Interdepartmental Major in African American and African Diaspora Studies and English

The departments of African American and African Diaspora Studies and English offer an interdepartmental major that allows you to pursue the multidisciplinary study of the historical and contemporary connections among Africans, African Americans, and other New World black communities.

The degree provides you with transferable skills in writing, interpretation, cultural literacy, and critical thinking. In pursuing this major, you explore the shifting historical, cultural, and social significances of race through the study of poetry, fiction, and prose as well as theory, philosophy, and political writings.

In addition to core requirements, you are able to choose from a diverse array of elective options in both departments. Faculty in both departments represent a wide variety of interests and disciplines and encourage majors to customize their experience through course electives, overseas study and individualized research and writing.

The interdepartmental major is designed for students who want to pursue two areas of study but do not want to limit their coursework in other liberal arts areas by having to take all of the classes necessary for completion of the two majors.

The departments offer minors for students majoring in other fields: the African American and African Diaspora Studies minor, the English minor, the Communication and Public Advocacy minor, and the Creative Writing minor. Check your bulletin for more information about major and minor requirements .


Getting started

Your gateway to the English portion of the major is ENG-L 260 Introduction to Advanced Study of Language and Literature. This course introduces the four principles essential to the advanced study of literature: attention to the nuances of language and linguistic expression, understanding of the structures and variations of literary genres, interpretation through historical and cultural contexts, and analysis via traditional and contemporary theories of literature.

For the African American and African Diaspora Studies side of the major, your foundational course is AAAD-A 150: Survey of the Culture of Black Americans. In this course, the culture of blacks in America is viewed from a broad interdisciplinary approach, employing resources from history, literature, folklore, religion, sociology, and political science.

You are also required to take an Intensive Writing class in a genre of your choice: drama, fiction, poetry, or non-fiction prose. This requirement focuses your training on a specific form of literature, introducing the terms and issues of genre analysis while preparing you for advanced writing.

Tracks and concentrations

The interdepartmental major focuses your study on the intersection between African American and African Diaspora Studies and English. In fulfilling core and elective requirements for the major, you will be able to choose from a broad list of classes that reflect the specializations and unique talents of the faculty of both departments. You may choose broadly or concentrate your choices in one of the literary genres or historical periods, for example.

There are additional course options in African American and African Diaspora arts, history, culture, and social issues, and English communication and public advocacy, creative writing, and public and professional writing.

Your English academic advisor and the academic advisor in African American and African Diaspora Studies are ready to help you identify and select classes that will support your individual interests and goals.

Upper level coursework

Requirements for the interdepartmental major provide a foundation for critical reading and analysis of literature in English, allowing deeper investigation of the literary culture of black America and the African diaspora.

Together with AAAD-A 379: Early Black American Writing or AAAD-A 380 Contemporary Black American Writing, the English literary history courses provide an introduction to the diversity of literatures in English as they unfold in time and in different parts of the globe.

ENG-L 371: Critical Practices introduces you to cutting-edge theories of literature and culture, enhancing your skills in the analysis and appreciation of language and literature. AAAD-A 335 grounds you in the history of blacks in America before 1900, while AAAD-A 356 focuses on their experience from 1900 to the present. Your choice of three black American literature courses deepen your knowledge and offer opportunities for advanced undergraduate scholarship in the major subject.

Beyond the core curriculum, majors are free to pursue a wide range of topics and forms of cultural expression through elective courses.

You may elect to take a 400-level seminar in one or both departments during your third or fourth year. These smaller classes offer a more intensive look at specific literary topics and help you to hone your skills as a reader, writer, and researcher.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

Your interdepartmental major represents 40 credit hours, or one-third of your IU Bloomington undergraduate degree. Students frequently combine their major coursework with other areas of inquiry. Your academic advisor can help you find a second major, minor, or certificate that complements your interests and goals.

Complementary coursework may be found across the disciplines in the College of Arts and Sciences. See the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin for a comprehensive list of subjects.

