Since beginning his five-year appointment as the new director of the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University in July, Don C. Ohadike has worked to enhance the 30-year-old center's position academically as well as socially.
Plans for an expansion of the center's library and conference room with the addition of a multipurpose room are moving apace, said Ohadike, the associate professor of Africana studies who succeeded James Turner as director. Turner was the center's founding director from 1969 to 1986 and its most recent director from 1996 to 2001.
"I accepted my appointment as the director of the Africana Studies and Research Center, not to re-invent the wheel, but to strengthen the foundation that my predecessors had built," Ohadike said. "I believe that Africana should forge greater ties and understanding with the other units on the Cornell campus; I strongly believe also that the other units will reciprocate."
Plans for the center include expansion of the J.H. Clarke Library and the Hoyt-Fuller conference room and the addition of a multipurpose room large enough to accommodate 150 students, Ohadike said. Deadlines for completion of the expansion are not set. The center houses approximately five full-time staff, nine core faculty and three non-core faculty members. Undergraduates can receive a degree or certificate in Africana studies, and the center also offers a master's degree. There are 15 undergraduates and 18 graduate students now majoring in Africana studies at Cornell.
Growing interest in the field of Africana studies and the evolution of black studies at American universities in general have influenced the relationship of the Africana Center to the Cornell community.
"With globalization, the world is getting smaller and the black world is attracting a lot of attention. The politics of isolation or division are giving way to that of development and reconciliation," said Ohadike. "This center was founded during the civil rights movement, and black studies in America and at Cornell were created through the politics of agitation. After 30 years, we are moving away from the politics of agitation to that of consolidation and understanding."
One of Ohadike's tasks, in conjunction with Africana faculty and the university, is to review the core curriculum of the center and to adjust it to reflect current trends in the world.
Ohadike was born in Nigeria and joined the Cornell faculty in 1989 following appointments as a visiting scholar at Northwestern and Stanford universities. He earned a B.A. in history and archaeology from the University of Nigeria in 1975 and an M.A. in history at the University of Birmingham, England, in 1977. He later returned to Nigeria to earn a doctorate in history from the University of Jos in 1984, where he later taught and served as history department chair before coming to the United States in 1987.
He has served on the Faculty Programs in Residential Communities Committee at Cornell since 1998 and has been a Campus Life faculty fellow (from 1990 to 1998) and a Faculty-in-Residence since 1989. In the fall semester of 2000, he received an Outstanding Faculty of the Year Award from the Interfraternity Council, the Multicultural Greek Letter Council and the Panhellenic Association. He greatly enjoys his close associations with students and shares his love of African music with undergraduates at informal social gatherings on campus.
He is the author of five books, including: Anioma: A Social History of the Western Igbo People (Ohio University Press, 1994) and a forthcoming work Pan-African Culture of Resistance: A History of Liberation Movements in African and the Diaspora . He also wrote the introduction to Things Fall Apart , the acclaimed novel by African writer Chinua Achebe. Ohadike's essays and articles on African history and politics, among other subjects, have been widely published and anthologized, and he has presented dozens of scholarly papers at numerous seminars and conferences.
Ohadike is a member of the African Studies Association, the American Historical Association and the African Heritage Studies Association, among others. He also is a faculty member of the Africana studies graduate field and a member of the center's Committee on Human Relations. He has taught a variety of courses during his Cornell career, among them: The History of African Political Thought, Black Intellectual Traditions, and African Cultures and Civilizations.