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Howard University’s Ph.D. Political Science Program Celebrates 50 Years

By Maya McCollum, Politics Reporter (@Maya_BlakeM)  

On Thursday, Sept. 21, Howard University’s Political Science Department hosted a panel and reception to celebrate 50 years of alumni earning doctoral degrees and producing and publishing scholarly work. It is the “strongest program on campus” according to Dr. Clarence Lusane, graduate of the program and the current chair of the Political Science Department.  The Howard Political Science Ph.D. program has graduates all over the world and has sent scholars into many fields of work.

Majority of the faculty in attendance were Ph.D. graduates that returned to teach at Howard after teaching at other prestigious universities and colleges around the country, such as Duke and University of Michigan.

Dr. Fauntroy, Ph.D., began planning this program a year ago, after the 30th Anniversary of the Ralph Bunche Center at Howard University. He wanted to “create a network of scholars to fuel positive thoughts to help the world.” The theme of the program was “What Happens Now at 50 Years Later?”

Fauntroy planned the panel with Ph.D. alumnni Dr. Ryan Walters and Dr. Paula McClain. McClain is a triple Howard graduate, receiving her bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. from Howard. Walters received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of California and completed his Ph.D. at Howard. Dr. Lusane led the discussion, asking questions regarding the graduates’ time at Howard and black politics and for advice they could give to future Ph.D. graduates.

McClain spoke of the sexism that was rampant in the Ph.D. program during her time here, going as far as quoting Walters on something he said to her in a moment of “levity,” where he questioned why she was there and not married. She said she hoped the program had improved in that regard and many women in the room scoffed in response.

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Furthermore, Walters spoke about the conflicting schools of thought among those that taught him. He talked of learning about “black liberation theory” directly from those who first coined the term, “Marxism” from the communists and politics from his white professors. He also talked about the tension of the time between those schools of thought and how the atmosphere of the world was reflected at Howard.

The event concluded with a discussion about the effects that the last two presidents have had on black politics.

“Trump was a conundrum unlike they had ever seen before,” said Walters. “Obama was a good president for the country but a bad president for black people,”  

After questions from students about the Ph.D. program and advice for the future, the program closed with this thought: “The most important voices in the future will be from the Howard Political Science program.”


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