125 Stanford Stories

NO. 73
Stanford Today

African Studies @ 50: Academic hub, supportive home

Sade Stevens, '17, Tebello Qhotsokoane, '16, and Center for African Studies program coordinator Ariane Khalfa
Alex Nana-Sinkam
Professor Richard Roberts, the Susan Ford Dorsey Director of Stanford's Center for African Studies.
Alex Nana-Sinkam
Valerie Garcia, '19
Alex Nana-Sinkam
Professor Robert Siegel, a center affiliate, holds appointments in the departments of microbiology and immunology.
Alex Nana-Sinkam
Fatoumata Seck, PhD '15.
Alex Nana-Sinkam
Natasha Mmonatau ’15, MA ’17; undergraduate Wandipa Mualefhe and Katlo Gasewagae, '17.
Alex Nana-Sinkam
Oludamini Ogunnaike, postdoctoral fellow in Islam in Africa
Alex Nana-Sinkam
Laura Hubbard, associate director of the Center for African Studies, and Saida Ali, '16
Alex Nana-Sinkam
Abdramane Diabate, undergraduate in economics.
Alex Nana-Sinkam

“The most important thing to remember about Africa is there is no one Africa.”

 – History Professor Richard Roberts, Faculty Director, Stanford Center for African Studies

Stanford’s Center for African Studies is simultaneously a place of rigor and one of support and acceptance. It’s a home, says Associate Director Laura Hubbard – a spiritual and intellectual home where great talents meet, uniqueness is nurtured and futures become real.

For 50 years, the interdisciplinary center has fostered research and teaching on all aspects of Africa, from biomedical research to language study. A center of Stanford Global Studies, it offers an undergraduate certificate and minor, an MA degree, a graduate certificate and a joint JD/MA degree with Stanford Law School.

Alumni include National Security Advisor Susan Rice, ’86; Jendayi Frazer, ’85, MA ’89, PhD ’94, former U.S. ambassador to South Africa and assistant secretary of state for African affairs; and Omphemetse Mooki, ’92, the first black South African Rhodes Scholar.

“From the beginning, I felt loved, and I loved the presence that I felt in this place. It’s my home away from home.”

 – Claus Omolo, ’18

To the center’s academic interdisciplinarity is added its goal of welcoming Stanford students and scholars who share an interest in Africa, whatever their discipline. The social and intellectual mix makes the Center for African Studies an especially lively and diverse place.

“Other places sometimes ask us, ‘How do you guys do that?’” Atheel Elmalik, ’15, told the Stanford Daily. “It’s so much work — it’s caring on a very deep level about people not just as intellectuals, but about their personal lives, about how their personal [and] political lives intersect.”

“It’s also the one place on campus that I’ve been able to have those brave conversations that are quite hard to have outside of this space.”

 – Tebello Qhotsokoane, ’16

The center’s weekly Africa Table brings people together over lunch for guest speakers, faculty research and student capstone projects. An African Cultural Show led by student groups has been a tradition since the 1960s. On average, the center hosts 120 events a year.

The center facilitates undergraduate research and service projects in Africa, often in synergy with the Bing Overseas Study Program’s Cape Town campus.

Read more about the center’s 50-year impact here.

Photographer Alex Nana-Sinkam, ’13, MA ’14, captured the essence of the Center for African Studies community during a November 2015 event anticipating the center’s 50th anniversary. Nana-Sinkam’s images, including those in this slideshow, will be on exhibit at the center through 2016. A book with her images and reflections from the center community is forthcoming in September 2016.