African Studies Program

"We're not just a group of scholars who happen to be located in one place; we're a real community of people who share a vision for making Africa better known and better understood."
-- Rowland Abiodun, Amherst College

Five College Certificate in African Studies

The Five College Certificate in African Studies is designed to cultivate a holistic and deep understanding of African societies beyond disciplinary boundaries.

Certificate courses introduce students to: ancient, modern, and contemporary histories of African societies, movements, and regions; African epistemologies; urgent literatures, philosophies, and modes of conviviality; African communities and geographies that have shaped global politics, spiritualities and economies for centuries; and countless ancestral and emerging modes of art-making in Africa that have the potential to transform imaginative horizons locally and globally.

Certificate students are supported in shaping an Africa-centered course of study tailored to their individual interests and passions, and benefit from the wide range of faculty and university resources in our consortium, including the Five College Center for World Languages.

Students interested in the Five College African Studies Certificate should contact an African Studies faculty member on their campus and submit a Student Interest Form as soon as possible. Certificate students will meet with their Certificate advisor regularly to discuss their interests and plan course work.

When all requirements have been met, students complete the African Studies Certificate Completion Form, attaching an unofficial transcript acquired from the registrar, and submit both to their campus advisor. Each Certificate Application is reviewed for approval by a subcommittee of the African Studies Council.

Five College African Studies Community Council Dinner


On This Page


Rowland Abiodun | Black Studies; Art and Art Studies | E-mail:

Rhonda Cobham-Sander | English; Black Studies | E-mail:

Agnes Kimokoti | Five College Center for the Study of World Languages | E-mail:

Sean Redding* | History; Black Studies | E-mail:
*Certificate Advisor

Olufemi Vaughan | Black Studies | E-mail:

Nell Arnold* | Anthropology, Literary Arts, and African Studies | Email:
*Certificate Advisor

Jennifer Bajorek | Comparative Literature and Visual Studies | E-mail:

Sarah Adelman | Economics | E-mail:

Catherine Corson | Environmental Studies | E-mail:

Samba Gadjigo | French | E-mail:

Holly Hanson | Professor Emerita (History) | E-mail:

Girma Kebbede | Geology and Geography | E-mail:

John Lemly | Professor Emeritus | E-mail:

Olabode Omojola* | Music | E-mail:
*Certificate Advisor

Preston Smith II | Politics | E-mail:

Lynda Pickbourn* | Gender Studies | E-mail:
*Certificate Advisor

Jeffrey Ahlman* | History | E-mail:
*Certificate Advisor

Elliot Fratkin | Professor Emeritus (Anthropology) | E-mail:

Dawn Fulton | French Studies | E-mail:

Colin Hoag | Anthropology | E-mail:

Caroline Melly | Anthropology | E-mail:

Albert Mosley | Professor Emeritus (Philosophy) | E-mail:

Katwiwa Mule | Comparative Literature | E-mail:

Lucy Mule | Education & Child Study | E-mail:

Gregory White | Government, African Studies | E-mail:


Judyie Al-Bilali | Theater | E-mail:

Joye Bowman* | History | E-mail:
*Certificate Advisor

Stephen Clingman | English | E-mail:

Carlene Edie* | Political Science | E-mail:
*Certificate Advisor

David Evans | Professor Emeritus | E-mail:

John Higginson | Professor Emeritus (History) | E-mail:

Kathryn Lachman | Languages, Literatures, & Cultures | E-mail:

Mzamo P. Mangaliso | Isenberg School of Management | E-mail:

Patrick Mensah | French, Italian Studies | E-mail:

Jacqueline Mosselson | The Center for International Education | E-mail:

Léonce Ndikumana | Economics, Political Economy Research Institute | E-mail:

Frederic Schaffer | Political Science | Email:

Amilcar Shabazz | Afro-American Studies | E-mail:

Lindiwe Sibeko | Nutrition | E-mail:

Mwangi wa Gĩthĩnji | Economics | E-mail:

Certificate Requirements

Coursework and Language Study

  • Certificate students must take six courses, in any discipline or program, in which at least 50% of materials focus on the African continent. Students should consult the list of approved courses at each registration period (See Note on Courses below)
  • Certificate students are required to engage in serious study of a language spoken on the African continent for a full semester (See Center for World Languages). Note that this requirement can be met in a variety of ways. Students should consult with their advisor.

