Faculty Voices: Glenn Chambers, Jr., Director, African American and African Studies

Dr. Glenn Chambers, Jr., Associate Professor of History, serves as Director of African American and African Studies (AAAS) in the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. Professor Chambers is a historian of the African Diaspora with an emphasis on the modern Caribbean and Latin America.

The African Diaspora refers to the communities globally that are descended from the historic movement of peoples from Africa, predominantly to the Americas, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, among other areas worldwide.

“Michigan State University is one of the key places in the U.S. if not the world, in which to study Africa,” Chambers says. “There’s a long tradition of the Diaspora here, as well as tremendous resources for study and research. Whether it’s the library, established faculty, invited scholar-lecturers, or the various centers, Africa and its Diaspora are highly prominent at MSU.”

Moving forward, Chambers sees positive change in the works for AAAS.

“One of the more promising is the addition of graduate lines where we’ll have more students funded and given the resources that they need here at MSU,” Chambers says. “Then there’s our ongoing Distinguished Speaker series in which we bring in outside scholars—prominent figures—to present their research and consult with faculty and students on how to make AAAS even better.

“Not only does the speaker series give us the opportunity to learn from prominent people within the discipline, it keeps the strong positive reputation of African American and African Studies at MSU out there.”

Research Supported by MSU

“There is this understanding, here, that you have to produce; you have to do scholarship,” Chambers says. “However, while very high expectations are placed on you, the institution also gives you the resources to achieve those things. I don’t feel there’s anything I can’t do, research wise, here at Michigan State.”

Chambers notes that African American and African Studies (AAAS) at MSU is a cross-college, university-wide, academic unit offering three degree programs in African American and African Studies. These include the PhD, the Masters, and the Undergraduate Minor in African American and African Studies.

Besides its Black Studies Core Curriculum, the program collaborates with a range of disciplinary majors and minors in the colleges of Arts and Letters, Social Science, Education, and Natural and Medical Sciences. Currently, there are 26 active doctoral students in the Program and 27 Core Faculty members.

Dr. Chambers adds that the current program review and strategic planning process are designed to articulate a path that will move African American and African Studies at MSU to a position of international leadership.

“Whenever people think and discuss education or research on Black Studies, African-American and African Studies, or the African Diaspora,” Chambers says, “we want Michigan State University to be one of THE places included in the conversation.”

One-Credit Course Added

Dr. Chambers notes that the department also added a one-credit course for spring term, After the Dream: Social Unrest, Hashtag Activism, and Inequality in Contemporary America. The course will examine race and social justice in contemporary American society. Through a focus on historical and contemporary examples of anti-black racism, students will grapple with the persistence of and resistance to racial injustice.

All MSU students are welcome to enroll for the course that will run March 15 – April 12. Topics covered will include inequality in education, policing, media, politics, and the arts, presented through a diverse mixture of guest lecturers, workshops, and films.

Speaking to the University’s rigorous approach to research and scholarship, Chambers believes that AAAS faculty and students, who are dedicated to furthering their research agendas, will find multiple outlets at MSU.