Why Africana Studies?

The Department of Africana Studies stands at the center of the study of the African American experience, Africa, and the African Diaspora—the global dispersion of peoples of African descent. Using an interdisciplinary approach to coursework and research, the department introduces students to a wide range of historical and contemporary perspectives, promoting a critical engagement with the whole of human culture.

Rhodes Scholar Emmie Mediate (right) Interned At The Palliative Care Association Of Uganda Rhodes Scholar and Africana Studies major Emmie Mediate (right) interned at the Palliative Care Association of Uganda.

Our courses focus on race, politics, theology, education, and history related to the Africana world, and our faculty of dedicated teacher-scholars approach these topics from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Our students develop a multifaceted understanding of the Africana experience that prepares them for undergraduate research and internship opportunities in a wide array of fields.

Our strong partnerships across the University can help Africana studies students connect with the financial and academic resources they need to support their endeavors, whether that means access to community engagement opportunities, guidance in crafting a research proposal, funding for international fieldwork or immersive summer language study, grants to defray internship expenses, or help developing competitive applications for prestigious fellowships.

Africana studies majors and minors at Notre Dame hone their research, communications, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills while developing a keen cultural understanding and interdisciplinary perspective that prepares them thrive as leaders in their families, churches, communities, and careers.

Our alumni are flourishing in top graduate and professional schools, elite service organizations, and jobs in government service, human resources, education, public policy, marketing, sales, scientific research, health care, and consulting. Two of our recent graduates, Africana Studies majors Emmie Mediate ’15 and Alex Coccia ’14, were named Rhodes Scholars in back-to-back years

Want to know more? Hear how some of our recent graduates answer the question "Why Africana studies?"


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Africana Studies taught me about so many black historical figures and events that so many American history classes did not cover. My Africana Studies classes allowed me to interact with a diversity of opinion and people and really "made" my Notre Dame experience. The professors create a safe space for discussions concerning current events and link history to the present. Some examples of what we discussed include: intersectionality, the commodification of black bodies in sports, and even Beyonce’s approach to feminism.


— Lauren Pate ’16, paralegal, U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division

Michael Savage

Africana Studies enriched my experience at Notre Dame in so many ways. I tried to narrow it down to three reasons:

First, the people. For the most part, those that teach and choose to take Africana studies courses have a relentless desire to challenge societal perceptions of race, power, and tradition. The small classes lend to engaging discussion and personal connections amongst the class. To this day, Africana studies professors are some of the first people that come to mind when I think back on my experience at Notre Dame.

Second, in a complicated yet connected world, Africana Studies attempts makes sense of some of the challenging issues facing the United States and the world. By altering the Eurocentric worldview, Africana Studies courses put the narratives of the other center stage. Today this perspective is needed more than ever.

And finally, it's fun. Africana Studies offers some of the most diverse coursework ranging from art history to philosophy. It mixes theory and practice so that students are not learning solely from listening, but doing. It forces students to be active in the communities around them in a way like no other coursework.

— Michael Savage ’13, University of Chicago Law School graduate, 2016 Public Interest Law Initiative Fellow