Last March, the University announced its hiring of two new professors, as well as a Florence Levy Kay fellow, as part of a cluster-hire initiative to improve studies on the African Diaspora. Prof. Jasmine Johnson joined the African and Afro-American Studies department and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program, while Prof. Gregory Childs joined the History department. Additionally, Prof. Derron Wallace (ED) was appointed to the Florence Levy Kay Fellowship as part of his postdoctoral studies. This board commends the recent hires, which signify Brandeis’ commitment to interdisciplinary and comprehensive learning in this critical field of study, as well as the University’s taking of a proactive role in a growing field.

This semester, Johnson is teaching “Performance and the Politics of Black Authenticity” while Childs teaches “Resistance and Revolution in Latin America and the Caribbean.” Johnson also plans to teach two classes next semester. Wallace is teaching “Critical Perspectives in Urban Education.”

The cluster-hire initiatives represent Brandeis’ commitment to build a diverse, interdisciplinary curriculum. Brandeis must uphold its reputation as an institution of innovative scholarly research.

In interviews with the Justice this week, Johnson and Childs explained the importance of expanding African Diaspora studies to include a more global analysis that compares different diaspora cases. Johnson’s interest in African Diaspora studies is based on the country’s oldest black-owned bookstore, started by her grandparents. Childs’ interest is based on an appreciation for 1990s hip-hop. Both these professors bring impressive scholarly backgrounds, as well as a personal connection, that already reflects their positive contribution to African Diaspora studies.  

African diaspora studies is a growing field, and Johnson’s curiosity influenced her interest in the topic. Johnson’s motivation stems from the status quo of “simply too many questions and not enough answers to resolve questions of black belonging, the meaning of home, and what it means to be dispossessed.”  

Wallace was drawn to Brandeis for its potential as a home for his field of scholarship. As he put it in an Aug. 27 BrandeisNOW article, “As I dug deeper and deeper, between the latitude of the position and the history here, all roads led to Brandeis.”

We hope the University continues to support and encourage new hires in critical subject areas, as well as diversifying the areas of study and classes available to students through the professors they hire. By employing individuals such as Johnson and Childs, the respective departments are enhancing their own programs as well as the reputation of the University.