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Culture & Community: New center, legacy archives position UTA as leader in African American issues
A new center, its director, and a community leader’s legacy will continue UT Arlington’s impact in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Earlier this year, the College of Liberal Arts and the School of Social Work announced the creation of the Center for African American Studies, the first of its kind in North Texas and the third in the state. The center will offer an introductory course and an 18-hour minor as well as enhance students’, faculty and staff members’ and the community’s understanding of African Americans’ unique social circumstances and heritage.
The center’s new director, Dr. Schnavia Smith Hatcher, a social work professor who moved to UT Arlington from the University of Georgia, said she is honored to have the opportunity to help shape the vision and mission of the center and provide guidance in the development to its degree program, research and advocacy agenda, and community collaborations.
“The center will facilitate the discourse that focuses on race and the significant context of historical, cultural, and community influences on the diverse experiences of blacks in America. It will serve as a vital intellectual and social resource for the community, on and off campus,” she said. “It is my hope that our students, faculty and staff, and community stakeholders will be enlightened, inspired and prepared to be a part of social change.”
In June, the UT Arlington Special Collections Library was named the repository of an extensive collection of newspapers, photos and personal memorabilia from William “Bill” Blair Jr., a former Negro League baseball pitcher, a Dallas civic and business leader, and founder of the Elite News.
Blair said he is making his personal holdings available to the public with hope that others may learn from his experiences. “There are people who are not interested in anything until it happens to them,” he said. “But if you read and see photos, you learn.”
Dr. W. Marvin Dulaney, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History, has been busy behind the scenes, helping to organize the new center and working with the Blair family. He said the recent activity formalizes previous faculty research efforts and allows UT Arlington to establish ongoing programs and serve local African American communities.
“The CAAS and the acquisition of the William Blair collection are part and parcel of the ongoing development of the field of African American studies,” Dulaney said. “African American studies has become a major field of study and it has helped academia to branch out, to be more inclusive, and to pursue truth beyond the traditional academic areas that were steeped in Eurocentrism. … African American studies broadens the opportunities for our students to learn all sides and facets of the American experience.”
Dulaney said he hopes the center will grow into a “think tank” in the tradition of the Hoover and Manhattan institutes or the Brookings Institution. That will happen, he said, as students use the center’s knowledge base to enhance their degrees and faculty collaborate to expand their research.
“When students in the area seek to find an institution where they can study the African American experience, they will come to UTA,” he said. “When policymakers need research and studies about the African American communities in Dallas and Fort Worth, they will come to UTA. In essence, UTA will be the leader in promoting academic engagement, research, and most importantly, solutions for the issues that affect African Americans in this region.”
Bridget Lewis (UTA Media Relations) contributed to this report.
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