Study Abroad

Students may spend one semester or more in Africa and count up to three courses taken at an African university towards their Certificate . Information about study abroad and other opportunities is available through the international program or global education office at each campus.

Final Project

Students are encouraged to complete their certificate program with an independent study project that integrates their course- or fieldwork in African studies. Example: a senior thesis, capstone project, or independent study recognized at any of the Five Colleges.

Note on Courses

In courses they intend to count toward the certificate, students must receive a grade of B or above. Hampshire students counting a course taught at Hampshire must receive an evaluation for that course.

A certificate candidate may present courses taken in Africa, but normally at least three of the required courses must be taken in the Five Colleges.

Students may petition their campus advisors to count a course that does not appear on the approved list if (1) the course instructor can confirm that at least 50% of materials are focused on the African continent, or (2) a student can document the instructor’s approval of an additional bibliography that focuses the student’s engagement on the continent during the semester in which the course is taken, and, at semester’s end, can show relevant samples of Africa-focused work to their campus advisor.


Note that if you don't see classes from all campuses currently listed, they will appear as the campuses release their course schedules for the semester. The five campuses release their schedules on different dates. Visit this page for specific dates.

Fall 2024 African Studies Courses

Subject Course # Sect # Course Title Instructor(s) Institution Meeting Times
BLST 111 01 Intro to Black Studies Olufemi Vaughan Amherst College M/W | 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM
BLST 121 01 Colnl & Pst Colnl Afric Sean Redding Amherst College M/W | 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM
BLST 212 01 Digital Africas C. Rhonda Cobham-Sander Amherst College M/W | 8:30 AM - 9:50 AM
ENGL 278 01 Digital Africas C. Rhonda Cobham-Sander Amherst College M/W | 8:30 AM - 9:50 AM
HIST 181 01 Colnl & Pst Colnl Afric Sean Redding Amherst College M/W | 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM
HACU 0258 1 Movement and Forms Vick Quezada Hampshire College 01:00PM-03:50PM M;01:00PM-03:50PM W
DANCE 142 01 Intro to West African Dance Mustapha Braimah Mount Holyoke College MW 03:15PM-04:30PM
ECON 213 01 Economic Development Amanda Awadey Mount Holyoke College TTH 01:45PM-03:00PM
FREN 219 01 French Speaking World Samba Gadjigo Mount Holyoke College MW 11:30AM-12:45PM
FREN 341FS 01 Women/French-Speaking Africa Samba Gadjigo Mount Holyoke College M 01:30PM-04:20PM
MUSIC 161 01 Beg.West African Drumming Ens. Faith Conant Mount Holyoke College T 05:00PM-07:00PM
MUSIC 226 01 World Music Olabode Omojola Mount Holyoke College MW 01:45PM-03:00PM
MUSIC 261 01 Int. West African Drumming Ens Faith Conant Mount Holyoke College T 07:00PM-09:00PM
FRN 252cl 01 T-Urban Spaces/Film Dawn Fulton Smith College TU TH 10:50 AM - 12:05 PM
HST 259fm 01 Colq:T-Fem,Masc,Sex/Africa Jeffrey S. Ahlman Smith College W 2:45 PM - 4:00 PM; M 3:05 PM - 4:20 PM
WLT 205 01 Contemp African Lit & Film Katwiwa Mule Smith College M W 10:50 AM - 12:05 PM
COMP-LIT 355 01 Modern African Literature Kathryn Lachman UMass Amherst TU TH 11:30AM 12:45PM
HISTORY 161 01 Hst-Africa Snc 1500 Elizabeth Jacob UMass Amherst TU TH 1:00PM 1:50PM
HISTORY 161 01AA Hst-Africa Snc 1500 UMass Amherst F 9:05AM 9:55AM
HISTORY 161 01AB Hst-Africa Snc 1500 UMass Amherst F 10:10AM 11:00AM
HISTORY 161 01AC Hst-Africa Snc 1500 UMass Amherst F 11:15AM 12:05PM
POLISCI 343 01 Gov&Pol East Africa Carlene Edie UMass Amherst TU TH 11:30AM 12:45PM

