A Handbook for Graduate Students

The Ph.D. Degree in Africology

Disciplinary Overview
The first academic programs and departments in africology appeared in the American academy in the late 1960s. However, as a subject of intellectual inquiry and discourse africology spans millennia in regard to Africa and the global African diaspora. Accordingly, the discipline of africology scrutinizes conceptually and empirically the life experiences and life prospects of Africans and their descendants across space and time. The Ph.D. degree in africology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (hereinafter UWM) is grounded in the axiomatic assumption that, with continuing globalization, the twenty-first century will witness an exponential expansion in the demand for africological knowledge and expertise in the academy and beyond. And so, the design of the Ph.D. degree integrates local and global phenomena to foster knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that enable graduates to be of the greatest possible value to their communities and societies. Graduates will leave the department as strong africological scholars, whose knowledge and expertise position them to be invaluable professionals in both the public and the private sectors of societies throughout the global African diaspora.

The curriculum of the graduate program is divided into two fields of concentration, Political Economy and Public Policy, and Culture and Society: Africa and the African Diaspora. The department encourages, and expects students to be wellrounded in their knowledge and understanding of africology. Students are required to take courses in the two fields of concentration offered by the department, as well as having the option of a field of concentration from outside the department.

The department is well-attuned to the significance of conceptual elasticity and the permeability of boundaries. Consequently, each concentration arcs well not only with concentrations outside of the department, but also with each other. And so, for example, its Forms of Reasoning courses are designed to hone analytical and research skills that are invaluable in regard to both departmental fields of concentration, as well as concentrations taken from outside the department. The concentration in Political Economy and Public Policy arcs seamlessly into given concentrations in disciplines such as economics, political science, sociology, history, and geography. And the concentration on Culture and Society: Africa and the African Diaspora is complemented coherently by particular concentrations in English, foreign languages and literatures, history, and sociology.

Admission Requirements
Applicants to the program must satisfy the requirements of UWM’s Graduate School, as well as hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in africology or a related discipline. Normally, students are admitted only for the fall semester. However, in extraordinary circumstances, a student may be permitted to begin Ph.D. studies in the spring semester. The department does not offer a terminal M.A. degree.

Students entering the Ph.D. program with a master’s degree will consult with the Director of Graduate Studies who will determine the suitability of any master’s level coursework to count toward the Ph.D. degree. Generally, only coursework taken toward a master’s degree in African-American Studies or African Diasporic Studies will be considered as satisfying requirements of the Ph.D. degree.

Students with a master’s in other fields must demonstrate a significant emphasis on African American or African Diasporic Studies in order to have any of their master’s level coursework apply toward the Ph.D. degree. The Graduate School requires that at least half of the graduate credits required for the Ph.D. be completed at UWM in doctoral status. This policy and the Graduate School’s “continuous-year residence requirement” will limit the number of credits from the master’s degree that may apply to the Ph.D.

Admission to the graduate program is based on a careful review of the applicant’s academic qualifications and is highly competitive. Successful candidates usually have a high grade point average (GPA) in their undergraduate majors, as well as overall. There are, of course, a variety of factors that come into play over the years of an applicant’s studies, and so the admissions committee will consider closely a student’s academic profile, as well as accomplishments that are germane to his/her application.

For an applicant to be considered for admission, the following materials must be submitted to The Graduate Adviser, Department of Africology, University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201:

  1. At least three (3) letters of recommendation from individuals who are familiar with the applicant’s academic work;
  2. A sample (10-15 pages) of the individual’s written work, signaling the applicant’s aptitude for graduate work;
  3. A lucid and cogent (1-2 pages) personal statement from the applicant indicating the individual’s reasons for pursuing graduate study;
  4. Undergraduate and graduate transcripts from all institutions that the individual has attended. Students are expected to have distinguished themselves in their undergraduate or M.A. programs. An applicant lacking the requisite GPA may be admitted on probation;
  5. Official scores from the aptitude portion of the GRE from all students, and TOEFL scores from non-native English speakers.

Students must also apply directly to UWM’s Graduate School, and forward the requisite application fee in order to have their materials considered. Prospective applicants should visit the Graduate Schools website.

