Chairperson Appointed for African American & African Studies

Ruth Nicole Brown has been appointed as the Inaugural Chairperson for the Department of African American and African Studies (AAAS) at Michigan State University, effective July 1, 2020. She currently is an Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I’m overjoyed about joining MSU as the Inaugural Chairperson of African American and African Studies,” Brown said. “The call for visionary leadership and demonstrated success with community engagement in the AAAS Department with core areas of Feminisms, Genders, and Sexualities Studies absolutely speaks directly to my skillset and aligns with my long term of desire for Black Studies that meets the urgent demands of our times with radical imagination and soulfulness.” 

A Conrad Humanities Scholar (2018-2023), Brown has devoted her career to engaged scholarship with Black girls to create new worlds with, ask questions of, and celebrate Black girlhood. Her research documents, analyzes, and interrogates Black girls’ lived experience and explores the gender and racialized power dynamics of collectivity, particularly as it relates to Black girlhood. 

woman wearing a gray top smiling at the camera
Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown


“The appointment of Dr. Brown as the Inaugural Chair of the Department of African American and African Studies in the College of Arts & Letters marks a critical milestone in the history of Michigan State University,” said Christopher P. Long, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters. “An internationally recognized leader in Black Girlhood Studies, Dr. Brown brings visionary leadership to our new department that will shape the lives of students for generations to come. She has a proven record of curriculum and program development, inclusive leadership, and transformative community-engaged practice that will establish the intellectual substance and imaginative power of Black and Africana Studies at the heart of the mission of the College of Arts & Letters. We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Brown to our community.”

Brown’s research, community engagement, and artistic practice all mutually reinforce each other.

“As a scholar-artist, my leadership vision is enhanced by collectivity and collaboration,” she said, “always doing work I am most proud of so that those I encounter and possibly inspire are prepared and ready to do theirs – whatever it is, wherever it takes them.” 

The appointment of Dr. Brown as the Inaugural Chair of the Department of African American and African Studies in the College of Arts & Letters marks a critical milestone in the history of Michigan State University.

CHRISTOPHER P. LONG, DEAN OF THE COLLEGE OF ARTS & LETTERS

Brown founded Black Girl Genius Week (BGGW), a structured set of in-school and public activities centered on humanistic inquiry that amplifies the collective power of Black girls, recognizing them as experts of their own lived experience, fostering deep critical thinking skills and creative practices, and exemplifying genius. A Whiting Foundation Public Engagement Fellow (2018-2019), Brown used the fellowship to expand the BGGW series of humanities-based workshops for African-American middle- and high-school girls to Chicago, Illinois, and Columbia, South Carolina.

Her book, Hear Our Truths: The Creative Potential of Black Girlhood, documents the pedagogy of creating spaces where Black girls can come together and be who they want to be. It is a closer look into Brown’s involvement with Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths (SOLHOT), a collective space she founded in 2006 to respond to a need for spaces where Black girls and women are seen and valued by each other. SOLHOT is a community space where Black girls can come together and celebrate the multiple meanings of Black girlhood for the purpose of liberation.

I take the College of Arts & Letters value-driven leadership and Culture of Care very seriously and believe that the cultural change needed at every level depends on life-affirming Black Studies scholarship.

DR. RUTH NICOLE BROWN

“I take the College of Arts & Letters value-driven leadership and Culture of Care very seriously and believe that the cultural change needed at every level depends on life-affirming Black Studies scholarship,” Brown said. “My research on Black Girlhood Studies, developed from my 14-year practice of celebrating Black girls in SOLHOT, has taught me that vanguard approaches to knowledge production require courage, integrity, and a willingness to see beyond the moment with the right amount of humility and audacity. I look forward to building AAAS with faculty, students, staff, community members, and administrators who are also motivated by deep desires for a vibrantly engaged, creative, and collectively oriented department.”

Brown earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan and has graduate certificates in World Performance Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies.