Ad campaign highlights job opportunities

The campaign is geared toward African-American studies careers.

Mehgan Lee

Faculty members in the University’s Department of African-American and African Studies said they hope to dispel students’ misconceptions about a career in their field.

Too often students believe they will be unable to find jobs – or only low-paying jobs – if they major in African-American and African studies, said John Wright, a department professor.

To get rid of this belief, the department’s faculty is debuting an advertising campaign this fall to highlight the job opportunities a degree in African-American and African studies can offer.

Some of the advertisements for the campaign depict well-known individuals who have graduated with a degree in African-American studies, such as CBS news correspondent Bill Whitaker and the first black woman astronaut, Mae Jemison.

“There ought not to be any intrinsic fear that a major in African-American and African studies is going to adversely affect students’ job prospects or starting salaries,” Wright said.

Students who graduate with a degree in the field do not have any significant difference in the job market from students who graduate with a degree in any other liberal arts program, Wright said.

And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, entry-level salaries for individuals with a degree in African-American and African studies tend to fall in the middle, he said.

The goal of the new campaign is to increase the number of University students who major in African-American and African studies from approximately 25, the current estimated number of students in the major, to 40 or 50, Wright said.

Faculty members would also like to increase the number of black students who major in the field at the University, Wright said. The number of nonblack students pursuing the major is increasing, but the number of black students has remained the same, he said.

“(Black) students themselves seem less inclined to enroll in African-American and African studies,” he said.

Currently, approximately 15 of the 25 students who major in African American and African studies at the University are black, Wright said.

And this appears to be a national trend, according to an

article in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Based on U.S. Department of Education statistics, the journal found that less than 0.7 percent of all of the bachelor’s degrees obtained by black students in 2000 were in any field of ethnic study.

“It is one of the great paradoxes or ironies in the field,” Wright said.

“We think people of African-American descent should remain at the center of leaders in the field, but all are welcome,” he said.

Alicia Steele said she decided to major in African-American and African studies, because she wanted to learn more about herself and her community.

“I didn’t get any education in African-American studies when I was in high school, because I’m from the suburbs,” she said.

The more classes Steele took in the department, the more interested she became in pursuing a degree, she said.

“I love the program.”