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Africana Studies Program - Academic Excellence Award
An educator for more than half a century, Dr. James E. Walton retired from Fresno State as chair emeritus of both English and Africana Studies in 2018. Dr. Walton was a model teacher encouraging students to grow and achieve their best selves, intellectually and holistically, linking academic excellence to personal and community engagement. Dr. Walton promoted and mentored the Fresno State Gospel Choir and supported student-centered events such as the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. student conference on campus hosted by the Africana Studies Program. With Dr. Malik Simba, Dr. Walton brought many notable speakers to campus including Spike Lee, Donna Brazile, Cornel West, Eugene Robinson, Susan Taylor (editor-in-chief of Essence), and Quintard Taylor (founder of Blackpast.org). For multiple years Dr. Walton taught as an exchange professor in Osaka, Japan, and Seoul, South Korea, and he always shared his love for cross-cultural understanding through his teaching. Dr. Walton passed away at the age of 74 in 2019, and he is still deeply missed.
To recognize his contributions to student achievement at Fresno State, the Africana Studies Program is launching an academic excellence award named in his honor.
Dr. Walton specialized in American literature especially the contributions of Black writers, and he published scholarship on James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Chester Himes, and Malcolm X. Dr. Walton taught the value of important lessons from Black history, as well as the elegance and precision of writing well. He long served as adviser to Uhuru Na Umoja, the Black student newspaper on campus to mentor and guide students to make a positive impact with their own creative activities.
Your gift impacts student success
Your gift will help us build an award program that promotes student success at Fresno State by concretely recognizing academic excellence. With this award, we can pass on the lessons Dr. Walton taught us – demonstrating that knowledge is power and that service is a legacy. As Toni Morrison wrote, “The function of freedom is to free someone else.”
The faculty of the Africana Studies Program will choose an outstanding graduating senior every year based on a GPA of 3.0 or more and the student's accomplishments and contributions to the campus and/or the Fresno community.
The outstanding undergraduate senior will be honored with a $500 award for Academic Excellence at an annual reception hosted by the Dean of the College of Social Sciences.
The Africana Studies faculty will also choose a principle of Kawaida theory to recognize each student’s particular gifts and strengths: Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity); and Imani (Faith).
Project Leaders: Dr. Malik Simba, Dr. Meta Schettler, Dr. Marvita Gowdy, Prof. Thomas Whit-Ellis
Additional Team Members: Adjoa Aikins, Dr. Cheng Lok Chua, Dr. Diane Blair
Administrative Support: Sherri Smith, AFRS Program