Orange Alert

A&S Names Interim Chair of the Department of African American Studies

Professor James Haywood Rolling Jr., a faculty member of SOE, will serve a two-year term as interim chair of AAS.

May 1, 2024, by Dan Bernardi

James Rolling Jr.
Professor James Haywood Rolling Jr. has been appointed interim chair of the Department of African American Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The College of Arts and Sciences has appointed James Haywood Rolling Jr. as the interim chair of the Department of African American Studies (AAS). A faculty member at Syracuse University since 2007, Rolling is currently professor of arts education in the School of Education (SOE) and previously held a dual appointment in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). He will continue his commitment to SOE while serving as interim chair. He is also an affiliated faculty of AAS and the Lender Center for Social Justice as well as an alumnus of Syracuse, where he earned an M.F.A. in studio arts research while studying as a graduate fellow in AAS.

During his teaching tenure at Syracuse University, Rolling has established himself as a steadfast leader, innovator and facilitator. His unwavering commitment to social justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and community-engaged scholarship has led to key interdisciplinary collaborations and curriculum enhancements.

As chair of arts education in VPA, Rolling orchestrated major facilities upgrades; founded the 4A Arts & Creative Literacies Academy, a grant-funded campus community partnership with Dr. Edwin E. Weeks Elementary School in the Syracuse City School District; and expanded the scope of VPA’s curriculum to include visual arts, design, media arts education and STEAM. As co-director of the Lender Center for Social Justice from 2021 to 2023, he helped facilitate a faculty and student fellowship program supporting collaborative research and engagement related to issues of social justice. In recognition of that work, the Center was awarded a $2.8 million MetLife grant to help expand their programming and engagement within the local community.

Rolling’s scholarly interests, which lie at the intersection of arts-based and narrative research methods, creative leadership and community-engaged scholarship, will help to expand existing collaborations and advance scholarship and the curriculum within AAS. His established connections with the Lender Center, SOE and VPA will also help the department forge new partnerships between faculty and students in AAS with other researchers across the University. And his expertise and past work in arts-based community engagement will help to enrich programming and initiatives at the Community Folk Art Center (CFAC), a cultural and artistic hub committed to the promotion and development of artists of the African Diaspora. A unit of AAS, CFAC hosts exhibitions, film screenings, gallery talks, workshops and courses in the studio arts, including dance and ceramics.

In addition to his leadership roles at Syracuse, Rolling has also held administrative positions with major national organizations. He served as the 37th President of the National Art Education Association (NAEA), a professional membership group for visual art and design, media arts, museum educators and teaching artists. As president-elect of NAEA, he convened the first standing NAEA Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) Commission with a network of liaisons in this essential work across most of the United States. During his tenure, NAEA also won an $8.5 million grant from the Department of Education to establish a five-year learning laboratory project intended to explore and investigate teacher competencies in the areas of arts and social and emotional learning, arts and diversity, equity and inclusion and arts and creative leadership. He was also a founding member of the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums, an organization which aims to amplify Black voices within U.S. art museums to make those institutions more equitable.

A&S Dean Behzad Mortazavi notes that Rolling’s extensive network, both nationally and on campus, will enhance scholarly opportunities for faculty and students within the department.

“I’m confident that this powerful blend of leadership experience, interdisciplinary scholarship, and academic and alumni affiliation make James an exceptionally qualified person to lead our Department of African American Studies,” says Mortazavi. “I greatly look forward to working with him, department faculty and our associate deans to guide and support a department whose relevance and contributions figure prominently in the lives of our students, alumni and campus.”

Rolling’s two-year appointment begins on May 8, 2024.


James Rolling Jr. Interim Department Chair and Professor

Media Contact

Dan Bernardi