Skip to main content

Graduate Certificate in Diaspora Studies

Certificate Program Overview

African American and Diaspora Studies (AADS) offers an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and comparative curriculum of study of the histories, literatures, music, visual cultures, and politics of people of African descent around the world. To that end, AADS focuses on several geographic areas: Africa, the Americas (North and Latin America), and the Caribbean. The Program examines equally the interactions of those diverse geographic areas, whose African-descended multiracial and multicultural inhabitants makeup the African diaspora, with Europe. The program recognizes as well that there is a growing population of blacks dispersed throughout Europe, that is, Black Europeans; hence we are equally committed to exploring intellectually Black Europe and the particularities of the Black European experience.

Scholarship on race and its intersection with gender, class, color, inequality, religion, and sexuality has opened up news ways of thinking about qualitative and quantitative research and new theoretical perspectives and paradigms. Intellectually, African Diaspora Studies has reinvigorated disciplines across the academy. Interest in the discipline’s intellectual production remains a high priority for publications across university presses.

 The certificate in Diaspora Studies has been designed to compliment students’ disciplinary training, expose them to the interdisciplinary trends in the academy, and broaden their career possibilities. The Diaspora Studies certificate provides graduate students with access to interdisciplinary scholarship in the dynamic and continually evolving field of studies in the worldwide African Diaspora. The certificate also gives students a competitive edge and interdisciplinary training for the still robust career outlook for specialists in pan-black studies as well as in the search for postdoctoral fellowships in the humanities and social sciences.

Description of Program Entry and Application Requirements and Justifications

The certificate in Diaspora Studies is open to any student enrolled in graduate study at Vanderbilt University. While acceptance to the program requires the approval of AADS graduate studies committee, comprised of a Director of Graduate Studies from the program, one faculty member from the program and the Director of AADS, all AADS faculty are consulted during the application review process. Students must also submit as part of the application to the certificate program a one-page description of their interests in Diaspora Studies. Students should also submit a letter of approval from their faculty advisor or departmental Director of Graduate Studies with respect to the certificate. The letter should speak as well to the student’s standing in the department.

Courses taken at Vanderbilt University prior to admission to the program may be counted toward the certificate requirements with the approval of the AADS Director of Graduate Studies. The conferral of the certificate requires an overall GPA of 3.3, satisfactory performance of B+ or better in AADS 5002 and completion of all distribution requirements.

Coursework/Distribution Requirements

 The certificate in Diaspora Studies consists of 12 credit-hours of course work distributed as follows:

  1. AADS 5002 Conceptualizing Diaspora. Interdisciplinary introduction to materials, methods, debates, and theoretical terms of scholarly research in Diaspora Studies. 3 class meetings will be devoted to course design and development in conjunction with the Center for Teaching. A resource bibliography of key interdisciplinary texts in the field will also be provided and students will produce a syllabus for Introduction to African American and Diaspora Studies. 3cr.
  2. Three additional graduate-level courses on race and its intersection with gender, class, religion, power, and/or sexuality, which are appropriate to the student’s graduate program of study, are eligible. AADS 5095 or b Directed Study. Students may take an independent study with a core or affiliated faculty member in African American and Diaspora Studies who shares their research interest in Diaspora Studies Courses must be approved for credit by the AADS graduate committee, and include at least three courses outside the student’s home department. Students must receive a B+ or better in these courses. 9 cr.
  3. Participation in a minimum of five extracurricular activities sponsored by the Callie House Research Center for the Study of Global Black Cultures and Politics. A short paper reflecting on the insights gained from participating in each activity must be submitted to the director of graduate studies before conferral of the certificate.
  4. The conferral of the certificate requires a cumulative GPA of 3.3, satisfactory performance of 3.3 or better in AADS 5002. and completion of all the aforementioned requirements. 

We expect that the Certificate in Diaspora Studies will attract a broad range of graduate students with varying degrees of interests with respect to the certificate program. Our offering of the certificate is way to engage more fully at the graduate level; we welcome then all graduate students whether they are interested in pursuing the certificate or merely enrolling in our courses for exposure to field.

Related Activities

  • ASWAD Conference: As institutional members of the Association of the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora, students enrolled in the program will be allowed to participate in the conference without paying membership. PAADS will also pay registration fees for students enrolled in the certificate program who wish to attend the biannual conference.


Please contact Dr. Gilman Whiting, AADS Director of Graduate Studies, for more information.