Some common minors among students majoring in African American and African Diaspora Studies and English are: Business, Criminal Justice, Folklore and Enthomusicology, Gender Studies, History, Human Development and Family Studies, Media and Diversity, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Social Welfare Advocacy, and Spanish

Students also regularly pursue the Journalism certificate and the Liberal Arts and Management Program (LAMP) certificate.

Check your bulletin for more information about these minors and certificates.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing an interdepartmental major in African American and African Diaspora Studies and English, you have the opportunity to work with faculty with expertise and experience in the field. 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 freshmen 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. 

As your interests develop, you might want to take an independent readings course in AAADS or English under the guidance of faculty. This is an opportunity to further your own research with the help of a faculty mentor, or conduct research with a professor. Talk with your English  academic advisor, the academic advisor in African American and African Diaspora Studies, or your instructors about this possibility.

Teaching internships provide opportunities to participate in planning a course and lecturing or leading classroom discussion. Obtaining a teaching internship involves approaching a faculty member and making a proposal, typically in a course you have completed successfully with that instructor.


Outstanding majors may pursue departmental honors through either department. Both departments offer selective programs for students to explore the skills and independence needed to craft and complete advanced scholarly work or creative projects.

You should select your independent project topic from previous major coursework and in consultation with a faculty advisor. Consult with the academic advisor in African American and African Diaspora Studies and the academic advisor in English to determine your eligibility and application requirements for departmental honors.

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

African American and African Diaspora Studies hosts rotating departmental awards. These awards are often given to students on the Executive Dean's List, students nominated for an outstanding research project, and students who complete an outstanding AAAD-A493 senior seminar project.

English faculty recognize outstanding majors by selecting them as recipients for annual awards and scholarships:

  • John W. Ashton Scholarship
  • Margaret Banks James Award
  • Mary Elizabeth Campbell Scholarship
  • Culbertson Prize for Critical Writing
  • Richard L. Edwards Memorial Scholarship
  • Bertha F. Eikenberry Scholarship
  • Lillie E. Fosbrink Scholarship Fund
  • Paul E. and Mary F. Howard Scholarship
  • Barbara S. Markman Memorial Scholarship
  • Albert Wertheim Essay Prize
  • Jo Anna Wittman Arnott Memorial Scholarship
  • James A. Work Undergraduate Award

Writers of poetry and fiction may compete for the English Department's Creative Writing Program awards, including the Ruth N. Halls Prize and Keisler Poetry Prize for poetry, and the Myrtle Armstrong Prize and the Bertolt Clever Award for fiction writing.

Each year English offers the Elizabeth O. Wooley scholarship to two high school seniors, one each from Bloomington High School North and Bloomington High School South, enrolling as freshmen at Indiana University Bloomington.

Other scholarships and awards include:


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 freshman year.

The Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies works with students to develop internships with the alumni office and other IU offices and entities. The department's academic advisor can help guide you regarding departmental internship decisions.

English coordinates a number of internal internships related to editing, publishing, and communications. In addition, recent external internships undertaken by English majors have included work in law offices, advertising agencies, radio and television stations, newspapers, and public-relations firms, among others.

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.

You may 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. If you are planning to apply to graduate school in English, keep in mind that most graduate programs require proficiency in depth in one foreign language or reading proficiency in two foreign languages.

Below 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 an increasingly interconnected world. Students often study literature and other coursework through the following exchange programs:

  • Adelaide - Australia
  • Canberra - Australia
  • Canterbury-IU - England
  • Dublin-IES - Ireland
  • London-IU - England
  • Oxford-St. Anne's - England
  • Perth - Australia
  • Wollongong - Australia

Popular program locations for students studying African American African Diaspora Studies are:

  • Cape Town-CIEE - South Africa
  • Dakar-CIEE - Senegal
  • Legon-CIEE - Ghana

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 your English department academic advisor, your African American and African Diaspora academic advisor, AAADS faculty, and through the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

Participation in a student group is a good way to make connections between your coursework and co-curricular activities, make friends, and take leadership roles. Student organizations that are relevant to African American and African Diaspora Studies and English interdepartmental majors are:

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

You may 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, students in the ensembles travel, perform and host workshops like many clubs do.

