Nearly 3,300 undergraduate students at LaSalle University in Philadelphia will be able to minor in Black Studies this fall (LaSalle University/Philadelphia Tribune photo).
By Chanel Hill
PHILADELPHIA — Nearly 3,300 undergraduate students at La Salle University can now minor in Black Studies this fall.
The new minor has been in development at the university for a few years, but was delayed due to the pandemic.
“When I became the dean four years ago, some faculty members approached me about wanting to have a Black Studies program at the university,” said Pamela Barnett, dean of La Salle University’s School of Arts and Sciences.
“Unfortunately, it took us a couple of years, but we really worked through the process last year once things calmed down and put it through the curriculum committee,” she added.
Rooted in courses from the School of Arts and Sciences and under the direction of Luisa Ossa, a professor of Spanish at La Salle, the six-course minor will utilize interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches to educate students about the histories and experiences of people of African descent.
Students will be able to select courses from a variety of topics including literature, Spanish, education, history, philosophy, religion and sociology that will equip them with the tools to help address systemic racism and social inequities.
Among the issues that will be explored in the program will be systemic racism, social justice, health and wellness, education, intersectionality, cultural contributions and anti-racist frameworks and scholarship, as related to members of the Black diaspora in the Americas.
“The program will start with an introduction to Black Studies,” Barnett said. “The students will take one or two courses for Black Studies in Latin America and then either three or four courses in Black Studies in the U.S.
“We want people to learn about the contribution of Black People in the Americas and also about systemic racism and inequality in contexts such as health care, criminal justice and education,” she said.
“We also want people to understand the idea of intersectionality and that you can’t understand anyone’s experience unless you understand the intersections between race, gender, class and other categories of identity,” she added.
Barnett said the Black Studies minor offers students a program that is representative of the diverse, equitable and inclusive campus community at La Salle University.
“When you look at the data, we’re one of the most racially, ethnically diverse institutions in the Philadelphia area,” Barnett said. “Our student body is 50% white, 20% Black and 17% Hispanic. We also have students from other nationalities as well.
“We wanted to speak to the needs of our Black students, but we also believe that it’s really important for all of our students to understand issues of race in the Americas, not just the U.S., but in Latin America as well,” she said. “We’re also a Catholic university that focuses on mind, body, spirit and the dignity of all people.
“Part of that is understanding the contributions of minority populations and telling stories that always don’t get told. We think that’s essential for our students’ learning. Yes, we’re preparing students to get a job, but we really want them to make a good life and a good life is one where you give back.”
Barnett said she hopes the Black Studies minor will give students a real understanding of history and the experiences of Black people in the U.S. and Latin America.
“I really want students to take away not just knowledge and skills of the program, but actually values and the commitment of making the world a better place,” Barnett said. “I want our students to be agents of social change.
“I want them to have a commitment to dismantling structural racism and other systemic inequality,” she added. “I also want their lives to be enriched and have a full understanding of the communities we live in and how to make it better. We all have a stake in these prominent issues in our communities and we’re all responsible for addressing it.”
Chanel Hill is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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