African Languages offered by the Five College Center for World Languages

Swahili students in class


Beginning, intermediate, and advanced courses are available every semester. Courses include individual tutorials and small group conversation sessions. Sessions meet on all five campuses and are individually scheduled. Instructor: Dr. Agnes Kimokoti (pictured).

Swahili student in class

Afrikaans, Amharic, Twi, Wolof, Yoruba

Supervised independent study courses. Beginning and intermediate courses are available. Courses include small group conversation sessions led by native/fluent conversation partners. Sessions meet on the home campus of the conversation partner and are individually scheduled. The availability of languages may vary, and other languages may be added.

Language Center conversation partner talking to student

Egyptian Arabic, Moroccan Arabic

Supervised independent study courses. Prerequisite: Two semesters of Modern Standard Arabic or the equivalent. Courses include small group conversation sessions led by native/fluent conversation partners. Sessions meet on the home campus of the conversation partner and are individually scheduled.

Frequently Asked Questions

On each of the campuses of the five college consortium (except Hampshire College), all students are required to develop a major in one particular field and then to complement that with courses drawn from other subjects. Often, the choice of those other courses is dictated by college requirements or by what is available at particular times. The African Studies Certificate Program is not another major, but it represents an important way for students to bring intellectual coherence to selecting courses outside their own majors. Further, by focusing intensely on the continent of Africa, students develop a keen appreciation of the rich connections between history, politics, economics, cultures, and the humanities.
Those students in the past who have earned the certificate point with pride and satisfaction to having selected a group of courses whose focus is Africa, and they have found the possession of the certificate to be a distinct advantage for getting into graduate school or for employment.

You will need to complete at least 18 credits in various courses which focus on Africa, and you need to demonstrate that you have a working knowledge of a language of Africa either indigenous or official (other than English).

No campus of the Five Colleges has sufficient teaching resources on Africa to enable you to complete the certificate program, but taken together, the five campuses provide one of the richest resources of African Studies expertise and courses anywhere in America. You will likely need to take courses on at least one campus other than your own in order to complete the certificate program.
Since the mid-1980s, faculty in the Five Colleges with Africa interests have been part of the Five College African Studies Council which coordinates offerings of Africa-related courses, supports the certificate program, and plans seminars, study-in-Africa opportunities, and visits to the area by African scholars and artists. One of the more significant achievements of the Council has been the development and management of the certificate program as a way to strengthen the intellectual accomplishments of students.
When you graduate, having completed your baccalaureate degree, your official transcript will say, "Completed the requirements for the Five College African Studies Certificate."

Each campus has African Studies Certificate Program faculty advisors who will help you set up your own personalized certificate program. There is no formal admissions process to the certificate program; all you need to do is to declare with a faculty African Studies advisor on your campus your intent to complete the certificate program and to submit the African Studies Certificate Student Interest Form. Characteristically, students take one or two courses on Africa and then decide to complete the program with course selection advice from an African Studies advisor.

Contact Us

Council Co-Chairs:

Patrick Mensah, Associate Professor of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, UMass Amherst

Nathalie (Nell) Arnold, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Literary Arts and African Studies, Hampshire College 

Five College Staff Liaison:

Ray RennardDirector of Academic Programs


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