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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

African Studies

WILLIAM J. DEWEY, Director of the African Studies Program
244 Borland Building

Degrees Conferred

Students electing this degree program through participating programs earn a degree with a dual title at the Ph.D. level, i.e., in (graduate program name) and African Studies.

The following graduate program offers a dual degree in African Studies: Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, French, Geography, and Political Science. 

Graduate Faculty


Program Objectives of the Dual-Title Doctoral Degree Program in African Studies

The primary objective of the dual title degree program in African Studies is to expand teaching, research and scholarship on Africa and African societies at Penn State. This is accomplished by providing multidisciplinary training for Penn State doctoral students, who are undertaking graduate studies on Africa-related topics in a number of allied disciplines, such as geography, history, political science, sociology, comparative literature, public health, forestry, agricultural sciences, and international studies. The program complements training on Africa for graduate students in other areas such as business, law, and engineering. The program provides these various disciplines with an intellectual and physical location at which their African scholarship can be put to the most effective use for graduate students. The program uses the research projects and institutional networks of core and affiliate African Studies graduate faculty to provide research opportunities and linkages in Africa for Penn State doctoral students. The program aims to produce Penn State doctoral graduates, who have a comparative advantage for African Studies-related employment in academia, bilateral and multilateral agencies and international think-tanks.

Admission Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted to the primary graduate program and The Graduate School before they can apply for admission to the dual-title degree program. Applicants interested in the dual-title degree program may make their interest in the program known clearly on their applications to the major program and include remarks in their statement of purpose that address the ways in which their research and professional goals reflect an interest in African Studies-related research.

To be enrolled in the Dual Title Doctoral Degree Program in African Studies, a student must submit a letter of application and transcript, which will be reviewed by an African Studies Admissions Committee. An applicant must have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4 point scale) to be considered for enrollment in the dual-title degree program. Students must apply for enrollment into the dual-title degree program in African Studies prior to obtaining candidacy in their primary program.

General Graduate Council requirements are stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin.

Degree Requirements

The Dual-Title Doctoral Degree in African Studies is awarded to students who are admitted to a Ph.D. program that has adopted the dual-title degree program in African Studies. The minimum course requirements for the dual-title Ph.D. degree in African Studies are as follows.

• Course work and other requirements of the primary program.
• AFR 501(3)
• 18 credits of Africa-related coursework at the 400 or 500-level; a minimum of 6 of these credits must be taken from a list of courses maintained by the African Studies program chair.
• As many as 6 of the 18 credits may come from the primary program as approved by the student’s academic advisers in the primary program and the African Studies Program.
• No more than 6 credits may be taken at the 400-level and no more than 6 combined credits may come from individual studies courses and/or foreign studies courses.
• Communication and foreign language requirements will be determined by the student and the academic advisers from the primary program and the African Studies Program.

The choice of electives in African Studies is to be proposed by the student subject to approval by the academic advisers from the primary program and the African Studies Program. The suite of selected courses should have an integrated, intellectual thrust, which probes a thematic, national or regional issue and that is complementary to the student's specialty in the primary program.

Language Requirement

The language requirement for the dual-title degree program is determined by the academic advisers in the primary program and the African Studies Program, in accordance with the existing language requirements of the primary program.

Candidacy Examination

The dual-title degree is guided by the Candidacy Exam procedure of the primary program. The candidacy exam for the dual-title degree may be given after at least 18 post-baccalaureate credits have been earned in graduate courses; it must be taken within three semesters (summer sessions do not count) of entry into the primary program. There will be a single candidacy examination, containing elements of both the major discipline and African Studies.

Doctoral Committee Composition

The doctoral committee of a dual-title doctoral degree student must include a minimum of four faculty members, i.e., the chair and at least three additional members, all of whom must be members of the Graduate Faculty. The committee must include at least one member of the African Studies graduate faculty. The chair of the committee is typically from the primary program. If the chair is not also a member of the graduate faculty in African Studies, the member of the committee representing African Studies should be appointed as co-chair.

Comprehensive Examination

After completing all course work, doctoral candidates for the dual-title doctoral degree in the primary discipline and African Studies must pass a comprehensive examination that includes written and oral components. Written components are administered on a candidate's primary discipline and in African Studies. The African Studies representative on the student's doctoral committee develops questions for and participates in the evaluation of the comprehensive examination. The African Studies component of the exam is based on the student's thematic, national or regional area of interest and specialization in African Studies.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense) to earn the Ph.D. degree. Students enrolled in the dual-title program are required to write and orally defend a dissertation on a topic that reflects their original research and education in both the primary discipline and African Studies.


Last Revised by the Department: Spring Semester 2012

Blue Sheet Item #: 40-07-013

Review Date: 06/12/2012

Faculty updated: 5/27/16


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