Specializing in African Studies

We encourage students looking to focus their professional degree program research on the continent, to explore obtaining a Graduate Certificate in African Studies. Find out more below!

Graduate Certificate Degree Requirements

Candidates for the GCAS must fulfill four requirements.

  1. Coursework: three Africa-focused courses
  2. Interdisciplinarity: demonstrated through one of two pathways
  3. Field Research/ Practice:  one quarter (or equivalent) of research or practice in Africa
  4. Summary Statement: Submit three pages

1. Coursework - the certificate requires three courses with a focus on Africa

Students will complete three courses that focus on Africa. CAS will keep a list of pre-approved graduate courses that fulfill this requirement but students may also be permitted to petition in advance for a particular graduate course to count towards this requirement. Only in exceptional circumstances approved by the Director will students be allowed to petition for a course to count after having completed the course. The criterion for approval will be the degree to which the course focuses on Africa.  To be eligible, courses should have at least 50% Africa content.  At the discretion of the Director, courses with at least 33% Africa content that also allow students to complete a final project that focuses on Africa may also be considered.  A “graduate-level” course is defined as a course generally targeted primarily at graduate students and numbered accordingly, although such courses may occasionally also allow undergraduates to enroll.  


2. Interdiscplinarity - Since African Studies is an interdisciplinary field, the GCAS rewards students who have demonstrated interdisciplinarity in coursework and research.  Applicants may fulfill interdisciplinary requirements through coursework or research pathways.


  • Interdisciplinarity through coursework:  Students must complete graduate-level courses that focus primarily or exclusively on Africa while illustrating engagement outside of their home department or primary departmental methodological concentration. Students in MD, MBA or JS programs and PhD students in schools other than H&S must take three courses with a concentration on Africa, two of which should be in departments other than their major ones. For PhD students in H&S departments in which there are distinctive methodological tracks, students may take two of the required three courses concentrating on Africa in tracks other than their primary one.  At least one course must be taken outside of the major department.
  • Interdisciplinarity through research:  A student may also demonstrate interdisciplinarity through extended research, such as a PhD dissertation that fully embraces several disciplines in the research and analysis of the dissertation project.  The bar for demonstrating such interdisciplinarity is not merely the citation of a wide corpus of literature from different disciplines, but the active use of different disciplines in the research itself.  The student must address how she actively used different disciplinary approaches and methodologies in her research in the summary statement.

3. Field research/practice - One quarter or equivalent of research or practice in Africa

Students must spend at least one quarter or equivalent time, such as a summer of 8 weeks or more, in residence in Africa either carrying out significant original research or engaged in professional-level practice relevant to their degree program. Upon return from such a stay candidates must complete and return to CAS a “field research/practice report” form documenting the dates and nature of their activities during the field research/practice stint. This form must be signed by the student’s advisor or equivalent.


4. Summary statement - Submit statement of relevance

Before graduating, GCAS candidates must provide CAS with a three-page (1000 wd) statement describing the relevance of the Africa-related course of study, interdisciplinarity, and field research/practice to their professional development. The statement should explain in detail how course content and field work activities directly connect to professional goals AND how their future professional activities are likely to contribute to the enhancement of African Studies as an academic endeavor.



The certificate in African Studies is issued by the Center for African Studies and does not appear on any University record, including the student’s transcript. For more information and an application, contact the center.