brennan angel

As of Fall 2006, ‘comparative ethnic studies’ will be a new major offered at Cal Poly within the College of Liberal Arts.

The new major will give Cal Poly students the opportunity to study the historical development and social significance of race and ethnicity in the United States.

“The hope is that indigenous studies will go beyond the traditional Native American studies to compare the experiences and histories of indigenous people around the world,” said Charise Cheney, the ethnic studies department chair.

“This is the case for all of the traditional areas of ethnic studies, which is why the new major is so exciting,” she said. “We’re not looking at it in the traditional way of studying African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans or Latinos. Now, we’re taking a much more global approach to those people and their experience in the United States.”

An ethnic studies minor has been offered since 1994, when the program that started in 1992 became a department. Although the idea for the department was always to move toward having a major, several budget crunches and faculty turnover problems made this not feasible, College of Liberal Arts Dean Linda Halisky said.

The new program dismantles the existing minor program and reshapes the curriculum, which will add 11 new classes, but only one additional faculty member.

As the curriculum is reshaped, the former cultural images series will be removed, which was a comparative study of the cultural representations and counter-representations by American racial/ethnic groups in U.S. popular opinion and consciousness.

Replacing this series will be 200 level survey courses that will serve as introductory courses to specific racial/ethnic groups and their cultural institutions.

The extra classes will now give ethnic studies professors a chance to explore experimental methods of teaching their courses within the program.

“There is more room in the curriculum now for the creation of topical courses . . . (which) gives faculty members an opportunity to teach courses that are not in the curriculum, but are in particular interest to that faculty person,” Cheney said.

“The major also creates opportunity for (professors), as well as for the students, to explore more in depth issues pertaining to our discipline,” she said.

Although the new major will cause her more work, Cheney said she is excited about the addition of comparative ethnic studies as a Bachelor of Arts Degree.

“I look forward to this opportunity to play an instrumental role in the direction of what really is a historical moment at Cal Poly,” she said.

“It definitely can be a little overwhelming,” she said. “But I invite the challenge of implementing the curriculum, and in recruiting students in to the major and to get students more excited about the major.”

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