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African Studies (Cluster and Certificate)

The Program of African Studies (PAS) is the oldest African Studies program in the United States. Founded in 1948, PAS enjoys a unique legacy of sponsoring research on Africa, training students in African Studies, and facilitating the involvement of Northwestern’s departments and schools in the African continent.

PAS was conceived as an interdisciplinary program, spanning the whole range of academic disciplines. This African Studies Cluster and Certificate supplements these efforts and supports graduate training among students interested in African Studies by providing:

  • A common coursework structure integrated with students’ departmental curricula.
  • Resources for student research, including travel abroad.
  • Interdisciplinary venues to present work in progress and to receive feedback from faculty and fellow students.
  • Opportunities for collaborative research.

The program features a core group of faculty internationally renowned for research in topics related to the African continent.

Programs and events

We organize many events throughout the year, such as lectures with visiting scholars and conferences. Most seminars are open to graduate students across the University. We encourage all students, faculty and staff of Northwestern to learn more about our research and activities by participating in our public events.

Who should apply?

Doctoral candidates from any field are eligible to apply to join this intellectual “home” outside their department. Past participants have come from the following programs:

  • Anthropology
  • Art History
  • Comparative Literary Studies
  • English
  • French and Italian
  • History
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Religion
  • Sociology
  • Spanish and Portuguese
  • Theatre and Drama

How to apply

Prospective students interested in participating in this cluster or certificate should indicate their interest when they apply to their respective graduate programs.

Current students should contact Evan Mwangi at

Who to contact

Please contact the program director, listed below, with questions about this program. Or, explore the Program of African Studies website for more information.

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.


All PAS Cluster fellows are Ph.D. candidates in currently constituted departments and therefore must complete all of the standard requirements of their chosen department. They use the standard five elective courses that most departments allow to complete the course requirements for the PAS Cluster. These courses will enable students to develop competencies in theoretical approaches and research skills that are relevant to their substantive analyses in their research.

To receive certification, students must complete five PAS courses in addition to their core departmental requirements. At least one of these five courses must come from each of the following three areas.

  • Interdisciplinary substantive expertise. Students will continue to need to develop expertise on substantive topics relevant to their research interests (either about specific countries or specific disciplinary topics), in consultation with their advisors. At least one course must be taken from outside the student’s home department (including Northwestern University departments, or at other universities which are members of the CIC).  These courses are intended to ensure that PAS students develop substantive interdisciplinary expertise in their area of research.
  • Language competence. Students will need to develop language skills for areas and cultures in which they will conduct research. 
  • Other competencies to be negotiated with the PAS faculty

Non-course requirements 

Fellows also develop their interdisciplinary skills by participating in a number of fora sponsored by PAS and the Buffett Institute.

  • Buffett Institute. Students will participate in events and meetings linked to the PAS program at the Buffett Institute.
  • Afrisem Workshop. Students attend and participate in the weekly Afrisem series.
  • Quarterly Meetings. The full body of PAS advisors and students meets once a quarter for discussion, debate, and sociability. At least one of these meetings will be a proposal writing workshop for third and fourth year students.


In addition to fulfilling the graduate degree requirements of another specific department, students must complete six courses with African content designed for graduate-level study. At least two of the six courses must be taken in departments other than that of the student's primary academic program.

Other graduate certificate requirements

  • Demonstrated linguistic or African language competence.