New chair views curriculum with global perspective
October 27, 2009
Patricia van Leeuwaarde Moonsammy, center, Dickinson’s first Distinguished Chair in Africana Studies, with, from left, Provost and Dean Neil Weissman, husband Joseph Moonsammy, son Johan van Leeuwaarde Moonsammy and President William G. Durden '71.
The Dickinson community gathered on Friday, Oct. 23, in the Stern Center to celebrate Assistant Professor Patricia van Leeuwaarde Moonsammy’s appointment as the first Distinguished Chair in Africana Studies.
Provost and Dean of the College Neil Weissman noted during his introductory remarks that during the last decade, he had seen “a transformation of the institution toward a wider and more diverse academic program.” President William G. Durden ’71 added that four students this year already have declared Africana studies as their major.
Moonsammy received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan, where she researched performance and expressive culture, social activism and the politics of representation. Her dissertation, “Rapso Warriors: Poetic Performance, Revolution, and Conscious Art Music in Trinidad and Tobago,” reflects both a personal and scholarly interest in Caribbean cultures and oral history.
The ceremony featured a panel discussion led by Moonsammy, Lynn Johnson, assistant professor of English and chair of the Africana-studies department, and Jerry Philogene, assistant professor of American studies.
Johnson noted that Moonsammy’s installation marked the 40th anniversary of the first black-studies program in the country at San Francisco State University, as well as Dickinson’s own call for integration of African-American themes into the curriculum.
Moonsammy anticipates reaching across multiple disciplines—from working with dance and theatre faculty to collaborating on Latin American and Caribbean-studies topics. “I hope to develop programming and opportunities for students to take their education and apply it to real, lived experiences,” she said.
The Distinguished Chair in Africana Studies was established in January from a $1.5-million gift by an anonymous alumni donor. The name of the chair is temporary, and a new title—potentially drawn from student research—will be announced in the future.