Every Thursday over lunch, AFRICAAM 31: “RealTalk: Intimate Discussions about the African Diaspora” brings together 10 students with diverse faculty to discuss topics related to race and representation.
Members of this one-unit course listen to the stories of faculty from various departments such as history, anthropology, sociology and the arts. The group frequently discusses issues of diversity on campus and current faculty research, including linguistic work in the Caribbean and history of ancient Africa.
RealTalk is an initiative of the African and African American Studies (AAAS) program on campus.
According to Cheryl Brown, co-instructor of the course and the associate director of AAAS, many AAAS majors declare late in their college careers and express regret for not having discovered the interdisciplinary program earlier. This course aims to introduce underclassmen to the program early on and connect them with faculty, allowing for more flexibility and interest.
“This course is an opportunity for freshmen and sophomores to learn about faculty affiliated with AAAS, what they teach and their passions,” Brown said. “We wanted to create an informal space for students to just know 10 people and also highlight faculty diversity that exists at Stanford.”
This class is part of Stanford’s “One-Unit Wonders” and “Terrific Twos,” small classes that serve as introductions to various fields and sometimes include speaker series or activities. These classes offer a unique way to explore areas such as music, dance, languages and athletics.
“It’s a relatively low-stress entryway for freshmen and sophomores to shape their interests and explore passions that they didn’t even think about [before],” Brown said.
This week’s guest speaker was historian James Campbell, who specializes in African-American history and the African slave trade. Gathered in the AAAS lounge, students raised challenging questions about how turbulent times in history are perceived on campus today. Previous guest speakers include Allyson Hobbs, an expert on the phenomenon of racial passing, and Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Harry Elam.
Paula McCloud ’19 and Danielle Stagger ’19, prospective psychology majors who both plan to incorporate AAAS classes in their studies, expressed enthusiasm for the series and interacting with experts in the field.
“We have intimate discussions that go wherever people are feeling or [are] emotionally charged,” Stagger said.
“It’s very eye-opening when professors want to know what we want to talk about and what we hope to pursue,” McCloud added. “Having this opportunity to interact with them makes [them more] human.”