Finding My Purpose in the New African American and African Studies Major

For Michigan State University sophomore Amber McAddley, her African American and African Studies (AAAS) major is helping her learn about herself and what it means to be “Black in America.”

After the new major launched last spring, McAddley became one of the first students at MSU to declare AAAS as their major. While also pursuing a minor in Spanish, McAddley said the AAAS major was exactly what she was looking for.

“It makes me really feel like I have a place here on campus,” she said. “It offers a sense of community. It’s super connected.”

Amber McAddley

When McAddley first came to MSU, she thought she would pursue a business major.

“I thought it (business) would be good and reassuring career-wise, but it lacked soul,” she said. “That was something I wanted to make sure my studies had — my heart in it. With African Studies, because it is so open, it dives into a lot of things that many people may not consider — it’s deep.”

Growing up in Canton, Michigan, McAddley said she didn’t have much diversity in her school. With the AAAS program, she said that has changed for her.

“Coming to a PWI [Predominantly White Institution] and also coming from a predominantly white hometown, I really wanted to learn more about what it meant to be Black because I felt such a disconnect,” she said. “Just walking into the class and seeing more than two or three Black people in class is comforting because being in Canton, Michigan, I was often the only Black person in my class.”

“I really wanted to learn more about what it meant to be Black because I felt such a disconnect. Just walking into the class and seeing more than two or three Black people in class is comforting.”

McAddley’s experience with the AAAS major also has helped her determine that she’d like to teach at MSU someday.

“I want to try to come back and allow other people to see that school is not just learning and it’s not just a career. It’s more so learning about yourself,” she said. “I want to come back and advocate for that.”

As McAddley continues to set herself apart, to her it’s meant a lot to be among the first cohort of AAAS majors.

“Everything’s new. It’s a clean slate,” she said. “And it’s just comforting to be a part of the first steps of it being offered.”

McAddley also invites others to see for themselves what the program is like.

“I think any person of any single major, if they were to take one class, they would learn a lot. It would benefit them in their career and diversity,” she said. “It offers a strong foundation regarding heart and soul. There’s no limit with this thing.”