African Diaspora AA provides fresh opportunities

For the first time, MCTC is offering students an Associates in Arts Degree with emphasis in African Diaspora Studies.

This 60-credit program is being offered to students of all ethnic backgrounds, but in hopes African and African-American students will take interest, and possibly increase their graduation rate.

“This is something that students–clearly it’s a need, we need to have this. We’re finding ways to make it happen. It might not be perfect right away, but I think it’s good,” said Shannon Gibney, division coordinator for the English Department and African Diaspora Studies teacher.

African Diaspora involves all people of African descent who have emigrated, specifically to the United States. Classes include African American Literature I and II, Literature of the African Diaspora, Music of Africa, African-American History I and II, and Cross-Cultural Psychology.

“We’ve got a pretty comprehensive group of classes that students can take,” said Gibney.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities has an articulation agreement in place with MCTC that honors the completed AA toward a four-year degree in related fields, such as Ethnic Studies, or other fields, such as film. Staff of MCTC are also in preparation for a meeting next month with the University of Minnesota’s African and African-American Studies department to create similar channels for students who wish to transfer outside of MnSCU’s school system.

MCTC is one of the first schools to offer an AA with emphasis specifically in African Diaspora Studies.

With the average rate of completion for African-American male MCTC students at 7%, many faculty members feel this program is necessary. As of last year, approximately 33% of the students attending MCTC were of African descent. The population of students from Africa who are attending MCTC is significant, and the achievement rates are lower than desired.

There has been concern that perhaps students won’t recognize the relevance of the African Diaspora Studies program, or comprehend the degree itself. The expectation is perhaps the disparities in graduation rates between races will dissipate as students become more familiar with this degree and the people involved.

“Generally, we need to do a lot better with all our students, regardless of their racial, cultural, or ethnic background. Our completion rates need to be a lot higher across the board,” said Gibney.

Overall, staff have received positive feedback. Understanding the meaning and focus of African Diaspora is, in itself, important; being able to study and discuss the wide range of history within a built-in community at MCTC will, faculty hopes, improve on future completion rates.

“I hope that students of all backgrounds will be interested in this AA, but my passion is for those students who have not been being served by the institution for so long will finally feel, ‘This is for me, this is something I can really use to push myself forward to the next level of my education and my career,’” said Gibney.

Students who are interested in African Diaspora Studies are encouraged to speak with an advisor, Noke Sivoravong, in the counseling and advising office, or faculty members Shannon Gibney and Jesse Mason.