by Leah Jackson

Northwestern State University’s Department of Criminal Justice, History and Social Sciences is introducing new concentrations of study that will complement existing programs and offer a more in-depth understanding of the experiences, histories, cultures and scholarship of Black and Indigenous peoples.  Beginning with the Spring 2022 semester, students can select courses that will apply towards a minor in Black studies and American Indian and Indigenous studies. The new minors complement existing programs in Creole studies, anthropology, sociology, political science, legal studies and other offerings.

The programs are being created largely in response to requests from students and communities, according to Dr. Rebecca Riall, anthropologist and assistant professor.  Riall is also an attorney and coordinates the pre-law and paralegal studies programs. She said eventually the curriculum could expand to include Latin@, Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander courses. The courses will involve research and open, respectful discussion, she said.

“These are interdisciplinary minors that can be woven into many degree programs on campus for careers in law enforcement, museum curation, park work, education, marketing, tribal work, business and human resources, social work, psychology and students who want to work with specific communities,” Riall said. “This is also a movement toward meeting student demand.”

Riall said the Black studies and American Indian and Indigenous studies curricula and their delivery are designed with input from those communities and will evolve as faculty consult with Louisiana’s four federally recognized Native American nations and other communities. She and other faculty are working towards developing certificate credentials in tribal law enforcement and unified public safety administration. The department is currently hiring an expert in African-American history to direct Black studies and teach new courses in African American History. Prof. Ramona Wynder is building a Black Studies Advisory Council.

A few of the course offerings include Survey of Race in the U.S., African American History, Black British Writers, Geography of Africa, Slavery in the Americas, American Jazz Beginnings, History of African Music, North American Indians, North American Prehistory, Survey of American Indian Languages and more.  The courses apply to credits in anthropology, sociology, English, geography, music, history and other disciplines.  The courses might also be of interest to pre-law students who wish to study Civil Rights law from different perspectives.

“Depending on what courses a student has already taken, they may already have credits towards the minors,” Riall said.

“I am very proud of the work being done to elevate the academic status of ethnic studies,” said Dr. Michael Snowden, vice president for Inclusion and Diversity.  “The Black and Indigenous studies align with objective two of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan.  The objective reads as follows – Integrating diversity and inclusion throughout the academic curriculum and support programs.” 

“These new concentrations reflect our continuing mission to be responsive to the needs of our students, our communities and our larger world,” said Department Head Dr. Mark O. Melder.  “Acknowledging the need for programs that specifically address the diversity of cultures that make up our social landscape reaffirms the mission and vision of the university. I am proud of the hard work by our faculty to bring these to life for our current and future students, working to innovate and focus on the future.”

Students can register for the classes when spring registration opens. Contact Riall for more information at  or (318) 357-6963. 

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