NU appoints new Af-Am studies chair

Janette Neuwahl

After two years of temporary leaders, the African-American studies department has named a permanent chairman for next fall.

Dwight McBride, head of University of Illinois-Chicago’s African-American studies department, will move north to take over Northwestern’s department in September.

McBride’s hiring, which has been in the works since fall 2001, comes as a result of current African-American studies chairwoman Mary Pattillo’s plans to leave for a fellowship at Stanford University. Already committed to leaving, Pattillo took the post knowing she would only serve a one-year term.

McBride was hired for a four-year term. He said he was informed about the position during the summer. He said he didn’t consider the offer until relations between UIC’s administration and the department began to sour.

“When (NU) came back to me in October I was interested in what (they) had to offer in terms of building a strong African-American studies intellectual presence,” McBride said.

Pattillo said the department received 15 applications and selected McBride from their five finalists.

“He has experience being the chair of an African-American studies department,” Pattillo said. “That’s really important for knowing what he’s getting into, and we’re also enthused by his vision for the department.”

McBride’s plans include taking advantage of Chicago’s black culture by collaborating on programs with other universities. He aims to bring more scholars to campus for lectures, improve recruitment techniques for majors and minors, and start a graduate program in African-American studies.

“He has a lot of energy and is a top-notch scholar,” Pattillo said. “He’s researched slave narratives, has been instrumental in cultural studies and is beginning to do scholarship on racial sexuality in a new field called black queer studies.”

McBride said his first task will be to hire more professors.

“Right now the faculty is terribly understaffed,” he said.

McBride said he looks forward to working with an administration that is more open to his academic field.

“There’s a lot of respect for the enterprise of African-American studies and I feel like at this juncture, Northwestern is able to make that commitment because of its unprecedented support to the department,” McBride said. “I’m confident that I will be able to make some extraordinary changes.”

Though he did not meet McBride, African-American studies major Brian Budzicz said he appreciates the emphasis the department gave to student opinion during the search process.

“It demonstrates their commitment to students and it’s nice to know that professors are interested in what students think about the people that will shape the department,” said Budzicz, a Weinberg senior and former Daily columnist.