Penn State Hires Nine Scholars in African American or Diaspora Studies

Pennsylvania State University has announced that it has hired nine scholars who will all be affiliated with the university’s department of African American studies. Several will hold join appointments in other academic departments at the university. Seven of the nine hires are Black scholars.

“This is the biggest single step forward in faculty and academic diversity in the history of the college,” said Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State.

“I’m familiar with cluster hires at other universities, but to my knowledge this one is unprecedented in terms of the breadth of disciplines and levels of expertise on African American and African Diaspora life and culture it brings to one institution,” added Cynthia Young, head of the department of African American studies.

The seven new Black faculty members are:

Ray Block Jr. is an associate professor of political science and African American studies. He previously taught at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Block is the co-author of the forthcoming book from the University of Georgia Press  Losing Power: Americans and Racial Polarization in Tennessee Politics. Dr. Block is a graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he double majored in philosophy and political science. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in political science from Ohio State University.

J. Marlena Edwards is an assistant professor of African American studies and history. She held a postdoctoral fellowship at Penn State’s Africana Research Center. Dr. Edwards holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in history from Binghamton University of the State University of New York System. She earned a Ph.D. in African American and African studies and history from Michigan State University.

David Marriott is a professor of philosophy and African American studies. He was a professor of the history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Dr. Marriott was born and educated in England, where he taught at the University of London and the University of Sussex. He is the author of Whither Fanon? Studies in the Blackness of Being (Stanford University Press, 2018). Dr. Marriott earned a Ph.D. in literature at the University of Sussex.

Candis Smith is an associate professor of political science. Dr. Smith previously taught at Texas A&M University, Williams College in Massachusetts, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of Black Mosaic: The Politics of Black Pan-Ethnic Identity (New York University Press, 2014). Dr. Smith holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in political science, all from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Sam Tenorio is a new assistant professor of African American studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Dr. Tenoriois was a postdoctoral research fellow at Penn State’s Africana Research Center, after earning a Ph.D. in African American studies and political theory at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Dara Walker is an assistant professor of African American studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. She also conducted postdoctoral research at Penn State’s Africana Research Center. She is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University where she majored in African American studies. Dr. Walker holds a master’s degree in Pan-African studies from Syracuse University in New York and a Ph.D. in history from Rutgers University.

Michael O. West is a professor of African American studies and history. He was a professor of Africana studies and sociology at Binghamton University in New York. Professor West is the author of The Rise of an African Middle Class: Colonial Zimbabwe, 1890-1965 (Indiana University Press, 2002). Professor West is a graduate of Lake Forest College in Illinois. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

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  1. I would be impressed if Penn State hired professors who specialize in useful subjects, like engineering, computer science or the business disciplines.

    There are too many blacks engaging in pointless navel-gazing rather than acquiring and applying knowledge that is useful in creating wealth.

    • History teaches us that wealth could be quickly destroyed when people do not learn its lessons…. And we are at that moment in history that suggests that the close to 100 million lives lost in the last century, lives lost due to conflicts between the wealthiest countries and empires, may have all been shed in vain.

    • So you’ve reviewed their scholarship in order to come to this conclusion? What is pointless navel gazing and what makes their work useless?

    • Subjects such as math and science are all good,
      but history of people of African descent is very important especially
      in these times.
      People needs to understand historical facts as they
      Will impact on the future. Look at the times we are living in!

    • It appears that “Ewart” is the embodiment of disjointed and misguided thinking to make these insecure and racist comments. Why don’t share with everyone how much your work has changed the lives of people both here and abroad.

  2. People of the African Diaspora, as well as the landscapes resource have and still contributes to the wealth of the world empires and their institutions. Therefore, understanding the spiritual, economic, social and psychological impact of this odyssey, creates constant engagement for dialogue. Ewart Archer says that the work of these scholars is “pointless naval gazing” because he may not be concerned about suffering as long as the means to an end is obtained. Looking forward, making sure that people of the African Diaspora work towards contributing to community and global experiences is the focus. A look at history and its impact, learning how to critically think, and study in fields of selected concentration, helps students to build foundational principles that will prepare them for the workplace and commonplace

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