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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

African American and Diaspora Studies

CYNTHIA A. YOUNG, Head, African American Studies
Associate Professor of African American Studies and English
133 Willard Building

Degree Conferred

Students electing this program through participating departments will earn a degree with a dual-title at the Ph.D. level, i.e., Ph.D. in (graduate program name) and African American and Diaspora Studies.
The following graduate program offers a dual-title degree in African American and Diaspora Studies: Ph.D. in Art Education.

The Graduate Faculty


The Program

The primary objective of the dual-title degree program in African American Studies is to expand teaching, research, and scholarship on the nearly one billion people of African descent scattered across several regions of the world. As a program committed to integrating knowledge produced across disciplines and to crediting the importance of historical considerations, it will reinforce and broaden the knowledge that students acquire and that scholars typically cultivate in the traditional disciplines. This is accomplished through partnerships with allied disciplines, such as History, Political Science, Philosophy, English, Comparative Literature, and Art Education. Graduate students are trained to describe, analyze, and evaluate the practices, phenomena, and policies that both issue from and structure the experiences and possibilities of African-descended peoples in the Americas and in African diasporic populations around the world. Students in more traditional disciplines such as English or History who want to acquire formal knowledge about African Americans and the African Diaspora beyond what is offered by their home departments will be able to acquire that knowledge through the seminars offered in this program. The program aims to produce Penn State doctoral graduates with a competitive advantage for African American and Diaspora Studies-related employment in academia and elsewhere.

Admission Requirements

For admission to the dual-title Ph.D. degree under this program, a student must first apply and be admitted to an approved partnering graduate program. Once accepted by the partnering graduate program, the student can apply to the African American and Diaspora Studies Admissions Committee, which will be composed of graduate faculty in the Department of African American Studies. The application must include a statement of purpose that addresses how the student’s research and professional goals intersect with the objectives of the dual-title graduate degree program in African American and Diaspora Studies. The Admissions Committee reviews applications and recommends students for admission to the dual-title PhD program in African American and Diaspora Studies.

Students may apply to the dual-title program when they request admission to the partner department, or at any time prior to taking the candidacy exam in the primary graduate program, provided that they secure the approval of the graduate director of the partner department. Practically speaking, this will likely mean applying to the dual-title program before completing the second year of study in the partner department. Students applying to the dual-title degree program should be aware that participating in a dual-title program may require additional time to complete the degree; students should plan ahead to secure sufficient funding.

The African American and Diaspora Studies dual-title graduate degree program will follow the timetable and admission requirements of its partnering graduate programs.

GPA and GRE Requirements

Applicants entering with only an undergraduate degree should have a junior/senior cumulative average of at least 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale), and, where applicable, a minimum GPA of 3.50 for all graduate work previously undertaken. Exceptions to the minimum GPA requirement may be made for students with special backgrounds, abilities, and interests. Each applicant must submit the scores of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) taken within five years previous to the date of application.

Degree Requirements

The minimum course requirements for this dual-title Ph.D. degree are as follows:

15 credits of course work related to African American and Diaspora Studies, all at the 500 level or above. Of these 15 credits, 9 must come from the required core course sequence in African American and Diaspora Studies, which comprises the following courses:


501. Seminar in African American and Diaspora Studies (3 crs)
502. Blacks in the African Diaspora (3 crs)
503. Sexual and Gender Politics (3 crs)

Students must also take 6 elective credits, all of which must come either from the list below or otherwise have the prior approval of African American and Diaspora Studies supervising faculty. Over time, additional courses may be added to the list of acceptable electives. The director of graduate studies in the Department of African American Studies will maintain a comprehensive list of approved courses. Particular courses may simultaneously satisfy requirements in History and in African American and Diaspora Studies. Students who already hold a master's degree from another institution may petition to have up to 6 equivalent course credits recognized. 

AFR 501. Key Issues in African Studies (3)

PHIL 539. Critical Philosophy of Race (3)

HIST 547. Slavery in the Americas (3)

HIST 549. Topics in African-American History (3)

HIST 551. The African American Freedom Struggle in the Twentieth Century (3)

HIST 572. Race and Empire in the Americas, Caribbean & Pacific (3)

ENGL 565. Period Studies in African-American Literature (3)

ENGL 566. Genre Studies in African-American Literature (3)

ENGL 567. Thematic Studies in African-American Literature (3)

ENGL 568. Gender Issues in African-American Literature (3)

Language Requirements

Communication and foreign language requirements will be determined by the academic advisers from the primary department.


The dual-title field must be fully integrated into the candidacy exam for the doctoral program. In addition, candidates for the dual-title Ph.D. in African American and Diaspora Studies will be required to present to their committee a portfolio of work in African American and Diaspora Studies which includes a statement of the student’s interdisciplinary research interests, a program plan, and samples of writing that indicate the student’s interest in questions taken up by scholars of African American and Diaspora Studies.

Doctoral Committee Composition

For the dual-title Ph.D. degree, at least one member of the committee must be a member of the African American and Diaspora Studies graduate faculty. The doctoral committee for a dual-title doctoral degree student must include a minimum of four faculty members, i.e., a chair and at least three additional members, all of whom must be members of the Graduate Faculty, and one of which must be on the Graduate Faculty in the Department of African American Studies. If the chair is not faculty in African American Studies, then the committee member representing African American Studies must be appointed as co-chair. At least one regular member of the doctoral committee must represent a field outside the candidate’s major field of study in order to provide a broader range of disciplinary perspectives and expertise. This committee member is referred to as the “Outside Field Member.” In cases where the candidate is also pursuing a dual-title field of study, the dual-title representative to the committee may serve as the Outside Field Member. Additionally, in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest, the primary appointment of at least one regular member of the doctoral committee must be in an administrative unit that is outside the unit in which the dissertation adviser's primary appointment is held (i.e., the adviser's administrative home; in the case of tenure-line faculty, this is the individual's tenure home). This committee member is referred to as the “Outside Unit Member.” In the case of co-advisers, the Outside Unit Member must be from outside the administrative home(s) of both co-advisers. In some cases, an individual may have a primary appointment outside the administrative home of the student’s dissertation adviser and also represent a field outside the student’s major field of study; in such cases, the same individual may serve as both the Outside Field Member and the Outside Unit Member.

Comprehensive Exams

The African American and Diaspora Studies graduate faculty member on the student's committee is responsible for developing and administering the African American and Diaspora Studies portion of the student's comprehensive exams. The exam must incorporate written and oral components in African American and Diaspora Studies based on the student’s thematic or regional area of interest and specialization in African American and Diaspora Studies. The African American and Diaspora Studies portion of the exam will include the following components: broad history of the field, contemporary theory and debates, and either sexual and gender politics or a topic related to the student’s specific area of interest.


The candidate must complete a dissertation and pass a final oral defense of that dissertation on a topic that reflects their original research and education in both the primary discipline and African American and Diaspora Studies in order to earn the dual- title Ph.D. degree.

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships and other forms of student aid are described in the Student Aid section of the Graduate Bulletin.


Last Revised by the Department: Spring Semester 2013

Blue Sheet Item #: 41-07-001

Review Date: 06/11/2013

Faculty linked: 5/12/14; department head updated: 8/22/16


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