Students gather around an African drum


Our Philosophy

Founded at an HBCU, Scholars Studio embraces its African and African American cultural roots. We invite you to learn more about how we orient our work.

  • Ubuntu Image
    "I am because we are"


    Ubuntu comes from the Zulu/Xhosa language and is often translated, "I am because we are" or alternatively, "I am because you are." Ubuntu recognizes our interdependence while also respecting self-determination. It is both a philosophy and a way of life that helps us remain oriented to how we shape one another.

    Unfortunately, in higher education, individualism is often valued over community. We are probably all familiar with the cliché of the professor standing at the front of the room, imploring the class to look to the left and to the right and register that half of the class will be gone by the end of the year. This demonstration is intended to engender fear and competition among students. The truth is, we don't learn well when we're fearful and alone. In Scholars Studio, we flip the narrative and encourage students to look to the left and to the right and ensure that everyone makes it to the end. We are intentional about cultivating relationships and working cooperatively, and we operate with an ethic of mutual respect.

    We define "community" broadly and extend the definition to ideas and other aspects of academic pursuits. Rather than thinking about disciplines as distinct units, it’s helpful to recognize how they work together to bolster our understanding of the world. Barnett calls this approach an “ecology of knowledge” and situates academic disciplines within the ecology of the university and the world the university serves. Using the ecology metaphor, disciplines need one another to thrive. Science and humanities, for example, are not in competition with one another. Rather, they uncover different aspects of a unified inquiry: they help us understand the universe and our place in it. Barnett calls this form of inquiry a “wisdom inquiry." Scholars Studio engages students in interdisciplinary inquiries, a process that illuminates connections and contextualizes learning.

  • Sesa Wo Suban
    "Change your character" (personal transformation and reflection)

    Sesa Wo Suban

    Sesa Wo Suban is an Adinkra symbol composed of a star that represents a new day and a wheel that symbolizes initiative and moving forward. Together they indicate personal transformation and reflection. In Scholars Studio, we believe that education is only transformational when it is a process of self-discovery, empowerment, and growth, and we structure Studios to facilitate those processes. Drawing on African wisdom and tradition, we use ceremonies and circles to signify transition, build community, affirm self-worth, and repair harm. We offer a supportive network of mentors and faculty to provide guidance and facilitate reflection. Moreover, we recognize the brilliance in our scholars and leverage rich learning with accountability to help them realize their potential.

  • Sankofa Bird
    "Go back and get it"


    Sankofa is an Andinkra symbol from the Akan people of Ghana. It is often depicted as a bird with its head turned backward, clutching an egg. It represents the importance of connecting with one's roots in order to build a strong future. Scholars Studio immerses students in the rich wisdom of their ancestors, illuminating how Black people have fundamentally shaped history, culture, and American democracy; and how, in turn, this wisdom might be used to build a loving, healthy and just future.

    Scholars Studio has toured W.E.B. DuBois' Seventh Ward in Philadelphia, visited Harriet Tubman's birthplace in Cambridge, MD, flown to Harvard University's Hip Hop Archive in Cambridge, MA; met with Black CEOs, scientists, historians, and educators; read works by Carter G. Woodson and Michelle Alexander, among others, and much more.

    We welcome people from all backgrounds and believe that the systematic absence of Black history in U.S. education represents a troubling form of miseducation for all of us, and that we are, indeed, all richer for understanding a more complex, diverse, and accurate narrative.