Course of Study

The First Three Semesters

General Observations
Upon admission to the program, students are expected to consult with the Director of Graduate Studies about the department’s expectations of them, as well as elucidate their own expectations of the department. The department expects reciprocal respect from all members of its intellectual community. It is committed to fostering and maintaining a collegial atmosphere in which ideas are sifted and winnowed without intimidation or fear of reprisals. It expects the highest standards of conduct from its faculty and students, and is committed to nurturing the intellectual and personal integrity of its faculty and students.

Soon after entering the program, students should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies. The Director will assign students their initial advisors. Once students pass the Comprehensive Examination, they will choose their own advisors.

The Comprehensive Examination
Prior to the end of each entering student’s third semester in residence, s/he is required to take and pass the department’s graduate student Comprehensive Examination (written and oral) in order to continue his/her studies toward the Ph.D. degree. There are no exceptions to this requirement.

The written examination is administered first and is based largely on what the student learned in the Forms of Reasoning courses–six credits of which are in empirical theory and methods, and the remaining six credits in normative theory and social organization and critical literary theory in the history of ideas.

The graduate level Forms of Reasoning Courses required for all doctoral students are as follows:

  • Theories and Foundations of Africology, 3 credits (700)
  • Theories and Methods in Empirical Research in Africology, 3 credits (701)
    Normative Theory and Principles of Social Organization I, 3 credits (705)
  • Critical Literary Theory in the History of Ideas I, 3 credits (708)

The oral examination follows the written examination, and tests a student’s ability to think on one’s feet before a committee of examiners and articulate lucidly, cogently, and substantively a range of concepts, ideas, hypotheses, theories, and empirical generalizations with which one has had to grapple in one’s coursework since being admitted to the program. There is no expectation in the oral examination that students will be able to elucidate soundly topics that lie beyond the scope of the 18 graduate credits that they have taken in the department.

Students who pass the comprehensive examination are permitted to continue toward the Ph.D. degree. Failing the examination will result in a recommendation by the department to the Graduate School for the student’s academic dismissal. The Comprehensive Examination is not repeatable. Students will be given practice questions in advance of the examination.

Language or Mathematics/Statistics Proficiency
Students are expected to complete the Ph.D. program with proficiency in a language other than English and/or in mathematics/statistics. Students may satisfy the language requirement by passing a translation examination administered by a faculty member, or by completing, with a grade of C or better, the final course in a four-semester sequence in a language approved by the department. Native speakers of a departmentally approved language may petition the graduate advisor for an exemption to the foreign language requirement.

Suggested proficiency in mathematics/statistics is indicated by completion of three courses at the upper-division level (numbered 300 and above or requiring junior standing) with at least a B average.

The language or mathematics/statistics proficiency requirement must be completed prior to the doctoral preliminary examinations in the students’ fields of concentration.

The Next Four Semesters
The Ph.D. degree requires the completion of 54 graduate credits–48 credits of coursework, and 6 dissertation credits. Students may count up to a maximum of six (6) credits in dual level, undergraduate/graduate (U/G), courses toward the degree. A graduate student who enters the program with a baccalaureate degree and who is able to devote full time to academic study will ordinarily complete the degree in six years or less.

The Doctoral Preliminary Examination
The Ph.D. preliminary examination is a written one. Accordingly, students will write doctoral preliminary examinations in two (2) of their three fields of concentration, must pass both of those examinations with a grade of at least a B. The department will award at its discretion, a “pass with Distinction,” to students who have done outstanding work on the preliminary examination as a whole. To be eligible to take the preliminary examination, which is administered in the fall and spring semesters of each academic year, student must:

  • be registered and have a GPA of at least 3.0 (B), at the time of the examination;
  • have completed all coursework–there shall be no incompletes (Is) at the time of the examination;
  • have satisfied the foreign language or mathematics/statistics requirement;
  • have fulfilled all residency requirements; and
  • have secured, in addition to their primary departmental adviser, a secondary adviser from outside the department should they plan to use their extra- departmental field of concentration as one of the two written examination fields.

