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Press Release

Revamped Department Spikes Enrollment at Metro State

Enrollment up 56 percent in African and African American Studies Department

Posted: September 20, 2007

(Denver, Colo.) — Numbers are up in the African and African American Studies (AAS) Department at Metropolitan State College of Denver according to the Census Fall 2007 report released by the Office of Institutional Research on Monday, Sept. 10. The report shows that enrollment for full-time equivalent students in the department is up 56 percent over last fall, the largest percentage increase of any department.

According to Akbarali Thobhani, interim department chair and emeritus Professor of African American Studies at Metro State, the increase can be attributed to a “variety of factors from the addition of African studies in late 2005 to enriched classroom experiences that not only take you out of the classroom, but to other states and abroad for first-hand experiences.”

One such class is the “Gullah Experience” taught by Professor Ella Maria Ray. It offers students the experience of visiting African descendants living along the coastline of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. It’s an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the Gullah culture beyond the realm of textbooks, films and class lectures. In November, the class will travel to St. Helena Island and the Penn Center in South Carolina and also to Savannah, Ga.

“The commitment of this faculty is tremendous,” says Ray. “We really want students to leave Metro with a kind of academic rigor that will allow them to be anywhere. But beyond that we want them to have a deep understanding of the vastness of humanity.”

In that effort, this past summer, 16 Metro State students traveled to Kenya on a month-long study abroad program organized by assistant professors Lucas Shamala and Derrick Hudson. The group studied politics and culture, in part, by visiting universities and museums, volunteering at an orphanage and listening to Kenyan politicians speak. One result of that trip was a campus visit and keynote presentation by presidential candidate, the Honorable Raila Odinga on September 11.

These ongoing events play a major role in marketing of the department according to Thobhani. “The events continue to build bridges in the community.”

Thobhani also attributes increased enrollment to the fact that many AAS courses fulfill general studies requirements in four categories: multicultural, historical, arts and letters, and social sciences. “That connection provides a tremendous support base,” says Thobhani. “Initially, there were students that resisted having to take a multicultural class, but a number of students have since come to me and other faculty to tell us how pleased they were for the exposure to a different set of knowledge.”


About Metropolitan State College of Denver

Metro State is a fully-accredited, four-year institution, serving more than 21,000 students. It has the second-largest undergraduate enrollment in Colorado and is one of the largest four-year public colleges in the nation. Metro State enrolls the highest number of students of color among four-year colleges in the state. It boasts 60,000 alumni, 90 percent of whom stay in Colorado after graduation. Visit Metro State at

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