Three African American Faculty Members Appointed to New Positions

Cynthia Oliver, a professor of dance and special advisor to the chancellor for arts integration at the University of Illinois, has been named to a Gutgsell Endowed Chair at the university. Her work seeks to forge a new understanding of the relationship between dance, identity, gender, and Afro Caribbean Americanness. She joined the dance faculty at the university 2000. Dr. Oliver is the author of Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean (University Press of Mississippi, 2009).

Dr. Oliver holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in performance studies from New York University.

Najja Baptist was named director of African and African-American Studies Program in the history department at the University of Arkansas. He is an assistant professor in the department of political science and the founding director of the University Advanced Research Team and the Summer Research Opportunity Program at the university. He is the author of In the Spirit, In the Dark: Black Music and Activism, which will be published by New York University Press.

Dr. Baptist is a graduate of North Carolina Central University, where he majored in political science. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Jackson State University in Mississippi and a Ph.D. in Black politics from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Associate professor BJ Arnett was appointed chair of the department of art and fashion at Clark Atlanta University. She has been on the university’s faculty since 2014 and has served as interim chair since 2019. She founded Trends and Tours, a New York fashion excursion for Clark Atlanta art and fashion students, and created the first HBCU Art and Fashion Week at the university in 2016.

Arnett holds a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising and marketing from American Intercontinental University. She earned an MBA in fashion merchandising from Kaplan University.

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