A new Ethnic Studies Program, approved by the Academic Senate in 2008, is now under way with associate English professor Jeannine King as director. The program will offer an ethnic studies minor beginning this fall with an interdisciplinary approach that will include multiple perspectives on gender, class, religion, race and ethnicity.
“This minor recognizes that ethnic studies and diversity are an important part of the culture,” King says. “Our program will be unique because of the idea of integrating Catholic social justice with that.”
The minor has a community-based research or service learning requirement, which means that students will look at issues “to get a sense of justice in an ethnic community,” says psychology professor Mary McCall, who chaired the program this year.
“It is important for young people to learn about different ethnicities and appreciate our differences, and also come to the realization that we are all more alike than we think,” says Class of 2010’s Kaitlyn Glenn, who as a sociology major has learned about inequalities that minorities face. “I am excited to say that I will be the first person from Saint Mary’s to graduate with a minor in ethnic studies. My hope is that I will be able to share my experience within the minor to other students, and encourage them to consider having a major or minor in ethnic studies.”
King, who has a doctorate in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley, says many of SMC’s peer institutions have ethnic study programs. The College also has a diverse student population, with 22 percent of its undergraduate enrollment Latino, nearly 11 percent Asian, nearly 6 percent African America, 2 percent international and 1 percent American Indian or Alaska Native.
McCall says offering the minor will also help address current WASC standards of making sure students are able to live and work in a diverse society.
“We’re much more diverse than many of our comparable schools,” says McCall, who is also the interim director of institutional research. Statistically, 45 percent of Saint Mary’s students report having had intense intellectual conversations with people of other colors, she says, compared to 22 percent at other institutions.
“Even without the external push, it’s part of the mission, part of what Saint Mary’s values,” King says.
– Erin Hallissy