Intersections event

Intersections Chairperson Jennie Purnell talks with African and African Diaspora Studies Director C. Shawn McGuffey. (Peter Julian)

The African and African Diaspora Studies program took center stage in Gasson 100 on February 4 at the third of four “Forefront Socials,” an Intersections program designed to encourage greater ties between Boston College faculty and their respective disciplines, and with the overall University mission of formative education.

AADS, elevated to a major this past fall and celebrating its golden anniversary, plays a critical, two-way role at BC, noted program director C. Shawn McGuffey, an associate professor of sociology. Students of African descent can feel isolated, he explained, and when there are incidents of racist behavior on campus, “the AADS office provides a safe place for black students and their allies to gather, to see themselves reflected in the space.

“We also connect AADS to Boston’s black communities in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Jamaica Plain through our courses and activities to better understand local pan-African histories and experiences,” he added.

When asked by a faculty member for suggestions on effectively integrating AADS issues and themes into another discipline, McGuffey said a Carroll School of Management class studying the 2009 recession could examine its disproportionate impact on black Americans, or a Connell School of Nursing professor might give a detailed description of the effect of violence and neglect on the human body—he cited the case of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager from Ferguson, Mo., who was shot and killed, and whose body was left unattended for four hours in the sun.

Reflecting on the event, McGuffey said, “The core of AADS is interdisciplinary, and we look forward to working with other programs and departments so that we can encourage students to think about intellectual intersections across the University and in their everyday lives.  

“Cultivating connections across disciplines and across schools can bolster our joint mission of developing smart, thoughtful, and ethical citizens of the world with an eye towards personal discernment and social justice.”

The “Forefront Social” is one of four initiatives annually organized by Intersections, a program of University Mission and Ministry, which helps faculty and staff explore BC’s Jesuit and Catholic mission while fostering a spirit of University citizenship that strengthens the institution. Intersections was founded in 2001 by Joseph A. Appleyard, S.J., the former vice president for University Mission and Ministry, and the late Howard J. Gray, S.J., the former director of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality.

“We are particularly interested in featuring professors who have been successful at integrating BC’s mission into their work in innovative and interesting ways,” said current Intersections Executive Director Burt Howell.  “The University is specialized, by nature, so we work to bring a more holistic and interconnected approach that blends the concerns of faculty disciplines with broader questions of personhood, social responsibility, and transcendent meaning.”

Phil Gloudemans | University Communications | February 2020