Administering the Black Studies Program at a Historically White Institution

By: Dawn Duke  

This text seeks to examine the role, challenges, and achievements of an Afro-Descendant female academician, who became Chair of the Black Studies Program at a Historically White Institution in the USA. This is the position I held between August 2011 and July 2016 at the University of Tennessee. The Africana Studies Program is dedicated exclusively to the study of Africa and its diaspora. As head of such an ideologically positioned unit, what impact can I, as a Black female professor, have within a structure that was originally designed to exclude such persons as myself? How can we justly measure the successes and failures of such an administrator when the very unit she oversees exists in a constant tension with the institution it serves? In her role as director, how should she perform to guarantee the well-being of her program, in an institutional environment that disfavors its survival, without completely sacrificing the very precepts that motivated its creation and determine its mandate? What administrative measures are needed to construct positive, meaningful relationships among professors and students, in spite of our status as a numerical and ethnic minority or as a community very vulnerable to discrimination and isolation on campus? This text draws attention to national trends even as it is driven by administrative and professional experiences. It examines the benefits, alliances, and respect built throughout the years that favored the growth and development of the program, as well as realities that have continued to hamper its progress and expansion.

University Administration Africana
Organizational Diversity
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Dawn Duke

Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Tennessee, United States
Tennessee, United States

Dawn Duke is Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese. She is Chair of the Africana Studies Program and faculty in the Latin American Studies and Cinema Studies Programs. Her graduate studies were completed at UNICAMP, the University of Guyana, and the University of Pittsburgh where she completed her PhD in 2003. Her research focuses on Afro-Latin American Literature with a special interest in women's writings. Her book, Literary Passion, Ideological Commitment: Toward a Legacy of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian Women Writers (2008) proposes a tradition of Afro-Hispanic and Afro-Brazilian women's writings initiated primarily during the nineteenth century and continuing with ever-increasing success into the twenty-first century.