Graduate Certificate in African American Studies

The University of Iowa has not offered a formal graduate credential of any kind in African American Studies since 2000, and the creation of this new certificate is a means of directly addressing this need. Graduate students from across the university already incorporate African American studies theories, topics, and methods into their coursework and theses. Our primary purpose, then, is to coalesce currently existing courses into a logical sequence that provides students with a formal graduate credential. In the process, the certificate enhances both the cultural competency and marketability of interested graduate students. As both civil and corporate work environments have begun taking a distinct interest in the diversity of people, training and ideas within their respective environments, this credential provides a means of formally acknowledging cultural and intellectual understanding that is actively sought by potential employers who are openly embracing this goal.

Certificate Requirements

The graduate certificate in African American Studies is an add-on credential to either a Ph.D., MA or MFA degree in the student’s chosen area of primary study. Potential students must be admitted to the program that corresponds with their field of specialization before they are able to apply to the African American Studies Certificate program. The program is not open to students who are non-degree seeking.

The certificate will require a total of 12 credits of study, which must meet the following criteria:

1.   One foundational course: AFAM:5900:0001 - Advanced Readings in African-American Culture. This course will be offered once annually, and functions as a core curricular requirement to earn this credential. This class must be completed at UI to earn the certificate, as no course equivalencies or other course substitutions will be accepted in satisfying this requirement.

2. Three additional 3-credit courses (9 credits total) chosen from the list of approved graduate course offerings related to the field African-American Studies. A list of endorsed courses for upcoming semesters should be requested prior to the start of course registration from the African-American Studies Director of Graduate Studies.

3. Secondary Certificate Details/Requirements

  • All courses taken must be at the graduate level (e.g., 4000 level or higher)
  • No more than 3 credits may come from mixed graduate-undergraduate courses.
  • A total of 6 credits must be taken from departments outside the student’s primary area of study.

Program Admission & Advising

Admission to the certificate program will be determined by application, which will be reviewed by the Graduate Steering Committee of the Program in African American Studies twice per year. Certificate applicants must carry a GPA of 2.75 or above at the time of application and throughout their work toward the credential. Formal application, instructions and questions regarding the application may be obtained directly from the African-American Studies Director of Graduate or via the following link: African-American Studies certificate application and instructions.

Advising of certificate students will be handled by the current Director of Graduate Studies for African-American Studies. Students will be required to meet yearly with their advisor for course planning purposes, and are highly encouraged to include a faculty member involved with the certificate on their dissertation committees.

Application Timing and Deadlines

To ensure timely completion of the credential, Ph.D. students are encouraged to apply for the Certificate in their first year of graduate coursework, and master’s students in their first semester. This also ensures that students have sufficient time to choose coursework in the sub-field of African-American studies that is most appealing to them. The following application deadlines are firm, so please make a note of them:

Fall Application Deadline: November 30th (for program start the following spring semester)

Spring Application Deadline: March 15th (for program start the following summer or fall semester)

Acceptance of Credits Previously Earned

Please consult the list of currently approved courses offered during prior semesters provided here. If you have successfully completed any of these classes, we will retroactively count them toward the credential requirements once the student is admitted to the certificate program. If you have completed graduate courses beyond the list provided that are clearly connected to the field of African-American Studies, those courses will be considered as possible partial satisfaction of the certificate requirements. If you have courses that you would like to be reviewed for credit toward the certificate, please be sure to indicate them (including written justification) on your certificate program application or set a meeting to speak with the African-American Studies DGS as soon as possible to begin the consideration process.

Affiliated Faculty

Simon Balto, Assistant Professor, History

Venise Berry, Associate Professor, Journalism & Mass Communication    

Tara Bynum, Assistant Professor, English

Tim Havens, Professor, Communication Studies

Ashley Howard, Assistant Professor, History

Alfred Martin, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies

Jessica Welburn Paige, Assistant Professor, Sociology

Damani Phillips, Associate Professor, Music

Victor Ray, Assistant Professor, Sociology

Katrina Sanders, Associate Professor, Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

Louise Seamster, Assistant Professor, Sociology

Janette Taylor, Associate Professor, Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies and Nursing

Richard B. Turner, Professor, Religious Studies

Deborah Whaley, Professor, American Studies

For further information, please contact Dr. Jessica Welburn Paige at