UTSA is launching a new African-American Literatures and Cultures Institute (AALCI) summer program – that includes a trip to New York – in an effort to increase the number of students pursuing careers as professors of African-American literary and cultural studies.

The AALCI is a three-week summer program on UTSA’s main campus that will take place between June 7 and July 1. The program is free for the eight students selected by the AALCI committee, and the students will receive $2,000 in research stipends, mentoring services and academic training from experienced professors within the African-American literature and cultural studies field.

“The study of African-American literature will die if there are no scholars. I am hoping to create a pipeline across the nation’s universities so that the subfield of African-American Studies within the English departments remains vibrant,” said Joycelyn Moody, AALCI director and UTSA distinguished chair in American literature.

“Over the last 20 years we have seen the number of open faculty positions for all ranks in African-American literary studies decline from 50 down to nine in 2008,” Moody said. “This is a threat to the field of English, a threat to the nation’s multicultural history and a threat to literary longevity.”

Ricky Lowe, a junior at UTSA, plans on applying for the AALCI summer program.

“I have always been interested in African-American studies and the many factors of [African-American] culture that are not mentioned in standardized text. A career in this subject could influence me to address these topics and explain how their significance is important in literature and society,” Lowe said.

Lowe hopes the program will give him and other students a broader understanding of African-American culture beyond what is taught in the class.

“The trip to New York seems beneficial, because it will encourage students to observe our society beyond Texas borders, and New York is one of the best places to do so,” Lowe said.

Kelly Rodgers, an assistant professor of educational psychology at UTSA and chair of AALCI’s application committee said that African-American studies provides an opportunity to investigate how people’s cultural experiences affect things like their approach to academics, their use of language, their choice in music, their production of literary works and their approach of financial management; […] if we are to truly understand any of these things, then we have to understand where they came from,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers believes that students can pursue a wide array of careers within the fields of African American literature and cultural studies.

“Too often, we try to confine African-American Studies to history and direct study of African-American culture. But there’s so much more to it, and that is one of the goals of the AALCI, to introduce students to the many faces of African-American studies,” she said.

All students interested in applying to AALCI’s summer program must be college juniors with at least one full year of academic study left. They must be present a legitimate interest in learning more about what it takes to become a professor of African-American literary and cultural studies and select a dedicated mentor to work with through the graduate school application process by completing a mentor-directed research program, which can be downloaded at http://www.utsa.edu/aalci.

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