New African and African diaspora studies major takes off at

Graduation 2022 marked a milestone in MIT’s historical past, as Stacy Godfreey-Igwe ’22 turned the primary pupil to graduate in African and African diaspora studies (AADS).

Godfreey-Igwe additionally majored in mechanical engineering and is now a fellow on the Science Expertise Coverage Institute in Washington. She recollects that whereas she didn’t initially intend to main in AADS, because the youngster of Nigerian immigrants she has lengthy had a deep curiosity in her cultural and ethnic background. This curiosity, paired along with her want to create a social affect by means of engineering, led her to forge a brand new path at MIT. 

“I initially got here to MIT eager to see if there have been methods to do good with engineering,” Godfreey-Igwe displays. “I discovered that possibly my method to enter into that might be partly understanding my cultural identification, and seeing what I might do from there.” 

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In 2020, Godfreey-Igwe sought recommendation from MIT’s Danielle Wooden concerning the potential for pursuing a double main with mechanical engineering. Wooden, an assistant professor of media arts and sciences and of aeronautics and astronautics, had not too long ago begun serving as the college advisor for African and African diaspora research at MIT. When Godfreey-Igwe made the request, a proper main in AADS didn’t but exist, though the minor and focus have been out there. Wooden helped Godfreey-Igwe full a petition for a personalized main in MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (SHASS). Impressed by Godfreey-Igwe’s request, Wooden formally utilized by means of SHASS to obtain Institute approval to formally supply the key in AADS.

The request was authorised in 2021, and MIT undergraduates now have the choice to pursue a serious, minor, or focus in AADS. This system additionally collaborates with the MIT Worldwide Science and Expertise Initiatives (MISTI) to supply alternatives for college kids to realize credit score towards AADS whereas finding out overseas on the College of Pretoria in South Africa.

At the moment, roughly 15 MIT undergraduates are pursuing a focus, minor, or main in AADS.

Wooden says the key builds upon the muse of the preexisting minor and focus, the framework offered by different interdisciplinary majors, and the mental and pedagogical efforts of generations of students at MIT, together with professors Michel DeGraff, Helen Elaine Lee, D. Fox Harrell, Kenneth Manning, Craig Steven Wilder, and Melissa Nobles. Wooden took over as AADS college advisor after collaborating with Harrell (earlier AADS college advisor) and DeGraff to co-instruct the gateway course for the key, 24.912 (Black Matters: Introduction to Black Studies).

“There was an extended historical past of individuals earlier than me who have been concerned with making this chance,” Wooden says. “The AADS main thus represents a coming collectively of threads from throughout MIT’s colleges and departments.”

The AADS main, minor, and focus curriculum combines a broad publicity to the disciplines of historical past, arts, social science, and the humanities with alternatives to review comparatively throughout international contexts. Past the introductory topic and fourth-year thesis, the key requires coaching in a language related to individuals of Africa and its diasporas (together with over 30 Indigenous African languages corresponding to Igbo, Amharic, and Luganda, in addition to Haitian Creole, French, Spanish, and Portuguese). Along with language coaching, college students full elective topics that span humanities, arts, social sciences, and historical past. In addition they full a thesis on a subject of their selecting; Godfreey-Igwe, for instance, used her thesis to review mass migrations from West Africa to Europe with Amah Edoh, a former college member in MIT’s Division of Anthropology. The findings of Godfreey-Igwe’s thesis coded interviews with migrants from West Africa to problem conventional assumptions about motivations for migration.

The African and African diaspora research main invitations college students from all backgrounds to discover the riches of tradition, innovation, thought management, and wonder that originate within the continent of Africa and its many diasporas. The main additionally celebrates alternatives for college kids corresponding to Godfreey-Igwe, whose identification consists of African heritage, to enter a private journey of self-discovery. The presence of the key provides to the well-rounded listing of interdisciplinary choices, together with alternatives to study Latinx, Asian, American, Eurasia, and Medieval research.

Wooden says she’s grateful to all of the groups at MIT that made it doable to formally begin the AADS main, including she hopes it lays a basis for the addition of additional views, corresponding to Indigenous research. She notes that Andrea Wirth, an instructional administrator at MIT who handed away in 2022, was instrumental in establishing the AADS main focus.

“The addition of the AADS main highlights an instance of an institutional change that may tangibly contribute to residing out the MIT Values of belonging and group, excellence and curiosity, openness and respect,” says Wooden.


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