New African American Studies major aims to develop research skills

Previously just a minor, African American Studies (AAS) has made its way to becoming a major in its own right at UTSA. Under the Department of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at UTSA, AAS was officially instituted as a major in August 2022.

“For about 10 years, African American studies kind of floundered at UTSA,” said AAS program coordinator Dr. Jasmine Harris. “He was a minor but there wasn’t a lot of stability among the students because he didn’t have a department and kind of moved around different colleges depending on who was. [in] the program at the time, and eventually found its way into the Department of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

As the new program coordinator for AAS, Dr. Harris created eight new courses to meet the 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 4503 Writing Black Lives, AAS 4513 The Black Church and Social Change in the 20th-Century, AAS 4533 Black Social Movements and AAS 4213 Senior Capstone.

“When I arrived last year as the new program coordinator, my job was to take three pages of ideas and turn them into a real major with a full curriculum,” Dr. Harris said. “For me, the important blue line in these courses was the emphasis on developing skill sets that students would be able to use in the workplace,” Dr. Harris said. “I know someone who majored in sociology and women’s studies in undergrad, and my Ph.D. is in sociology too, that it’s hard to explain to your family what you’re going to do with those kind of specializations that seem practically geared towards [a] particular skill set… All of these courses will focus on producing knowledge about black communities and African American studies.

The aim of the AAS is to develop and refine specialized research capabilities surrounding “Black Lives and Communities with an Intersectional Lens.”

“We focus on building research skills,” Dr. Harris said. “The cool thing is that it kind of crosses over a lot of industries. I have students who work for nonprofits, I have students who work in DC in governance positions [and] I have students who have gone on to higher education to become a professor like me or to become more involved in the development of research. My hope for African American Studies is to be able to create that kind of graduate success among our majors here, as I was able to do in my last position.

For more information on AAS, visit the UTSA catalog at

Paul N. Strickland