Visiting professor tabbed as first director of African-American Studies Program

Tracy Deutmeyer

Iowa State alumna Valerie Grim has been appointed the first interim director of African-American studies at ISU.

“I’m very excited about the appointment and I am very hopeful about the possibilities of the African-American Studies Program here because there is tremendous support from the students, faculty and staff and administrators here,” Grim said.

After an unsuccessful search for a director last fall, Grim was chosen early this year. She will serve as interim director through 1998. She is also involved with the search for a permanent director.

Grim, a visiting professor in the history department last semester, was an associate professor of African-American studies at Indiana University before coming to ISU.

She earned a master’s degree in 1986 and her Ph.D. in 1990, both from ISU. It was the first integrated school Grim attended. She is working on a manuscript on African-American rural culture in the Mississippi Delta region.

Grim said her first goal is to find a permanent director for the program. She has launched a national search for the post.

Grim said she also wants to make African-American studies programming visible to ISU, the Ames community and the Midwest.

In addition, Grim said she wants “serious curriculum development to take place.” She said members of a steering committee hope to form five to eight courses by next spring in literature, science, policy and political science. She said 200-level to 400-level courses will be available.

African-American student leaders were quick to praise Grim’s appointment.

“We’re glad to see it happen, and we think she’ll do a great job and we hope they give her the resources to work with,” said Milton McGriff, spokesman for The September 29th Movement.

Since her appointment, Grim has established a lecture series for the program, organized an African-American essay contest and started to organize a residential hall forum.

Derrick Rollins, diversity adviser to ISU President Martin Jischke’s cabinet and former chairman of the program, said Grim is a solid choice.

“I guess you could say she is a die-hard,” Rollins said.

The African-American Studies Program, just a few years old, has never had a director. “There is a big difference between and chair and a director. The expectations are a lot higher for a director,” Rollins said. “She [Grim] is a scholar, a good teacher and has good administrative skills. She has the respect of her peers and administrators.”

ISU officials said they hope a program director will help speed the implementation of an African-American studies major. Students can now only earn an African-American studies minor.