Distinguished Majors Program in African American and African Studies

About the Distinguished Majors Program (DMP)

The Distinguished Majors Program in African American and African Studies affords qualified students the opportunity to do advanced research, and to receive, at graduation, the honor of “Distinction”, “High Distinction” or "Highest Distinction." Third-year students with a superior academic record are encouraged to apply.


Entry into the DMP Program

  •        All applicants must be third-year students who have achieved a GPA of 3.40 in all coursework prior to application for the program.
  •        All applicants must have the agreement of a thesis supervisor. The supervisor can be any faculty member who offers courses that count toward the AAS major. The thesis supervisor must agree to direct the thesis research in the fall and spring semesters of the applicant’s fourth year.
  •        All applicants must have another faculty member’s agreement to serve as second reader. The second reader must be a fulltime academic or general faculty member who teaches courses at UVa.


Applying to the DMP

Application to the DMP should be made to the Director of the Distinguished Majors Program, Professor Sabrina Pendergrass, by completing the application form and submitting a one-page proposal and plus a list of five-to-ten relevant sources.

Application should be made to the DMP Director, Professor Sabrina Pendergrass, and copied to AAS DUP, Lisa Shutt, by March 31st.  Admission to the DMP is decided by the AAS Curriculum Committee.

DMP Application (pdf)


Completing the Distinguished Majors Program

Completing the Distinguished Majors Program and eligibility for graduation honors hinges on the successful achievement of the following CLAS and AAS terms:

  •   Satisfaction of all CLAS requirements as stated in the Undergraduate Record with an overall GPA of at least 3.40.
  •   Fulfillment of the distribution requirements for the normal AAS major.
  •   Successful completion of at least six credits of course work at or above the 4000-level, in addition to the six credits specific to preparation of the thesis, outlined in #4, below.
  •   Enrollment in and completion of AAS 4070 (Directed Research) with the DMP Director in the first semester of the fourth year. In the second semester, students register for AAS 4080 (Thesis) with their advisor.
  •   Participation in five workshops led by the DMP director over the course of the year.  Prior to each workshop, students will circulate electronic versions of their drafts and prepare feedback on one another’s work. The student must submit copies of all work presented in the workshops to the thesis supervisor.
  •   Timely submission of a thesis of approximately 40 pages in length to the thesis supervisor and second reader no later than the last day of spring semester classes for Spring graduation.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are Distinguished Majors exempted from any College graduation requirements?

A: No. You must complete all the area requirements listed in the Undergraduate Record, and all the requirements for the AAS major.

Q: Are Distinguished Majors exempted from the 4000-level seminar-with-a-research paper required of “regular” AAS majors?

A: No. See question 1.

Q: If I write my thesis on an Africa-related topic, does that exempt me from the Non-Western Perspectives requirement?

A: No. See question 1.

Q: Are AAS 4070 (Directed Research) and AAS 4080 (Thesis) taken in addition to the nine courses required for the “regular” major?

A: No, not necessarily. The DMP comprises a minimum of 29 credits, just like the regular AAS major. Most students may need to take more than 29 credits, however, to fulfill the distribution requirements of the major and the research and thesis components of the DMP.

Q: Who chooses my thesis supervisor and my second reader?

A: You do.

Q: Must the supervisor and the second reader be faculty members?

A: Yes. The thesis supervisor and second reader must be fulltime academic or general faculty who teach courses at UVA.

Q: How long should my thesis be?

A: Your thesis should be approximately 8,000 words or 40 pages.  

Q: Who grades my thesis?

A: Your thesis supervisor will assign your grade for AAS 4070 (Directed Research, taken in the fall) and AAS 4080 (Thesis, taken in the spring). The supervisor will inform the DMP Director of the student’s grade; the DMP Director will then submit the grade to the Registrar.

Q: Who determines whether or not I will be awarded honors and if so, what level of distinction I will be awarded?

A: Your supervisor and second reader will make that determination, in consultation with the DMP Director, and in light of your entire academic record.

Q: Is there an "official" deadline when the thesis is due to my supervisor for grading?

A: Yes. The last day of class instruction for the spring semester in which AAS 4080 is taken.

Q: What if I plan to graduate in August?

A: Your thesis must be submitted to your thesis supervisor and second reader no later than May 20. Be sure to inform them early in the spring if you plan to graduate in August rather than May.

Q: How soon should my thesis supervisor submit his report to the DMP Director?

A: The supervisor should plan to submit his/her report to the DMP Director on the first Friday after the last day of class instruction. If that is not possible, alternative arrangements can be made with the DMP Director at the Woodson Institute (4-3109). Note that late reports may mean that your level of distinction might not appear on the graduation program.


DMP Frequently Asked Questions (pdf)


“The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at http://records.ureg.virginia.edu/index.php.”