Welcome to the website of the African American Studies Department, a unit of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The African American Studies Department consists of scholars, students and staff whose mission is to foster deeper understanding of the challenges faced by persons of African descent in the U.S. and to devote our intellectual resources to promoting practices and policies that improve their lives, especially citizens of the State of Maryland.  

Aspirations for the University of Maryland’s African American Studies Department include the following elements:

·         Memorable teaching;

·         Visible, cutting edge research conducted by a

·         Collaborativeand supportive faculty that is

·         Committed to serving the state and the nation around

·         Issues affecting the African American Community.

Memorable teaching means instruction which is authoritative, engaging and transformative of students’ perspectives on themselves and the world. Visible research will require more thoughtful use of alternatives for disseminating research beyond scholarly journals. This could include more extensive use of media such as podcasts, policy briefs, and special conferences to brief targeted audiences such as journalists, policy makers, legislators and their staff.

Research to Practice. This vision also addresses the nature of research and teaching in the Department. Specifically, both research and teaching should involve a complete cycle that does not stop at problem discovery and description leading only to theory development. Both should propose and evaluate solutions to critical problems affecting the African American Community. Accordingly, although identification and description of problems are often a necessary first step, society is asking more of its intellectuals, viz., to apply intellectual resources to generate and evaluate ideas for solving problems. This will be achieved through developing programs of research in which faculty are encouraged to collaborate with scholars from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. This is fitting for a Department located in a College of Behavioral and Social Sciences with Departments such as Anthropology, Economics, Criminology, Sociology, Government and Psychology. To realize this interdisciplinary vision, AASD is exploring ways to collaborate with Departments around doctoral instruction, service and research.

Research Institute. I would also envision the development of a Research Institute which would serve as the locus of cross-disciplinary collaborative research. Within the Institute my vision would be to create a community of scholars interested in integrating research, policy and practice on issues critical to African Americans. This Institute would house Affiliated Faculty Fellows from other academic units as well as visiting scholars from other universities. I would like the Institute to contribute to the Department’s reputation as the go-to place in the state and in the nation for empirical research that can inform practice and policy on issues affecting persons of African descent.

Two developments are under way which will help the Department realize its goal to generate and disseminate scholarly works that are relevant and responsive to the concerns of policy makers and practitioners working at the front line in the African American Community.  These developments include:

1.   The Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. Center to develop programs and training on topics at the intersection of Law, Justice and Ethics.   

2.   African American Research Institute- to conduct policy and intervention research related to economic, psychological and physical well-being in the African American Community.

Under the creative guidance of Dean Gregory Ball and with the generous support of Provost Mary Rankin AASD is poised for significant development over the next five years. It has the potential for becoming a leading social and behavioral science department focused on African Americans.   

Dr. Oscar Barbarin
Professor and Chair
Wilkin H. Elkins Dintinguished Professor