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. Some of the following learning communities may be of interest to English students:

Many AAADS students choose to live in the Atkins Living Learning Center, one of several Living Learning Centers on campus. 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.

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

Professional associations of interest to African American African Diaspora and English majors include:

You can use the Indiana University Library system to search Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, non-profit organizations and much more.

Build your skills

Through the major

The African American and African Diaspora and English interdepartmental major provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferrable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Critical reading: read, analyze, and interpret texts of all kinds, with an appreciation for complexity and nuance
  • Critical thinking: understand and apply various methods and theories related to the study of literature, rhetoric, and culture
  • Cultural competency: analyze how race functions both globally and regionally; identify and engage diverse ethical and moral positions; and understand the social, economic, and political issues surrounding concepts of race and culture
  • Literary expertise: understand and analyze the major historical and cultural frameworks of literature as well as the conventions and features of various literary genres
  • Research and source analysis: conduct research, evaluate appropriate methods and sources for that research, develop effective written arguments and make informed oral presentations
  • Communication and leadership: inform and interact, both orally and in writing, with experts and non-specialists

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 career exploration starting point is an appointment 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, 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. AAADS and English interdepartmental majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Arts and Humanities 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

An interdepartmental major in African American and African Diaspora Studies and English prepares you for work in a vast variety of industries and work environments, making the outlook promising due to the diversity it enables. Graduates can take their broad set of knowledge and skills into a wide variety of different fields and career paths.

Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: Students with an interdepartmental degree in African American and African Diaspora Studies and English are well prepared to work in publishing, education, research and academia, health care, government, nonprofit organizations, business and Law. Graduates with the degree have become writers, editors, educators, attorneys, social workers, doctors, musicians, artist, librarians, lobbyist, filmmakers, nonprofit directors, human resources specialists, consultants, entrepreneurs, and much more.

Talk with the African American and African Diaspora Studies faculty and academic advisor, the English faculty and academic advisor, and other students to gain insights into the vast variety of career paths taken by graduates of the interdepartmental degree in African American and African Diaspora Studies and English.

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

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

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 a career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:

Teaching positions give you a chance to hone language and communication skills. Find international English teaching jobs through organizations such as Center for International Education ExchangeInstitute of International Education, and LanguageCorps.

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund graduate school. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit, 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.

An Interdisciplinary African American and African Diaspora Studies and English B.A. will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as politics, education, creative writing, research, non-profit 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 programs in the health professions.

Students who pursue graduate studies in African American and African Diaspora Studies and English have gone into careers as writers, professors, top academic and research institutions, preservation specialists, local, state, and federal government, nonprofit organizations, business and entrepreneurship.

You might consider these Indiana University graduate opportunities:

Alumni connections

The African American and African Diaspora department's alumni page and annual newsletter offer alumni updates.

Join the IUB English Facebook page to view upcoming related events, departmental news, read articles of interest faculty are sharing, and connect with other English majors. Catch up on alumni paths through the English department newsletter found at the bottom right of the department website page.

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?

Students attracted to the interdepartmental major in African American and African Diaspora Studies and English come from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically have some of the following qualities:

  • Academic interest in literature and writing and their intersections with African and African American social movements, historical events, and experiences
  • Appreciation for literary theory, analyzing texts, and communicating opinions
  • Desire to learn and perfect universal skills of analysis and communication that can help them succeed in any career
  • Aspiration to go into a literary field such as editing, teaching, or writing
  • Interest in law school or post-graduate certification to teach
  • Intellectual curiosity and imagination

Learn more


Meet with the academic advisor for the Department of English or the Department of African American and African Diaspora 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