Dr. Michael C. Mason Named Inaugural Chair of Africana Studies Department

The higher education professional recently served as chair of Berklee’s Liberal Arts and Sciences Department. 

February 8, 2023
Mike Mason

Dr. Michael C. Mason

Berklee is pleased to announce Dr. Michael C. Mason as the newly appointed inaugural chair of the Africana Studies Department. Mason most recently served as chair of the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department.

“Mike’s tremendous success as an academic leader at Berklee prepared him well as he takes the lead on developing our forthcoming B.A. in Black music and culture and expands our curricular offerings across our expanding Berklee learning environments,” says Emmett G. Price III, dean of the Africana Studies Division. “Mike’s vision for graduate studies will soon emerge as a trendsetting model with the discipline of Africana studies and beyond.”

In this role, Mason will collaborate with all Berklee campuses and learning environments (Berklee College of Music, Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Berklee NYC, Berklee Valencia, and Berklee Online) regarding the impact of the global African diaspora on arts and culture. His top priorities include building the curriculum for a Bachelor of Arts in Black music and culture, which is planned for fall 2024, as well as designing future master's degrees in Africana studies.

"I am honored to serve as the inaugural chair for Africana studies at Berklee,” says Mason. “I am grateful to the faculty, students, and staff (both past and present) who, over the years, laid the foundation for an Africana studies department and division. I am also happy to have worked with faculty emeritus Dr. Bill Banfield who oversaw Africana studies when it was an initiative housed in the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department.”

Mason, who has worked at Berklee in several key roles for the past 17 years, has set in motion several plans and events for spring 2023, including the creation of a theater residency in cooperation with the Conservatory's Theater Division. The artist in residence will be actor Forrest McClendon, who received a Tony Award nomination for his role in the musical The Scottsboro Boys in 2011. McClendon is also known for his recent performance in Thoughts of a Colored Man, the first Broadway show in history to star and be written, directed, and produced by Black artists.

The Africana Studies Division will also host a lecture on Black art by Dr. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, the George W. and Kathleen I. Gibbs director and CEO at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida. Dr. Barnwell Brownlee is the former director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, and her work has historically focused on the promotion of female African American artists.

Beginning in fall 2023, the division will offer the courses Women in Africa and African Diasporic Cultures, Black Liberation Music, and the Sugar Road: A Sweet and Sour History of the African Diaspora to students at both the College and the Conservatory.

As chair of the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department, Dr. Mason's accomplishments include creating an antiracism teach-in series as a response to the death of George Floyd and the hate crimes against individuals of Asian descent; expanding the science curriculum; and hiring Berklee’s first astrophysicist.

Dr. Mason serves as cochair of Berklee’s institutional review board; is a member of the Berklee diversity, equity, and inclusion council; and is an accreditation evaluator for the New England Commission for Higher Education (NECHE). He is also a member of the board of trustees and executive committee for Saint John’s Preparatory School in Danvers, Massachusetts, and a member of the board of directors for the Dorchester Historical Society in Boston.

A native of Baltimore, Mason holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Loyola University Maryland; a master’s degree in K–12 educational administration; and a Ph.D. in higher educational administration from the Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College. He also served as an administrative fellow at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.

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