Black Studies program expands to include major, minor options

Two Black students at York University

York University is entering a new phase in its commitment to Black Studies with the expansion of its existing program to include major and minor degree options under the continued guidance of Professor Andrea A. Davis.

A professor of Black cultures of the Americas in the Department of Humanities, Davis will lead the development of the major with Paul Lawrie, a professor in the Department of History and the Black inclusion advisor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS).

The Office of the Dean in LA&PS and the program development and curriculum innovation specialist in the Office of the Vice-Provost Academic are also involved in supporting the creation of what Davis calls “a very ambitious and exciting new degree program.”

“This new development,” Davis says, “marks a significant advancement in the University’s dedication to providing a comprehensive education that authentically reflects Black histories and experiences within academia.”

Under her leadership, York previously introduced the Black Canadian Studies Certificate in 2018, demonstrating a commitment to fostering inclusive educational environments. At the time, it was only the second Black Studies program in Canada to offer the study of Black Canada through humanities and arts approaches, including cultural studies, history, literature and music.

The expanded program will build on the foundation laid by the Black Canadian Studies Certificate, offering students a broader and more in-depth exploration of Black experiences across various academic disciplines, including arts, media, performance and design.

“We have made significant progress in mapping a unique, 21st-century curriculum, with cohesive learning outcomes and assessments, and we will be expanding consultation shortly with colleagues, students and affiliated programs,” Davis says.

Central to her pedagogical approach is the belief in education as a transformative force that extends beyond academic achievement. The goal is to empower students to critically examine the intersectionality of race, gender and class, fostering a deeper understanding of societal structures and inspiring them to become catalysts for positive change within their communities.

By delving into contemporary issues such as environmental sustainability, social justice and cultural identity, the expectation is that students will develop critical-thinking skills essential for addressing the pressing challenges of the modern world.

Presently in the development stage, the proposal for the new, expanded program is expected to be ready for the various approval stages within LA&PS by the spring of this year. Announcements of signed agreements between LA&PS and two historically Black colleges and universities in the U.S. are also expected to happen by this time.

“Without giving away too much, the curriculum will remain embedded in the humanities and expressive cultures,” Davis says. “The goal is to make it completely accessible and to include international student exchanges and teaching and research partnerships, as well as carefully mapped work-integrated learning opportunities.”