Last summer the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania voted to establish the Department of Africana Studies. Since the creation of the Center for Africana Studies in 2002, faculty teaching in the field have all had appointments in other departments at the university. As a result of the new designation of departmental status, Africana studies can now hire its own faculty members. Plans announced last summer stated that the new department would have 11 faculty members.
Camille Charles, chair of the new department, stated, “For graduate and undergraduate students, having departmental status signals a level of respect, legitimacy, and permanence.”
Dr. Charles is currently forming a strategy on faculty hiring. Professor Charles told the Daily Pennsylvanian, “We’ll be thinking about the areas where we’re already strong and maybe one hire would make us the place to come and study that thing, as well as what are the areas where we’ve had these long-standing deficiencies. We think that we have the capacity to become one of the places, if not the place, to come to do Africana studies.”
Professor Charles is a graduate of California State University-Sacramento. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Los Angeles. She is the author of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Race, Class and Residence in Los Angeles (Russell Sage Foundation 2006).