New African-American studies major aims to develop research skills

Riley Carroll, Arts & Life Editor

Previously just a minor, African-American Studies (AAS) has made its way to becoming a full-fledged major at UTSA. Falling under the department of Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality Studies at UTSA, AAS was officially instated as a major in August 2022.

“For about 10 years, African-American Studies kind of floundered at UTSA,” AAS Program Coordinator Dr. Jasmine Harris said. “It was a minor but didn’t have a lot of stability among students because it didn’t have a department and sort of moved around different colleges depending on who was [in] the program at the time, and finally found a home in the Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality Studies department.”

As the new program coordinator for AAS, Dr. Harris created eight new courses to satisfy curriculum requirements for the major: AAS 3013 Black Communities and Culture, AAS 3023 Global Blackness and Afro-Latinidad, AAS 3113 Doing Black Studies Research, AAS 4043 Intersectionality, AAS 4103 Writing Black Lives, AAS 4113 The Black Church and Social Change in the 20th-Century, AAS 4133 Black Social Movements and AAS 4213 Senior Capstone.

“When I came in last year as the new program coordinator, my job was to take three pages of ideas and turn it into an actual major with a full curriculum,” Dr. Harris said. “For me, the important blue line across these courses was a focus on the development of skill sets that students would be able to utilize in the labor market,” Dr. Harris said. “I know as someone who majored in sociology and women’s studies as an undergrad, and my Ph.D. is in sociology as well, that it’s hard to explain to your family what you’re going to do with these kinds of majors that seem practically focused on [a] particular skill set … All of these courses are going to focus on the production of knowledge about Black communities and about African-American studies.”

The goal of AAS is to build and fine-tune specialized research abilities surrounding “Black lives and communities with an intersectional lens.”

“We’re focused on developing research skills,” Dr. Harris said. “The cool thing about that is that it kind of crosses a lot of industries. I have students who work for nonprofits, I have students who are working in D.C. in governance positions [and] I have students who have gone on to graduate school to become either a professor like myself or to get more engaged in research development. My hope for African American Studies is to be able to create that kind of postgraduate success amongst our majors here, as I was able to do in my last position.”

For more information about AAS, visit the UTSA catalog at