Bowie State University will break ground in offering anew academic minor program in hip-hop studies and visual culture – the first such program in Maryland and possibly only the second in the nation. The new minor will be available in the fall 2016 semester.
The oldest historically black university in Maryland, Bowie State joins a movement of some the nation’s top colleges and universities that offer hip-hop studies courses and programs. The program’s curriculum will draw on the arts, technology, media, history, and literature to expand opportunities for critical discussion, collaborative research and creative projects. Students will engage with hip-hop scholars, artists and pioneers through guest lectures, hands-on workshops and fieldtrips.
“We are trying to encourage critical research. Hip-hop is not just music: it’s a culture,” said Associate Professor Tewodross Melchishua, coordinator of Bowie State’s visual communication and digital media arts (VCDMA) program. An award-winning filmmaker, animator and visual artist, Melchishua is a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, founded by hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa – it is the first and oldest hip-hop awareness organization. Since 2008, he has taught hip-hop visual culture at Bowie State, the university’s only hip-hop-based course.
Three new courses developed by Bowie State faculty will explore hip-hop’s roots in African and African-American culture and its societal impact, while developing projects that span multiple academic disciplines. Melchishua designed a hip-hop studio course focused on visual arts design. Renowned hip-hop scholar, musician and author Dr. William Smith created a course exploring black contemporary music and its impact on society. Helen Hayes Award-nominated playwright, director and actor Greg Morrison will teach a hip-hop theater course he developed to introduce students a unique form of musical theater.
Bowie State students have already produced scholarly works on hip-hop studies. Amber Matthews, a senior majoring in VCDMA, researched educators who integrate hip-hop music and culture into their lessons. “By understanding hip-hop and the possibilities of incorporating it into education for the youth inside and outside the classroom, the potential to create positive change is boundless,” she said.
Melchishua says that a student in any discipline could benefit from studying hip-hop culture. “Hip-hop studies can complement any existing area of study from education to marketing to technology or cultural studies,” he said. “Hip hop is universal – it brings together a lot of diverse people from around the world.”