Newswise — MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A unique new major will enable MTSU students to explore the African continent and experience in ways they might never have thought possible.

The Africana Studies major is the first of its kind in the region and the only one in Tennessee that provides the option of either a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science degree.

Louis Woods, an associate professor of history and director of the program, said the examination of Africa and Africans in diaspora will provide plenty of opportunities for experiential learning.

“One of the things we’re really interested in doing is getting students involved with internships or community engagement projects,” said Woods.

“And, African-American history and culture are also a part of the Africana Studies major. While we focus on the African continent, we really examine the experiences of African people in the Americas as well.”

In addition, assistant professor Aliou Ly, a native of Senegal, offers a study-abroad trip to his West African homeland.

“The major allows students to look at race, culture, class and nationality from a lot of different perspectives,” Woods said.

The degree track also might go a long way toward dispelling myths and filling information gaps about a region that generally receives less media coverage than other parts of the world.

“I’ve been to Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Accra and Zanzibar, and I’ve seen bustling metropolises on the African continent, both on the east side and the west side,” said Woods. “I’ve rarely seen those images on television.”

The multidisciplinary major embraces a wide range of academic interests, including philosophy, psychology, sociology, political science, geography and literature, as well as history.

“In addition to providing a different perspective on history and culture, the major also exposes students to how disciplines think about evidence,” Woods said. 

The opportunities for careers encompass law, business, international relations, journalism, public health, and, of course, such public history careers as historic preservation and museum management.

"Choosing Africana Studies as a second major was an effortless decision for me, as it has been a passion of mine for some time,” said Janeka Haden, a senior Africana Studies and social work major from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“Incorporating it with my social work major, I plan to deliver culturally competent skills to vulnerable people that are already societally marginalized,” she said.

Woods is particularly excited about taking students to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in the spring 2018 semester.

“For me, bringing students to these museums can get students to see that this is a part of a bigger career track,” he said.

Find a complete list of required courses and electives for both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in Africana Studies at

For more information, contact Woods at 615-494-7987 or [email protected].