News | Academics

Ethnic studies majors merge as center grows

When major declaration starts next month, the new major offered by the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race may attract more attention, and students, than before.

Asian American studies, comparative ethnic studies, and Latino/a studies—which CSER previously offered as three separate majors—have now merged into the new ethnic studies major, and CSER Director Frances Negron-Muntaner said that she expects an increase in the number of students majoring at the center this year.

“It is our impression, based on the data that we have seen to date, that the total number of students majoring at CSER slightly increased over the last year,” Negron-Muntaner said.

This restructuring of CSER has also led both to new classes and to faculty hiring, with nearly three times as many courses available to CSER students now than there were two years ago.

In the 2008-09 academic year, Columbia College awarded nine degrees or concentrations in comparative ethnic studies, four in Asian American studies, and three in Latino studies. In the 2009-10 year, five degrees or concentrations were awarded in both comparative ethnic studies and Latino studies.

According to Negron-Muntaner, there are currently about 40 relevant courses available per semester, including cross-listed courses.

CSER is also adding faculty. The center is looking to hire two tenured professors, one to teach about the history of Spanish borderlands and the other to teach about Asian American transnational literature.

Negron-Muntaner said the new hires will give the center nine core faculty members, its most ever, and allow it to offer four new courses per year.

“CSER now also has more students than comparable centers and institutes at Columbia,” Negron-Muntaner said. “This means that also, for the first time in CSER’s history, the vast majority of core faculty will be tenured.”

The new major is founded on three common classes, including courses called “Colonization/Decolonization” and “Modes of Inquiry.” Ethnic studies majors will also specialize either in the three former majors of Asian American studies, Latino/a studies, or comparative ethnic studies, or in one of two new tracks: Native American studies/indigenous studies and an individualized track.

Students said that the restructuring has encouraged them to choose the ethnic studies major.

For Camilia Fuentes, GS ’12, who is planning to declare as an ethnic studies major, said the new major is a chance to pursue a more individualized course of study.

“I am excited to learn how to become a researcher, to really broaden the scope of understanding in ways that the old track did not allow,” Fuentes said. “The new track allows me to tailor the ethnic studies major to follow my true interests and find answers to those burning questions that attracted me to the major in the first place.”

For Denise Abad, CC ’13, who plans to major in ethnic studies, the choice has more to do with her personal interests.

“I want to be an immigration lawyer, and I should be more knowledgeable about different races,” Abad said. “I actually didn’t know it was restructured until I started talking to different students about it. But some of the same classes are still offered and I can still specialize in Latino studies, which I like.”


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