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Department of African American Studies

Meet Prof. Qiana Whitted, our new AFAM Studies director:

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Meet our new AFAM Studies Director: Dr. Qiana Whitted

AFAM Studies’ new director, Prof. Qiana Whitted is an associate professor in the Department of English and African American Studies. She is a graduate of Hampton and Yale Universities. In her professorial role, Whitted specializes in 20th-Century African-American literature, cultural studies and American comic books. She is the co-chair of the International Comic Arts Forum (an annual conference in comics studies) and later this fall she will begin working as editor-in-chief of Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society. In March 2019 her book titled EC Comics: Race, Shock, and Society Protest will be published by Rutgers University Press. Shortly after moving in to the corner office, I talked with her about her vision for the AFAM Studies Program.

How long have you been a joint professor with AFAM, and what did you learn about the program that inspired you to want to be its next director?
Shortly after becoming a core faculty member in AFAM in 2010, I also began working as the program’s assistant director, primarily to advise students and update our curriculum. It was this experience – being able to meet each of our students personally, to guide their progress, and talk about their goals – that inspired me to become more involved. And as a scholar with a PhD in African American Studies, whose work crosses boundaries in literature, history, cultural studies and comic books, I have always enjoyed introducing my students to the ways that interdisciplinary study can deepen their learning experience and broaden their career prospects. 

It can be overwhelming to move into such a large role. How did you prepare, and did you come in with a set agenda of what you wanted to accomplish first?
I’m grateful for the model of leadership that Dr. Val Littlefield provided during her eight years as Director. Much of my preparation comes directly from seeing her in action. She worked tirelessly with students, faculty and community members who want to see AFAM Studies flourish. While I get up to speed on the policies and procedures of this new position, my agenda will be to build on Dr. Littlefield’s foundation with an emphasis on increasing the number of students who take our courses and continuing to raise the program’s visibility on campus.

What is your long-term vision for the program?

Building a student-focused, faculty-driven program is central to my long-term vision for AFAM Studies. I feel strongly that every USC student, no matter his or her race or major, should complete at least one course in African American Studies before graduation. Whether you are studying the freedom struggles of the past, the strategic indirection of African American humor, or the impact of racial microaggressions among millennials, a course in AFAM Studies offers invaluable insight into how to successfully navigate our world today. I’m also committed to helping more AFAM Studies majors and minors expand their educational opportunities beyond campus through community service, internships and study abroad. 
Now, for some fun! What is your favorite:

  • movie: I managed to see Black Panther five times this year!
  • ice cream flavor:Rocky Road 
  • super human power?One of my favorite comic book heroes is Swamp Thing– he’s made of plants and has the ability to make things grow at will. That would be a pretty awesome power.
  • Dinner with five people (past and present): who would you invite?James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jackie Ormes, Toni Morrison, and Michelle Obama.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.