The Department of Pan-African Studies (DPAS) is dedicated to the study and development of global Africa, which comprises the African continent and its Diaspora throughout the world—the Caribbean, the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. The unifying purpose and theoretical approach of Pan-African Studies is an examination of Africa and her people from an African-centered viewpoint. This theoretical perspective presupposes an intrinsic value in knowing African epistemologies and world views. DPAS also values the interrelationship between academic inquiry and the creative arts. The Center of Pan-African Culture and the African Community Theatre are forums for the expression and visceral exploration of African peoples, their experiences, cultures and worldviews. Framed as such, DPAS is a complex organization that includes a holistic curricular focus on the fine arts, the humanities and the social sciences.
Vision/Mission Statement and History
Our vision is to become an outstanding department within Kent State University, one that has an international reputation for leadership in the study and development of global Africa through multiple scholarly perspectives in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and professional services. We strive to accomplish our vision by embracing rigorous academic inquiry, flexibility, adaptability, innovation, community involvement and faculty and staff team work with a constant awareness that a focus on students is vital to our department’s success.
The Department of Pan-African Studies exists to serve a vital need both within the Kent State University community and beyond. It offers an undergraduate major leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree, which covers the full spectrum of the Pan-African experience, with emphasis on excellence in teaching and research. The major in Pan-African Studies is structured on a holistic and interdisciplinary approach, which provides in-depth exposure to history, culture, language, philosophy, education, literature, sociology, creative and performing arts, music, community development and other disciplines as they relate to peoples of African descent everywhere.
In addition, the Department seeks to meet the educational needs of those publics not traditionally represented on college campuses. Thus, it has a strong outreach component through programs and events sponsored by the Institute for African American Affairs (IAAA), the Center of Pan-African Culture (CPAC), the Communication Skills and Arts Division (CSA), and the African Community Theatre (ACT), as well as through various courses, workshops and liaisons with other organizations. The Department seeks to consistently administer several programs specifically designed to serve students-of-color as well as the general student population of Northeastern Ohio and beyond.
The Department of Pan-African Studies acknowledges the following pedagogical imperatives:
- To develop a holistic educational approach which integrates various areas of knowledge and to establish viable working relationships with related University departments and programs;
- To adhere to a structure allowing the Department and its students to become involved in real-world educational experiences designed in part to increase the contact time each faculty or staff member spends with individual or groups of students;
- To view people in the international African community as cohort communities and to create opportunities (internships, field trips, foreign travel, study and work programs, etc.) that allow students to learn by doing;
- To fashion activities that encourage students and their families to come together to address issues informing African and African American family life and to celebrate the family as the foundation of a healthy community;
- To establish for faculty, staff and students high standards in teaching, learning, language competence, research and publication, community and university service, and citizenship in a complex world;
- To foster qualities that are prerequisite for personal fulfillment, career success, and responsible citizenship in a culturally diverse, rapidly changing and increasingly global society;
- To evaluate the Department’s goals, mission and effectiveness on a regular basis;
- To promote excellence in academic and scholarly work among students and faculty in the Pan-African World;
- To promote excellence and creativity in the Kent Pan-African community and elsewhere in Ohio and abroad through the DPAS Cultural Center and its programming.
In the late1960s African American students at Kent State University demanded through the Black United Students (BUS) organization that the university curriculum significantly reflect their historical and contemporary experience. This activism resulted in the creation of the Institute for African American Affairs (IAAA) in 1969, the Center of Pan-African Culture (CPAC) in 1970, and in 1976 the Department of Pan-African Studies (PAS) which is still referred to as “the house that BUS built.”
The building in which the Department of Pan-African Studies is located was dedicated in 1977 to the late Dr. Oscar Ritchie, who in 1947 was the first black faculty member to be hired at Kent State or any other predominantly white university in Ohio. Since 1997, the Department has occupied all three floors, including the return of the African Community Theatre from Franklin Hall in 1998. The University ordered the complete renovation of the facility during 2007-2008. On October 9, 2009, President Lefton rededicated the facility in honor of Dr. Oscar W. Ritchie (1909-1967). Dr. Ritchie was the first African American to teach in Ohio’s public university system. The facility was first dedicated in his honor in 1977.
The Department has had a relatively short existence on the Kent State University campus, 40 years; and, students and faculty come to the campus unaware of the history of the Department and its constituent ancillary academic entities—the Center of Pan-African Culture, the Institute for African American Affairs, the African Community Theatre and their originators, the Black United Students (BUS). To address this historical issue, the Department has established as policy that all classes, particularly those having high freshman and sophomore enrollments, devote the second week of classes to a discussion of how and why such institutions developed, not only on the KSU campus; but also on hundreds of college and university campuses across the nation. A videotaped presentation has been prepared for this and related purposes. These discussions also remind students that the Department represents Kent State University’s first institutional attempt to diversify its curricular and instructional structures.
Since the Department has had a relatively short existence on the Kent State University campus, and students and faculty come to the campus unaware of the history of the Department, the Center of Pan-African Culture, the Institute for African American Affairs, the African Community Theatre and their originators, the Black United Students (BUS), the Department has established the policy that all classes, particularly those having high freshman and sophomore enrollments, devote the second week of classes to a discussion of how and why such institutions developed, not only on the KSU campus but also on hundreds of college and university campuses across the nation. A videotaped presentation has been prepared for this and related purposes.