Above: African-American Studies Minor Director Kiesha Warren-Gordon & Assistant Director Emily Ruth Rutter. [PHOTOS: COURTESY]
Compiled from an article written by Gail Werner
For the first time since 2010, Ball State University (BSU), Muncie, Indiana, is offering a minor in African-American Studies. The minor is open to all students
According to the department’s purpose statement, the “African-American Studies [minor] examines the unique experiences of African-descended people throughout the diaspora. Drawing on a rich tradition of civic engagement, scholarship, and teaching, the faculty introduce students to the foundations of African-American Studies and collaborates with them to develop projects and analyze information that leads to new intellectual perspectives.
The 18-hour minor allows for credits from six disciplines: English, History, Anthology, Criminal Justice and Criminology, Philosophy, and Sociology.
Students must take courses in at least three disciplines, and they must take appropriate courses to meet prerequisites for any classes offered in the minor.
After the previous professor who oversaw the minor retired from BSU in 2010, African-American Studies also went away. According to an article written for the school’s digital Ball State Magazine, Assistant Professor Simon Balto joined Ball State’s history department in 2015 with a mission in mind: to re-launch the minor. Two years later, BSU started offering course for the Fall semester.
“We’re a growing institution with an increasing number of minority students,” Balto said of Ball State, “and because we live in an increasingly diverse world, employers want students who can think in a broader cultural context. That’s why a program like this becomes so important.”
According to the magazine article, with its return, Ball State is one of six Indiana public universities to offer a minor in African-American Studies or related areas.
Among the first students to enroll was Alexis McKenzie, a junior majoring in interpersonal communications. “I was drawn to the minor after taking a black history course with Professor Balto my sophomore year,” McKenzie said. “It was something entirely new to me to talk about black culture in an academic setting. I was fascinated by the content we discussed.”
McKenzie said the African-American Studies minor is relevant to students outside of the history program because it offers them an often-ignored perspective that provides an opportunity to better understand the country they live in.
“Our nation’s history is racialized,” the Fishers resident said. “With an event like the incident in Charlottesville, I don’t think you can fully understand the magnitude of its implications without a grasp on the history and current culture of black communities.”
Balto is no longer at BSU, having recently joined the faculty at the University of Iowa. The African-American Studies minor is now led by Director Kiesha Warren-Gordon, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, and Assistant Director Emily Ruth Rutter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English.
“Kiesha and I are committed to building on the work of our colleague Simon Balto,” Ritter said. “New students are enrolling every day because they, too, realize that issues concerning the African diaspora are key to understanding this nation's past, present, and future.”
Warren-Gordon’s research focuses on African-American’s in the criminal justice system. Specifically, she focuses on African-American male reentry and the intersectionality of African- American women in the U.S.
Ritter’s research focuses on American writers’ representations of African-American cultural history. An author of two books, Ritter is currently working on a co-edited collection of poetry and essays, entitled Revisiting the Elegy in the Black Lives Matter Era.
For more information about the African-American Studies minor, hit up the university’s website, BSU.edu