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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Rennie Simson named chair of SU's African American studies

Longtime AAS professor also has illustrious history at SUNY

July 20, 2010, by Rob Enslin

Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences has appointed Renate (“Rennie”) Simson, a scholar and teacher of 19th-century African American literature, as chair of the Department of African American Studies. Simson succeeds Professor William Cole, who retired in June.

Simson has been a member of AAS since 1979, when the program became an academic department.

“Rennie is an excellent teacher-scholar and has been one of the most important contributors to the success of our African American studies department,” says Arts and Sciences Dean George M. Langford. “She is also a capable administrator, as evidenced by her fine work at SU and at other institutions.” In addition to SU, Simson chaired both the English department at Morrisville State College from 1984 to 1993 and SUNY’s statewide undergraduate program and policy committee from 1987 to 1990.

As the AAS Undergraduate Studies Committee chair, Simson worked with The Renee Crown University Honors Program to integrate AAS into the program and to promote the inclusion of AAS majors. She is presently establishing graduate and undergraduate exchange programs between SU and the University of Graz (Austria).

Simson has published more than 30 articles and chapters and has given more than 50 presentations at conferences throughout the country and in Austria. Her longtime interest in the inequalities of New York State public schools led to a self-published book in 2007. “The book focuses mainly on public education, and presents a lot of stats and commentary on the disparities between African American and Whites, as well as between rich and poor,” writes Simson, who retired from Morrisville State as a full professor in 1995. “I use the information for my classes, but the students don’t have to purchase the book. It’s just something I wanted to do.” 

Arts and Sciences is SU’s liberal arts college, emphasizing interdisciplinary learning, research, service, and enterprise. The College’s three academic divisions—sciences/mathematics, humanities, and social sciences—house 22 departments that offer more than 50 majors, 40 minors, and 30 master’s and Ph.D. programs. More information is available at