AACAE changes name to Umoja Center for Pan African Student Excellence

What was previously the African American Center for Academic Excellence is now the Umoja Center for Pan African Student Excellence. This change comes six years after the center first opened in 2015.

Douglas Smith, the center’s coordinator gained some feedback from the student community that some students within the Pan African diaspora did not feel included under the previous name.

“It’s making sure that if you’re Haitian, you’re still a part of the center,” Smith said. “If you’re Afro-Latina, you’re still part of the center.”

The name was inspired by the seven principles of Nguzo Saba, with Umoja being the principle of Unity. Smith shared that it goes beyond changing the name — it’s about living out the meaning of the name.

“As the coordinator, I wanted the center and the student assistants who work in the center, that when they engage with the community, and as a team — that culture be at the forefront, that we be culturally rooted in what we are doing,” Smith said.

Student assistants Kory Lamberts, Imari Washington and DiOria Woods all worked during this transition to engage with the student community in choosing a name. Through time, they helped create the name that is now Umoja Center for Pan African Student Excellence.

“It’s symbolic to how we’re trying to get everyone included and actually make these spaces for us,” Lamberts said. “Changing the name to Pan African Student Excellence shows a decolonized view of us as people.”

According to Smith, the hope is that the Umoja Center can provide students a community and an experience where they can access culturally rooted skills and values that create new perspectives and paradigm shifts in support of their individual success as scholars, and collectively as an African diasporic community on the North Coast, the U.S. and the world.

Starting Sept. 13, the Umoja Center will be open Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m – 3 p.m. Students are encouraged to tap into the center’s Instagram @umojahsu for more information on upcoming events.

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