In 2000 and beyond
In 2003, the SCHEV and VCU’s Board of Visitors agreed to offer the first stand-alone major in African American Studies. VCU became the second school in Virginia to offer a B.A. in African American Studies. Majors earned 120 credits in African American Studies from a wide variety of offerings. The African American Studies Department celebrated this event with guest lectures, community events, and a PBS series titled “Race: The Power of an Illusion.”
In 1998, Dr. M. Njeri Jackson became Chair of the Department of African American Studies. Dr. Jackson received a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy. VCU faculty in African American Studies examined representations of African Americans at six presidential sites in Virginia. She also took students every year to the Olive Harvey Annual Black Studies Conference. Students remembered Dr. Jackson, who died in 2010, as an inspiring administrator, educator, and thinker.
Dr. Shawn Utsey became Chair of the Department in 2007 and his leadership continued until 2013. During this time, the department enhanced its scholarship profile and engaged in positive community interventions. Dr. Utsey created the Peep This Project-- a documentary filmmaking endeavor to engage youth considered at-risk in digital storytelling. Dr. Utsey also created, directed and produced several documentaries aimed at bringing attention to biomedical, historical and political issues impacting African Americans in Richmond, Virginia. His documentaries included the award-winning Meet me in the Bottom: The Struggle to Reclaim Richmond’s African Burial Grounds and Until the Well Runs Dry: Medicine & the Exploitation of Black Bodies. Collectively these documentaries served as impetus for community discussions and legislative decisions about the preservation of cultural artifacts in Richmond and the greater Commonwealth. In 2014, Dr. Utsey received a Fulbright Scholar grant to collaborate with faculty, staff and students at the Sinomlando Center for Oral History and Memory Work at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) in South African to conduct oral histories with survivors and their families of apartheid-era ethnoviolence.
In 2013, Dr. Aashir Nasim became Chair of African American studies and strove to build upon the legacy of the past to serve the needs of students, VCU, and the community. Under his leadership, the department implemented a new strategic plan that focused on advancing the value proposition for students; broadening campus and community participation; and diversifying its funding portfolio. During his tenure, the department grew to include seven core faculty and over 30 affiliate research faculty from academic and medical campuses. There are more African American Studies students as majors now than in its 44-year history at VCU; making it one of the largest undergraduate departments in African American Studies on the East Coast. In addition, the department has one of the highest amounts of grant funds per capita in VCU' College of Humanities and Sciences. In the spring of 2014, African American Studies celebrated that 50 students have graduated with the major from the program’s inception.
Dr. Nasim is currently vice president of inclusive excellence, presiding over the Division for Inclusive Excellence.
In 2018, Dr. Shawn Utsey once again became Chair of African American Studies.
The African American Studies Department at VCU is a vehicle for change in Richmond and in the world. It has established continuity of purpose to train scholars to meet the challenges of the social and political climate. The faculty presents knowledge in an accurate, critical, and engaging form. By teaching the experiences of black people throughout the world, the department educates, organizes, and empowers students. Majors and minors have a greater involvement in their educational process by shaping their unique career track. Today, African American Studies majors are more competitive in the fields of communications, politics, education, languages, and medical professions.