The actions of any person or institution are a reflection of their values and priorities. The creation of the African American Studies major is a strong indication of the priorities of Puget Sound and we in Student Affairs are proud to be a part of an institution with this set of core values. Most importantly, because of this learning opportunity, our students will be better prepared to engage our complex world and be leaders in making systemic changes in our society. Thank you and congratulations to our African American Studies colleagues!
Mike Segawa, Dean of Students, University of Puget Sound
I cannot begin to count the number of times in my ten years as Chaplain in which I have encountered students who have had their lives changed by taking a single course in the African American Studies department – much less describe the impact on those who have found an academic home in this work, even before it was a major. Whether the work has been in the classroom, in supporting our students of color through the myriad challenges the school and our society have put in front of them, or in partnering on projects and actions, I cannot overstate both the breadth and depth of impact on campus life that African American Studies offers. Thank you to all my colleagues and students from the department for what you do for justice at Puget Sound. Congratulations on this milepost in journey, and I look forward to continuing alongside you in the work for justice and equity at Puget Sound and far, far beyond.
Rev. Dave Wright '96, University Chaplain
Puget Sound's students, faculty, and staff have strong interest in African American history as well as related current topics and challenges. ASUPS leaders, Black Student Union, and many individual students have been pursuing such interests. Race and Pedagogy (led by faculty) has involved university, regional, and national participants in critical thinking about race, racism, and teaching. Students, faculty, and staff are learning more about diversity and cultural competence through various university efforts. Effectively addressing those and other critical topics requires greater understanding, which the African American Studies major will directly address.
John Hickey, Director, Business Services
I am delighted to help celebrate the official creation of a major in African American Studies. This accomplishment has been a long time coming, and it represents the labors, struggles, and aspirations of those here today, as well as of faculty, students, and community partners who are present in spirit. As much as this is a moment of celebration, let us also use this gathering as an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the principles upon which this program is founded: the struggle for justice in this nation and in the world, and the forging of pedagogical strategies for justice education. Like Sisyphus, many in this room have been involved in pushing this rock up the hill, again and again and again. But unlike Sisyphus, we made it to a higher plane. And from here, we press on because the work of justice is never done.
A. Susan Owen, Distinguished Professor, Communication Studies Department, African American Studies
Every day we see the terrible cost of the nation’s resistance toward understanding African American history and the racism at the core of American history. Indeed, a White Supremacist now represents one major political party in a campaign for the nation’s highest political office. Tens of millions of citizens will vote for him. The African American Studies program, its new major, and the Race and Pedagogy Institute represent one of this college’s attempts to do something about the ignorance, indifference, cynicism, and hatred that continue to corrode American society. I’m proud of and grateful for all of the students, professors, staff members, administrators, Board members, donors, alumni, visiting scholars, and residents of Tacoma who have contributed to the formation of this program and the achievement we mark tonight. They persevered and did what they could so that the college and the program have a chance to continue to fight the good fight.
Hans Ostrom, Professor, African American Studies and English
At Puget Sound, we as individuals and a community learn, share, and create knowledge about ourselves and the world. African American Studies is essential to this knowledge project. Look around -- where have we and the world been without it? What possibilities does the new major open? A hearty welcome to future African American Studies students – our world needs you desperately!
Carolyn Weisz, Professor, Department of Psychology
Over the past decade African American Studies and Theatre Arts – students, staff, and faculty – have engaged in a series of rich collaborations, often around the words of the remarkable C. Rosalind Bell, particularly her plays The New Orleans Monologues (with Professor Grace Livingston as Elaine Madonna Bergeron) and 1620 Bank Street, which Grace and I co-directed and dramaturged. I’m in rehearsal tonight or I’d be with you in this moment of celebration. Congratulations on this immense accomplishment achieved, I realize, at no small price!
Geoff Proehl, Professor, Theatre Arts
Having African American Studies as a major sends a clear message to prospective students and those who attend our university that Black history and scholarship are essential to what they need to know. You can’t be an informed and engaged citizen without this education. I think of Zora Neale Hurston’s line from Their Eyes Were Watching God: “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” The launch of this major is our Year that Answers. Kudos to the faculty and students who made it happen. We wouldn’t be celebrating today without the years of questioning, advocacy, research, planning, and writing that they committed to make it happen.
Renee Simms, Assistant Professor, African American Studies