The preliminary examination in both departmental concentrations will be administered by three (3) members of the department’s graduate faculty. Students who offer a field of concentration from outside the department as the second of two written-examination fields will have their examination administered by their secondary adviser, and two additional graduate faculty members with whom they have worked. Satisfactory completion of the written examinations requires a grade of B or better on each examination.

Should a student fail the preliminary examination, an opportunity to retake it in the next examination cycle will be given. If a student fails the examination a second time, the Graduate Studies Director will make a recommendation to the Graduate School for the student’s academic dismissal. Students who pass the preliminary examinations shall proceed to prepare a dissertation prospectus.

[The preliminary examinations must be taken within five years of enrollment in the Ph.D. program by full-time students.]

The Final Five Semesters

After successfully completing the preliminary examination, students are encouraged to make one presentation to the department’s faculty as a whole in the Departmental Faculty Colloquium Series. The purpose of the presentation is to: I) refine a student’s knowledge of a given subject; 2) socialize students in the rigors of making a scholarly presentation on one’s research before future peers; and 3) prepare students for the demands of interviews for future jobs.

Typically, a student will prepare a 30 to 35-page paper, which may have originated as a paper for a given course, with the advice and assistance of his/her adviser and a member of the faculty with expertise in the subject matter of the individual’s research. The paper will be reviewed by three (3) members of the graduate faculty, which typically will be the Director of Graduate Studies, the student’s adviser, and another member of the faculty.

A student will not be judged to either have passed or failed the presentation. Rather, s/he will be given constructive comments concerning the substance and style of his/her presentation. Generally, each colloquium will last for two (2) hours.

Dissertation Committee
A student’s dissertation committee shall consist of faculty members who teach on the graduate level, including his/her major professor. All dissertation committees shall be chaired by faculty members of the Department of Africology, and shall consist of at least three (3) members, one of whom may be from outside the department.

Dissertation Prospectus
Proposal Hearing (See the Ph.D. Section of the Graduate School’s website for further information and application.)

Prior to undertaking research for one’s dissertation, a student is required to prepare a dissertation prospectus/proposal, with the advice and consent of his/her adviser and Dissertation Committee. It must be emphasized here that a student’s adviser is absolutely critical to the successful, and timely, completion of his/her dissertation. Approval of the dissertation prospectus ordinarily should occur within two semesters after one’s Preliminary Examination.

The prospectus provides the Dissertation Committee with a conceptual framework of a student’s proposed dissertation, proves that the student has a strongly supported research plan, and signals that s/he is prepared adequately to embark upon independent data collection and/or qualitative analysis. The prospectus– which should be approximately 25-30 pages–is designed to assist a student in clarifying his/her own thoughts in regard to a specific research project that s/he intends to pursue. It must frame lucidly and cogently a specific subject on which the student plans to do original research, methods of inquiry, as well as how that research will be executed, for example, the collection of data/evidence. A student is required to work closely with his/her adviser in clearing away what is generally called conceptual underbrush in the preparation of the prospectus, as well as in developing important empirical markers where these are essential to the successful completion of the dissertation. The prospectus also must include an abstract of the individual chapters of the proposed dissertation. Once a student’s Dissertation Committee has approved the prospectus, s/he may begin work on the dissertation proper.

Dissertator Status
(See the Ph.D. Section of the Graduate School’s website for further information and application.)

Specific requirements which must be completed before a doctoral student qualifies for dissertator status are described in the Graduate School Doctoral Requirements page.

The dissertation, representing original research and must be of publishable quality. Typically, dissertations go through several drafts. As soon as a student feels comfortable with a chapter, s/he should present it to his/her adviser, who should review it within a month of having received it, and return it to the student promptly. It is not advisable for a student to present one’s dissertation to his/her adviser in toto, and is discouraged strongly by the Graduate Studies Committee.

According to UWM Policies and Procedures, students undertaking research which utilizes human subjects MUST have the project approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to collecting any data or contacting any potential study participants.

