Longtime EWU faculty member Scott Finnie, PhD, will step aside as director of the Africana Studies Program and focus on teaching, while Senior Lecturer Angela Schwendiman will take over director duties, effective July 1.
Finnie, who has been at Eastern since 1992 and is the recipient of more than 20 awards for excellence in teaching, leadership, civil rights and mentoring, has been program director since 2014 and says it’s the right time to resume full-time teaching duties.
“And that (the classroom) is my place of passion, my calling, and it’s not a job and that’s where I’ve always wanted to be,” says Finnie.
Since taking over as director, Finnie is proud of bringing stability to the program as well as overseeing growth in student enrollment and other key initiatives. That list includes the development of an interdisciplinary BA in Africana Studies that he hopes will soon be a stand-alone degree; the creation of a Diversity & Inclusion Certificate; as well as the development of a new Diversity & Inclusion online professional development platform for high school staff.
But he’s especially excited about the 1,000 Mile Civil Rights Tour he started in 2019, one that involved a spring break trip with Eastern students to visit historical landmarks in the Deep South. Finnie says this annual event – interrupted by COVID – is a game-changer for Eastern just as the country is addressing key racial issues.
“It has turned things around when it comes to visibility of Eastern, visibility of the program, and across different majors,” says Finnie, who notes the trip has not only inspired students but faculty and staff outside his department as well.
“I am immensely thankful we had Scott Finnie serving as the director of Africana Studies the last seven years,” says Jonathan Anderson, dean of the College of Social Sciences. “During his tenure, the program has grown with the development of the interdisciplinary degree, the expansion of their College in the High School program, and an increased presence in the community.”
As for the next chapter, Anderson says the program will be in great hands. “I am thrilled that Angela Schwendiman will be stepping into the director’s role,” says Anderson. “Angela possesses the expertise and passion to continue to drive our Africana Studies Program forward.”
Schwendiman, who will continue her duties as director of the Faculty Commons, has worked alongside Finnie for 17 years, and is looking forward to building on the program’s strong foundation.
“I am excited for this opportunity,” says Schwendiman. “And I look forward to working with students and everyone who has an interest in the success of historically marginalized and diverse communities.”
Schwendiman credits Finnie with creating a lasting legacy for himself and the program.
“Anyone with any knowledge of the program’s history knows and understands that the Africana Studies Program at Eastern Washington University has become synonymous with Scott Finnie,” she says. “He has been its most sought after and recognizable professor as well as the face of the program for nearly 30 years. Students flock to Scott for his warmth, humor, and knowledge of African American history.”
Schwendiman says the change in leadership will present her with the challenge and the opportunity to create new curricular and other types of partnerships throughout campus, and expand Africana Studies’ footprint within the local economy and Spokane communities.
And Finnie plans to continue to support Schwendiman in these efforts.
“The transition will be completely transparent,” adds Finnie. “We’re both excited about where it is now and where it could go under her leadership.”