, WGSS, & AAAD: "The Power and Beauty of Black Hair: An Examination of the History, Oppression, and Strength of 'Kinky Curls'" (2021)


Hannah Vanlangingham, Psychology, AAAD & WGSS: "Fifty Shades of Nude" (2021)


Savannah Brown, Communication Studies, AAAD: “Anatomy of the Apologetic Black Woman” (2019)


Jessica Carter, English, Creative Writing, AAAD: “Hungry Like the Wolf: Masculinity and Melancholia in Yasmina Khadra’s Wolf Dreams” (2020)


Qyaira Colbert, Sociology, AAAD: “Furious Flower Poetry Center: A Beacon of Black Excellence” (2020)


Zaria Heyward, Psychology, AAAD: “Black Firsts at James Madison University” (2020)


Lillie Jacob, English, Honors, WGSS, AAAD: “Quareness and Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer” (2020)


Ryland Jones, English, Secondary Education, AAAD: “Structure and Format in Tyehimba Jess’s Poetry” (2020)


Spencer Law, SMAD, History, Honors, AAAD: “Passive Resistance in Massive Resistance: Desegregation Busing in Harrisonburg, VA” (2020)


Zenobia Lee-Nelson, Communication Studies, WGSS, AAAD: “Movements and Black Queer Narrating” (2019)


Maddi Peyton, SMAD, AAAD: “A Change Through Time: Activism, Emotion & The Black Lives Matter Movement” (2020)


Trey Wilson, Sociology, AAAD: “Innovative Strategies: Financial Literacy for Young African American Males” (2020)

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