In the semester that a student expects to complete his/her dissertation, s/he shall submit to the Graduate School an application for doctoral graduation. Once a student’s dissertation has been approved by his/her adviser and Dissertation Committee, the document, in approved Graduate-School format, is ready to be filed with the Graduate School. There is no oral defense of the dissertation. Approval of the dissertation by the student’s Dissertation Committee satisfies the final requirement for the Ph.D. degree.

Time Limit
It is expected that students entering the program with a baccalaureate degree should normally complete their Ph.D. degree within six (6) years. However, because circumstances beyond a student’s control may prevent completion of requirements according to this timeline, students will be granted a maximum of ten years to complete the degree.

Financial Support
The Department of Africology strives to provide funding for as many of its graduate students as possible. All first-year, full-time students typically are funded. Continuing students are encouraged strongly, and are assisted by the faculty, to apply for extramural funds. Moreover, the department works hard to underwrite the cost of basic living expenses, plus tuition and fees for all of its full-time students through the on-time completion of the preliminary examination, that is, the fourth year. Teaching assistantships and fellowships are the primary means through which full-time students are funded. Dissertators are expected to seek extramural funding, as well as enter campus-wide competitions for dissertation funds. The department will, though, upon request, advise full-time dissertators on dissertation grants, an additional year of teaching assistantship, or helping them to secure parttime appointments in nearby institutions.

On a competitive basis, the department will provide limited support to students for research-related expenses, as well as the cost of travel to professional conferences to deliver papers. Some support also will be afforded students to attend professional conferences for the purpose of securing employment, once their dissertations are nearing completion.

UWM’s Graduate School provides links to funding opportunities on its website. Students are encouraged to keep in close touch with their advisers, and the Director of Graduate Studies, about sources of funds, and the timely application for them.

Teaching Assistants
Teaching assistants will be evaluated at the end of each semester through the use of classroom visitations, student evaluations, and self-evaluations. Reappointments are contingent on those evaluations.

Each academic year, on the advice of the Graduate Studies Committee, the Department of Africology may award a certificate and a prize of $1000.00 to a full-time, second-year student who has shown truly exceptional promise, through his/her work and conduct, in advancing toward the Ph.D. degree.

At a department’s Faculty Award Banquet, and on the advice of Graduate Studies Committee, the department may make an award of $500.00 and offer a certificate to a first-year student whose coursework has been deemed to be particularly notable.

Among the many responsibilities of a department to its graduate students are funding and placement, once a student has completed his/her degree. It is thus of the utmost importance that students seek faculty counsel to be highly competitive in an extremely competitive marketplace by helping them to write superb dissertations, attend and read papers at professional conferences regularly, and publish one or more papers in refereed journals.

A student’s dissertation adviser has an especially important role to play in helping the student to develop networks of relationships nationally by exposing them to colleagues at national and regional conferences, and through joint publications in refereed journals. It is crucial for faculty members to call out to colleagues around the academy, as well as elsewhere, dissertators who would make strong additions to their respective departments and institutions. But placement in academic institutions is not the only option for dissertators. A range of opportunities is open in both the public and the private sectors of the society, and it is the responsibility of a student’s dissertation adviser, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the faculty at large to keep abreast of those opportunities in relation to the specific competencies of given students, and assist in every way possible to link up those students with the available opportunities. Students, of course, also have a responsibility to seek out opportunities by themselves.

The Director of Graduate Studies coordinates the department’s placement activities. As the placement coordinator, the Director of Graduate Studies will hold meetings with dissertators about interviewing to academic, as well as nonacademic, jobs; assist them in the preparation of attractive, compelling curriculum vitae; hold mock interviews; help them in preparing distinctive letters of application; and alert them to the importance of securing letters of recommendation that call out their particular strengths and distinctiveness. Students who plan to enter the job market in the fall should have their dossiers (curriculum vitae, transcripts, samples of their writing, and teaching portfolios) filed with the Director of Graduate Studies by the end of summer.

This handbook has been prepared for the purpose of providing graduate students with clear and distinct markers concerning the department’s expectations of them, and reciprocally, what they should expect of the department. It will be revised from time to time with input from faculty and students. In the meantime, each student should consult it regularly, along with his/her adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies. The faculty trusts that you will have a highly productive and satisfying six-year stay in the department.