African American and African Diaspora Studies B.A.

If you are interested in learning about history, art, literature and social issues from a cross-cultural perspective, the B.A. in African American and African Diaspora Studies may be the right choice for you. Students in the program benefit from an interdisciplinary approach to learning.

The Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies (AAADS) is a part of The College of Arts and Sciences. The faculty represents a wide variety of interests and disciplines, allowing AAADS students to explore and customize their experience.

Students in this major gain the skills they need to think critically about African American, African Diasporic, and American cultures. You focus on one concentration area for most of your advanced coursework, and are encouraged to research and develop your own projects while completing the program.

If you have strong academic interests in another area, one of the following interdepartmental majors may be a good fit for you:

The Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies also offers an undergraduate minor. Check your bulletin for more information on this minor.


Getting started

A good first class for the African American and African Diaspora Studies major is AAAD-A 150 Survey of the Culture of Black Americans. This requried course provides an introductorary foundation in the study of the black experience in America, employing resources from history, literature, folklore, religion, sociology, and political science.

The department offers other 100 and 200 level courses that may be of interest, covering such topics as 'Black Women Artists,' 'Dance in the African Diaspora,' 'Contemporary Black Film,' and 'Survey of Hip-Hop.'

Tracks and concentrations

The African American and African Diaspora Studies major has three concentration areas:

  • Arts
  • Literature
  • History, Culture, and Social Issues

Students select a primary concentration area and take the majority of courses within that track. Taking one course in each of the other two concentration areas gives you broader exposure to the field.

The Arts concentration examines a wide variety of arts, including dance, music, film, painting, and scultpture. Students in the Arts track can participate in ensembles through the African American Arts Institute.

The Literature concentration covers over 300 years of African American writings. Classes explore historical, cultural and social change through poetry, novels, rhetoric, and narratives.

The History, Culture, and Social Issues track focuses on broad subject areas such as African American history, cultural studies, politics, and legal issues. You can zero in on specific topics, such as protest strategies within civil rights movements, or cultural identity perspectives involving race, class, and gender.

Your academic advisor can help you plan a course of study.

Upper level coursework

The African American and African Diaspora Studies major allows you to customize your upper level courses based on the concentration you choose.

All students are required to take an African American history course (either AAAD-A 355 or A 356) and an African American literature course (either AAAD-A 379 or A 380). These courses solidify the foundational knowledge and skills that student begin developing in AAAD-A 150. It is recommended that these two courses be taken during the second or third year.

You begin your senior year with Senior Seminar AAAD-A 493, a smaller class that allows you to develop your own research project. This course also guides you towards your post-college plans.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

Your major represents about one quarter of your degree requirements. Your academic advisor can help you find a second major or minor that helps you focus and complement your area of study.

Students frequently combine coursework in African American and African Diaspora Studies with a major in LinguisticsPsychology, Criminal Justice, English, Political Science, Sociology, Religious Studies, or Art History.

Popular minors among African American and African Diaspora Studies students are Sociology, Social Welfare Advocacy, Human Development, Gender Studies, and History. Check your bulletin for more information on these minors.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing an African American and African Diaspora Studies B.A. degree, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in many fields. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.

You can get involved in research as early as your freshman year. Many incoming first-year students apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker. 

All students are required to take the AAAD-A 493 Senior Seminar in African American Studies. This gives you the opportunity to study an area of interest in depth, completing a research project. Students may also take AAAD-X 490 Individual Readings in African American Studies. Here, you can either further your research with the help of a faculty mentor or assist a professor with their current research. The academic advisor can help you explore various independent study options.


Outstanding students are eligible to apply for the departmental Honors course, AAAD-A 499. Students accepted into this course work on developing an honors thesis based on an area of interest.

High achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

There are various scholarships that may be right for you:

The Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies distributes six monetary awards at the end of every spring semester:

  • The A113 Atkins Foundational Course Highest Performance Award for Fall/Spring
  • The AAADS GPA Award for Majors
  • The AAADS Senior Seminar Final Project Award
  • The A.B. Assensoh Undergraduate Creative Activity Award
  • The A.B. Assensoh Undergraduate Research Award
  • The Joe Russell Leadership Award

The IU Foundation offers a large number of scholarships to IU students based a variety of criteria - check to see if you qualify!

Hutton Honors College maintains an extensive list of scholarships and grants, offered by the Honors College and other providers. Hutton scholarships and grants support international travel, enable thesis work, help alleviate emergency financial need, and so forth.


Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their first year.

Many students participate in local internships with the Boys and Girls Club and the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

The department also works with students to develop internships with the alumni office and other IU offices and entities. The academic advisor can help guide you regarding departmental internship decisions.

Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through The Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you’ll find many resources for both domestic and international internships. 

Foreign language study

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages.

Students are encouraged to find a language that interests them. African American and African Diaspora Studies students often take advantage of the various African Languages offered on campus. The African Languages Program offers regularly scheduled courses in Akan/Twi, Bamana, Swahili/Kiswahili, Wolof, Yoruba, Zulu/IsiZulu, and Kinyarwanda during the academic year. Haitian Creole may also be of interest to you.

Here is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:

Overseas study

Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in our increasingly interconnected world. African American and African Diaspora Studies students often pursue language study and other coursework through programs in Australia, England, France, Jamaica, Japan, Rwanda, Senegal, and South Africa.

The College of Arts and Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with African American and African Diaspora Studies faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

Participating in students groups while at college gives you a chance to make friends, take on leadership responsibilities and build connections between coursework and other activities. African American and African Diaspora Studies students enjoy a variety of student groups. 

Student organizations that are relevant to African American and African Diaspora Studies majors are:

The Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center offers an updated list of relevant student organizations

You might want to participate in one of the three ensembles offered through the African American Arts Institute: the African American Dance Company, the African American Choral Ensemble, and the IU Soul Revue. While these ensembles are offered as IU courses, they give you the chance to travel, perform, and host workshops, similar to some other student groups or clubs.

Residential Programs and Services at IU offers a variety of learning communities, which allow students to select to live among peers with a common interest.

Many AAADS students choose to live in the Atkins Living Learning Center. Atkins emphasizes the celebration and study of African American History and culture. Students from all majors and backgrounds are invited to participate in the Atkins community.

Some of the following learning communities may be of interest to AAADS students as well:

You may also choose to be active in one of the many historically black, predominately black, or multicultural fraternities and sororities on campus.

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

Students in African American and African Diaspora Studies might wish to join these organizations:

Use the Indiana University Library system to search Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, and nonprofit organizations.

Build your skills

Through the major

The African American and African Diaspora Studies degree provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Consider issues and resolve problems using a variety of research approaches
  • Analyze how race functions both globally and regionally
  • Identify, critique and engage with diverse ethical and moral positions
  • Construct civic engagement within the broader global Africana community
  • Effectively communicate about the social, economic and political climate of situations involving concepts of race and culture

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path: 

  • Question critically
  • Think logically
  • Communicate clearly
  • Act creatively
  • Live ethically

These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your worklife. Not only are these skills that employers say they most value in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change. 

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what key skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Analytical and quantitative skills
  • Ability to take initiative
  • Being detail oriented
  • Demonstrating adaptability
  • Technical skills relevant to the field
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Computer skills
  • Organizational ability

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with a career coach

The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.

Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.

Maximize your career preparation with a career course. African American and African Diaspora Studies majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Social and Historical Studies provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter or personal statement, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!

The job market

A major in African American and African Diaspora Studies prepares students for work in a wide variety of industries and work environments. Students can take their broad set of knowledge and skills into many different fields and career paths. 

Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: education, research and academia, health care, government, nonprofit organizations, performing arts, and business.

Graduates with the degree have become educators, attorneys, social workers, doctors, musicians, artist, librarians, lobbyists, film makers, nonprofit directors, human resources specialists, consultants, entrepreneurs, and much more.

Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center's First Destination survey!

Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.

Talk with AAADS faculty, the academic advisor, career coach and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates with this degree.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with your career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations. 

Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

A B.A. degree in African American and African Diaspora Studies can prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as politics, education, research, nonprofit management, business and consulting.

With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other professional programs.

Students who pursue graduate studies after earning the AAADS B.A. degree have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, education, local, state, and federal government, nonprofit organizations, business and entrepreneurship.

Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:

Alumni connections

The African American and American Diaspora Studies department offers an alumni page and annual newsletter for alumni updates.

The College of Arts and Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts and Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.

Is it for you?

The Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies (AAADS) attracts students from a wide variety of interests and backgrounds. They typically have some of the following qualities:

  • An interest in social movements, historical events, and the black American experience
  • A passion for performance in music and dance
  • Fascination with African American writers such as James Baldwin, bell hooks, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, Malcom X
  • An interest in learning more about historical time periods such as the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Movement
  • Motivation to study African Diaspora literature
  • Awareness of current social and political movements
  • Desire to learn about African American and African Diaspora art and artists in all disciplines: dance, music, film, painting, drawing, textiles, crafts, and sculpture
  • An interest in political, legal and civic engagement in relation to minority studies
  • Motivation to participate and engage in social movements and be a catalyst for change

Learn more

Contact the African American and African Diaspora Studies academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address