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MIRS: African Studies Specialization

The African studies specialization of the Masters in International and Regional Studies (MIRS) is designed for students seeking to gain advanced, interdisciplinary knowledge in the field of African studies. The specialization offers courses in African languages, literature, arts, history, politics, law and economics but also public health, environmental studies, and development from across the university's many schools and colleges. The comprehensive but flexible curriculum of the specialization provides a solid foundation for those students wishing to volunteer or work on the African continent, to serve in government, or to pursue a doctoral degree.

Anchored in the African Studies Center (ASC), the MIRS African studies specialization draws upon ASC’s strategic guidance and coordination for Africa-related research and programming on campus, and on the continent. Founded in 2008, the center serves as a conduit for the university’s many Africa initiatives in the sciences, arts, humanities, social sciences, engineering, medicine, and related fields. With the support of ASC, the university’s prestigious faculty who specialize in the study of Africa have formed institutional and individual partnerships with faculty based in Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, Mozambique, Ethiopia and many other African countries; they have hosted seminars and conferences on Africa related topics as diverse as politics, public health, the arts, medicine, engineering and more; and conducted research with graduate students on the continent of Africa.  

Curriculum (36 credits)

MIRS students will complete a total of 36 credits, distributed over at least two academic disciplines, at the 400-level or above. 27 of these credits are determined by the specialization. The remaining 9 credits are required for all MIRS students. MIRS requirements include two core courses and a graduate colloquium. In addition, MIRS students will have access to a graduate professional development workshop.

MIRS Requirements (9 credits)

Core Courses

  • Research Design Seminar: Students will sharpen critical thinking, analytical skills, research design, and writing strategies. (3 credits)
  • Capstone: To complete the program, students will dedicate effort to their capstone, either in research, coursework, or work experience related to their subplan. Select one of the below options: (4 credits)
    • Master’s Thesis: research project supervised by a faculty member
    • Additional Research Seminars: completion of graduate seminars with a substantial independent research component
    • Practicum: internship or work experience related to the subplan combined with a related academic component

Graduate Colloquium

Students will participate in two semesters of engaged discussions covering topics of global significance, including programs (guest lectures and relevant events) and participation in moderated online and in-person discussions. (2 credits)

African Studies Specialization Requirements (27 credits)

In addition to the general MIRS requirements, the African studies specialization has the following requirements:

  • AAS 600: Pro-Seminar on Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Africa (3 credits)

  • Intermediate level proficiency in a language, other than English, that is relevant to the study of Africa.  This requirement can be fulfilled with proficiency in an African language or another language spoken on the continent.  The language requirement can be met by:

    • coursework (up to 9 of the total 36 credits in the MIRS degree), or

    • proficiency as demonstrated through a method mutually agreed upon between the student and the ASC MIRS representative (e.g., proficiency test).

  • The remaining credits are filled by courses selected in consultation with the ASC’s MIRS representative from all the Africa related offerings at U-M to ensure a well-balanced program of course that meets the student’s interests and professional goals.

For more information, contact