WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — It’s been more than a year since the launch of the first-ever African American Studies program at Wake Forest University. Since then, there has been one graduate of the program and more majors and minors graduating in May of 2023.
The creator of the program, Professor of Humanities Dr. Corey D. B. Walker, says his goal when developing the curriculum was to provoke new thought and provide deeper context to world issues.
“We have been able to put together a signature program here at Wake Forest University. It really embodies our university’s motto of Pro Humanitate. And most importantly, it enables our students to really gain a 21st-century liberal arts education to deal with the complexities that we face throughout our world,” Dr. Walker said.
Since the launch of the program, students from all backgrounds have been able to absorb Dr. Walker’s teachings, learning how African American studies connects to different aspects of daily life. The response has been positive so far.
Wake Forest freshman Chase Clark says she’s enjoyed the class so far.
“Going in, I had this whole predetermined notion of what I thought African American studies would be, but the class has completely debunked that but in a really great way. I’ve learned a lot more about how to think analytically more so than just reading to get content out of it,” Clark said.
Dr. Walker’s classes are as colorful as his teaching style. Whether you’re white, Black or otherwise, students say there’s something new everyone can learn here.
Ashley Davis, a Wake Forest Senior who is minoring in AAS, says the class has helped her explore other parts of history that she hadn’t learned before and expose herself to perspective outside of her life as a white woman.
“It’s interesting expanding beyond the white western framework of the university. I think that’s the main draw for me toward African American studies. It’s expanding beyond that and beyond inserting the Black into the white university and instead creating its own category and its own knowledge and space,” Davis said.
Davis says she’s even been able to pass along some of the things she’s learned to her family and friends.
“My family…sometimes they don’t get why I chose to pursue a minor in African American studies or why I’m looking at Ph.D. programs in it. Because they don’t think it directly affects me, but I think having those conversations with them and explaining why I find it important…helps me, and it helps them,” she said.
These are the kinds of conversations Dr. Walker was hoping to start. Ones that challenge his students and encourage them to apply their new knowledge to real-world problems. He says his students are hungry for more.
“Our students really want more African American studies. They really want to begin to look at the African diaspora…they want to begin to critically engage the global conditions around environmental justice. They really want to respond to the pressing issues around deep political antagonisms in our world,” Dr. Walker said.
Dr. Walker says the program is not only thriving, but he and the other faculty are looking at ways to expand into other niches like environmental justice.