Kean University launches visionary new Center for African Studies

Kean University, the state’s urban research university, represents a major step toward educational equity and cultural understanding.

Today they announced the creation of the new Center for African Studies on the first day Black History Month.

“…to become a leading resource for scientific research, community engagement…”

Housed in the College of Education, the Center is designed to become a leading resource for scholarly research, community engagement, and educational programming, particularly in support of New Jersey Amistad Curriculum for K-12 Students.

President Keanu Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D. said the center aligns with the university’s core values ​​as a foundational institution in New Jersey.

“This new center embodies the university’s commitment to equity and service to our state, especially our urban communities,” said Repollet, who leads one of the nation’s most diverse universities. “All young people deserve to know their past. We are committed to creating the best and most effective curricula and programs to ensure they fully understand history, which will help them shape the future.”

The center’s initial goal will be to develop educational programs to help public schools implement the state’s Amistad curriculum, which mandates teaching about the African slave trade, slavery in the Americas, and the many contributions Africans have made to American society.

“The establishment of the Center for Africana Studies at Kean University marks a significant step in our ongoing commitment to promote educational equity and strengthen communities across the state,” said Shavonda Sumter ’96, chair New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus. “As a Kean graduate, I am very proud to witness my alma mater lead this vital initiative to deepen our collective understanding and appreciation of African heritage and to enhance the state’s cultural landscape for the benefit of all.”

Sancha K. Gray, Ed.D., acting dean of the College of Education and former superintendent of the Asbury Park School District, said many districts are struggling to find resources and training to support the Amistad curriculum, which dates back more than 20 years. . The center will begin offering teacher training later this year.

“This center will be a building block for cultural understanding in our state, and I am so pleased that the College of Education will be a part of its work,” Gray said. “As the state’s urban research university, Kean will draw on expertise from across the university and across the country to help New Jersey students receive an equitable and inclusive education.”

“…brings a wealth of community experience to the role…”

David Jefferson Jr., Ed.D., who previously led the university’s faith-based initiatives, will serve as the Center’s interim director, bringing a wealth of community experience to the role. The Center’s launch event will be held on campus on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 and will be open to the public. More details will be shared in the coming weeks.

“The new Center for Africana Studies provides Kean with an excellent opportunity to become a resource and authority on the tremendously rich history of African Americans,” said Linda Lewis, vice chair of the Kean University Board of Trustees and retired educator. “The Amistad Act is one of the most neglected, yet essential pieces of legislation. Its implementation in an organized, cooperative and cohesive manner is long overdue. The center will be a wonderful contribution to learning across the K-12 curriculum.”

The Center is not only an academic initiative, but also a community catalyst, offering cultural and historical programs, including traveling exhibitions, to a wide audience, including educators, students and the general public. New Jersey.

Donna M. Chiera ’76, ’96 MA, President of the American Federation of Teachers New JerseyThe center underscores the critical role universities play in partnering with and strengthening the state’s K-12 school system.

“This collaborative partnership between higher education and K-12 institutions sets the standard for how we can together offer a more inclusive education that reflects the unique experiences and histories of all students,” Chiera said. “It is remarkable that Kean uses his wealth of knowledge and expertise not only to support his own community, but also to provide invaluable resources to K-12 teachers and students in New Jersey.”

In addition to its community work, the center will bring together scholars to support Kean’s African Studies minor, housed in the Department of General Education and Interdisciplinary Studies. Minor director Kalasia Ojeh, Ph.D., will serve as a member of the Center’s advisory board, which will include other prominent African scholars.

“…determined to bring her professional knowledge to the development of culturally responsible pedagogy…”

Kean Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David S. Birdsell, Ph.D., said Kean is committed to bringing his expertise in developing culturally responsive pedagogy and programming to all young people around the world. New Jersey and for.

“This initiative is a bridge between academia and the wider community and enriches our collective understanding of history and culture,” said Birdsell. “It’s about creating a more inclusive narrative that resonates with all students and lays the groundwork for a future where diversity and understanding are at the heart of education.”

Kean University

Kean University, New Jersey an urban research university, is a national higher education institution recognized for the diversity, innovation and social mobility of its graduates. Founded in 1855 as a teacher training college, Kean has evolved into a thriving research university that supports students who persevere to graduation, give back to their communities, and launch successful careers.

Kean’s six colleges offer more than 50 bachelor’s degree programs, six doctoral degree programs, and more than 70 options leading to master’s degrees, professional diplomas, or certifications in a wide range of academic subjects. With campuses in Union, Toms River and Manahawkin, New Jersey, and Wenzhou, China, as well as Kean Online, the university provides students of all backgrounds with an affordable and accessible world-class education. Learn more at

Photo credit: Kean University, the state’s urban research university, announced the creation of a new Center for Africana Studies today on the first day of Black History Month to support the implementation of New Jersey’s Amistad curriculum in K-12 schools. (Photo by Kean Hall/Kean University).

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