New Department, Major

January 31, 2007

The board of trustees has approved elevating Duke's African and African American Studies (AAAS) program to departmental status, and, as part of the university's strategic plan to enhance the arts at Duke, the Arts and Sciences Council unanimously approved the creation of an undergraduate dance major, beginning this spring.

The AAAS program currently offers an undergraduate degree and a graduate certificate, and in that way it already functions much like a department, says history professor and Dean of the Social Sciences Sarah Deutsch, in explaining the rationale for the change. "It became clear that in circles outside of Duke the label 'program' carried connotations of impermanence and standing that were not applicable to our program," she says. "The shift to 'department' better represents Duke's commitment to the enterprise and the standing and activity of the unit."

AAAS has fifteen core faculty members. Some fifty other Duke faculty members, whose teaching, research, and cross-listed courses contribute to scholarship in AAAS, are designated as faculty affiliates. Currently, thirty-three undergraduate students major in African and African American Studies, twenty-two undergraduates minor in it, and twenty-four graduate students are enrolled in the graduate certificate program.

The new dance major is designed to give students an understanding and mastery of the creation, performance, and cultural and historical contexts of dance. Students majoring in dance will be required to complete a balanced course load of advanced-level performance and history and theory courses, many of which emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of dance. By the end of the senior year, students will have completed a capstone dance project in research or choreography and will have performed in the Duke Dance Program's performances.

The major consists of twelve courses, including ten academic courses and two in performance. Administrators hope the major will attract students who might otherwise attend a conservatory but would like to study dance as part of a broader liberal-arts program. Duke has offered a minor in dance since 1997 and a certificate in dance since 1992.