Offered as a minor for the past 15 years, African American Studies (AAS) has made the move to a program.

Coordinators of AAS announced several initiatives to enhance the work and scholarship of faculty and students, including a faculty interdisciplinary grant, a faculty summer research initiative, and undergraduate merit scholarships. The additions are part of an effort to expand and cultivate the program.

Professor of History Touré Reed standing at a podium covered with the Illinois State University seal.

Touré Reed

“This is a welcome transition from minor to program that highlights the University’ ongoing commitment to infusing diversity and inclusion as part of the intellectual and cultural life at Illinois State,” said Professor of History Touré Reed, co-director of the program.

headshot of Brea Banks

Brea Banks

The African American Studies Summer Research Initiative will encourage faculty research related to African Americans and explore some aspect of life, politics, history, and cultural/artistic expression. “There are many talented faculty and staff members on campus already conducting research and projects on African American scholarship,” said Assistant Professor Brea Banks, co-director of the program. “We want to provide resources that engage to further their scholarship and work.” Applications for the $1,500 initiative will be available later this fall, and due in February.

The program is also offering as many as two new $500 merit scholarships for students currently enrolled in the African American Studies minor. Students must have completed nine or more credit hours and be in good standing. “Those in the African American Studies minor show a commitment to scholarship that generally is not taught in K-12 schools,” said Banks. “These students may become scholars who can add a voice to the educational framework.” Scholarship applications are available by emailing African American Studies Advisor Ron Gifford at Applications are due February 1.

The initiative and scholarships combine with a series of program events and speakers that began last fall, including a talk by the author of a book on former Illinois State Professor Mildred Pratt. “It’s wonderful we are attracting more underrepresented students to campus, but we need to work to keep them here as well,” said Banks. “These opportunities help our faculty, staff, and students enjoy a more enriching experience, and open doors for the surrounding community as well.

Dean Zosky speaks at podium

Interim Dean Zosky speaks at Fall Deans Address

The new efforts stem from an investment by the College of Arts and Sciences in the program. “African American Studies has been vital to the University’s curricular offerings,” said Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Diane Zosky, who added the work of dynamic faculty and staff are helping the program grow. “The program is definitely ‘on the move’ and the energy among the core and affiliate faculty is exciting.”

For additional information, contact Gifford at