The University of Texas–Austin has a program starting up that will be the first of its kind in the Lone Star State.
Texas's flagship university will introduce an African-American studies program, the Daily Texan reports, thanks to growing interest in the topic. The program will start up in the fall. At first, it will offer bachelor's degrees, but eventually it will offer master's and doctoral degrees, too.
"This is a big deal," Edmund Gordon, chairman of the Department of Anthropology, tells the Daily Texan. "It's the consummation of a long process for African-Americans and those who study the experiences of people in Africa and the African Diaspora to be recognized. The creation of this department is a strong indication of the university's recognition and validation of our field."
Gordon, who will head the new department, believes it will increase black attendance at the University of Texas, which actually rates highly in the U.S. News Racial Diversity rankings.
"In the past, the university has not been known for its friendliness towards blacks," Gordon says. "Times are changing. This department is a sign of that change."
University of Texas President William Powers Jr. was one of the leading supporters of the new program.
"This is a landmark event for the University of Texas at Austin," Powers says in a release. "Not only will the new department and institute offer world-class educational and research opportunities, they also demonstrate the university's ongoing commitment to diversity and to pursuing understudied areas of scholarship."