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Massasoit Community College offers first Black studies major

Students pushed college for program reflecting their diversity

Amanda Brynn Birbara
Massasoit Community College offers first Black studies major
Massasoit Community College students celebrate new program. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MASSASOIT COMMUNITY COLLEGE

For the first time in its 57-year history, Massasoit Community College will offer a Black Studies major this fall.

The program is the first of its kind at a community college in Massachusetts and is designed to meet the growing interest among students who want to see courses reflect their diversity.

“Students decided that this is something that they wanted to see move forward,” said Carine Sauvignon, an executive dean at Massasoit.

Nearly a decade ago, Massasoit students “expressed that there weren’t a lot of opportunities to take culturally diverse courses,” said Sauvignon. In response, faculty developed classes such as “The Black Experience through Music” and “Black Images in Film” in the 2012 curriculum to round out what students were learning.

Massasoit Community College students. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MASSASOIT COMMUNITY COLLEGE

The new interdisciplinary program will allow students to critically examine, analyze and interpret Black experiences in American society, college officials said.

Students will earn an associate of arts degree at the end of the two-year program, they added.

Black Studies and related programs have been offered at four-year colleges since the 1960s, and Massasoit’s new program – designed with transfers to these schools in mind – will make the discipline more accessible, officials said in a press release.

It will also fit in with the state’s equity agenda.

“We want to be able to increase the options for students to learn from different perspectives,” Sauvignon said, adding that faculty members are now aiming to broaden the curriculum with new classes and experts in Black Studies.

The Black Studies program will include “Intro to Black Studies,” “Caribbean: History, People and Culture,” “Contemporary Issues in the Black Community” and “the Black Arts Movement,” according to the press release.

Sauvignon said the push to diversify the curriculum reflects the diversity of the student body, including many who are from the Cape Verdean and Haitian communities. 

Massasoit is also working with other community colleges to open the program up to other students off campus, Sauvignon said.

The two-year degree program will allow students the flexibility to transfer to another college or take some courses remotely, she said.

Sauvignon said that Massasoit is also considering an internship in Black Studies that will open opportunities for students in civic engagement and social justice awareness organizations.