Buffalo State Announces New Africana Studies Program, Minority Faculty Hires

pictured above: NEW HIRES: (left to right) Cameron Herman, Marcus Watson and John Torrey.

Buffalo State undergraduates now have the option to concentrate their studies in African and African American literature, culture, history, and more as part of a newly approved bachelor of arts program in Africana studies.

The New York State Education Department approved Buffalo State’s new multidisciplinary B.A. degree in August. Previously offered as a minor program only, the Africana studies major now gives students the opportunity to examine the contributions of African nations and the African diaspora to the global community. The new program is composed of 14 courses in political science, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and English, including African American Literature to 1940, the Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Race and Progress, and Hip-Hop Culture.

“The Africana studies program reflects Buffalo State’s ongoing commitment to providing vibrant and relevant curricular offering that respond to student interests,” said Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner. “We listened to our students, who have asked for additional diverse curricular choices that are engaging and prepare them for future success. And I was happy to see that many of our faculty members were eager and prepared to teach courses within the program.”

Buffalo State offered a major in African and African-American studies in the past. Administrators and faculty members started working toward revising and re-envisioning the discipline about three years ago, noted Ken Orosz, professor of history and coordinator of the Africana studies program.

“There has been academic interest from faculty who see it as a valuable area of study,” Orosz said. “We see this as a new and vibrant program for the campus.”

Three faculty members have been hired for the new program under SUNY’s Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Growth—or PRODI-G—initiative. SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson announced the PRODI-G program in January, explaining that its goal is to recruit and retain up to 1,000 early to mid-career faculty members from underrepresented groups over the next decade.

The program’s reach extends from identifying talented students as undergraduates and mentoring and developing graduate students to attracting and retaining new faculty who continue to meet persistent barriers in achieving certain careers, including underrepresented minorities and women in the STEM disciplines.

“With PRODI-G, we are taking the long view,” Johnson said in her announcement. “Today’s high-schoolers will be PRODI-G faculty tomorrow.”

The program is also meant to fill the gap between the student body and the faculty. Underrepresented groups currently compose about 8.5 percent of the SUNY faculty. PRODI-G aggressively aims to roughly double that number within the next decade. Buffalo State is the first SUNY campus to receive salary support for PRODI-G.

Buffalo State is the first college to get and implement the SUNY funding.

New PRODI-G Faculty Members include: Cameron Herman, assistant professor of sociology; John Torrey, assistant professor of philosophy; and Buffalo native Marcus Watson, assistant professor of individualized studies and Africana studies.