Virtual launch set for JMU center focused on African Diaspora studies

JMU News

by Eric Gorton


James Madison University President Jonathan R. Alger will be among the guest speakers 2-3 p.m. Tuesday, March 23 for a virtual launch of the university's new African, African American, and Diaspora Studies Center.

Emerging from the growth of the university's AAAD studies minor, which began in 1981, the new center, now part of the College of Arts and Letters, is host to a number of academic initiatives including research and pedagogy seminars, workshops and institutes, and a selection of innovative archives. In partnership with JMU Libraries, the Center hosts three international fellowships annually. This work is complemented by advocacy/community engagement projects with local, national and global partners.

The minor, with nearly 100 course offerings and more than 60 faculty members from across all areas of the university, will remain the flagship of the new center. The minor is designed to help students understand and encounter Africa and the African Diaspora in local and global contexts. The center also provides a variety of academic programs within General Education and the Honors College, internships and research assistantships, study abroad programs and a forthcoming graduate certificate in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

A number of conferences fall under the center's banner, including the AAAD Interdisciplinary Conference, now in its 11th year and the university’s largest annual academic conference, attracting scholars from across the world and from across the disciplines to network, share research, debate and collaborate; the annual Utu Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, produced in partnership with the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi; and participation in the International Model African Union conference in Washington, D.C.

"This new academic center reflects the faculty's longstanding commitment and response to the rich intellectual curiosity of our students," said Provost and Senior Vice President Heather Coltman. "Now we will be able to extend and highlight their innovative research and scholarship in African, African American and Diaspora Studies. We will also continue and grow partnerships globally, with colleagues on all continents, to deepen the body of knowledge around diversity, equity and inclusion here and far beyond the JMU campus."

David Owusu-Ansah, associate provost for diversity, said the center has grown from a minor that started with a few faculty members of color and others who had aligned academic interests to a program that "has become a large, multiracial, international group of professors and students exploring knowledges, technologies, peoples, histories, cultures, languages, economics, philosophies, ideas and sociopolitical structures of Africa and its Diaspora. What we have now in this new center is the result of what can happen when people commit to ideas that matter."

Registration for the event can be completed here:


# # #


Media contact: Eric Gorton,, 540-908-1760

Back to Top

Published: Friday, March 19, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Related Articles