50 years of inspiration

African American Studies program builds community, shapes students

The African American Studies program celebrated 50 years in 2021. Three alumnae who took courses in the program share the impact of the program on their lives.

Salandra Bowman is a 2005 English and 2021 Ph.D. graduate, and the chief learning officer for SC ETV. During the spring semester of her freshman year, her adviser suggested she take a class in African American studies.

After earning her master’s degree from Ohio State University, she began a Ph.D. in Black Studies at Michigan. But she decided to come back home and enroll in a doctoral program at South Carolina.

As the chief learning officer for SC ETV, Bowman works to make society more accessible and integrate the voices of historically underrepresented groups.

“And all of that, it’s never left me,” she said. “All of that has informed me as a scholar, as a practitioner, as a member of my community and a member of my family. You cannot go through that type of program and not be changed. You cannot.”

Dr. Amartha Gore is a 2012 graduate of the African American studies program.

The Columbia native began her undergraduate career at the University of Miami and transferred to South Carolina during her sophomore year. At Miami, a professor encouraged her to change her major to African American Studies, and when she came to UofSC, she decided to pursue it.

“I thought that was really crazy at the time. Why would I want to do that if I’m going toward the sciences? And she actually blew my mind with the thought process. She said you can pursue whatever you want to pursue when it comes to professional careers. If anything, (majoring in AFAM Studies) will give you a better understanding of the populations you are probably going to be dealing with and it will shape the way you practice.”

Gore completed medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. She recently moved to Kansas with her husband and will work as an OB-GYN.

Hannah White will graduate from the South Carolina Honors College this May.

Her Honors College senior thesis is a documentary that tells the story of the contributions and impact of African American women on the University of South Carolina campus since 1963. She interviewed more than 20 women for the film.

“I learned to have so much gratitude for the place that I come from. For students, if you’re ambitious and you really want to just have an impact on other people’s lives or be successful, you think you have to check these certain boxes. So you hear people go to Harvard or put this title with their name in order to be worthy of doing something great. And I think this documentary demolishes that mindset,” she says. “I never, ever have been more proud to be a part of the University of South Carolina, specifically because of these Black women who have paved the way for me, spoke up, used their voice and made sure it was heard. And they have gone on to different things, breaking barriers in industries. It taught me that we made a bigger impact than I could ever imagine.”

Read the full story, written by Megan Sexton, on the university website.

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