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University of Utah Adds Ethnic Studies Major

The University of Utah has turned its ethnic studies program into a major focusing on African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Chicanos.

Students who want to explore race, diversity and culture in the United States can now do so at the University of Utah since the school added an ethnic studies major.

“The ethnic studies major will offer University of Utah students an interdisciplinary and rigorous examination of race and ethnicity in the U.S.,” said Edward Buendia, director of ethnic studies and associate professor of education, culture and society at the University of Utah, in a press release. “Of equal importance, it will provide students with opportunities for creating a double major option. The new major is an important contribution to the U’s course of study options.”

This is an important curricula development for the university.

“The establishment of an ethnic studies major legitimizes the academic importance of studies concerning non-mainstream diverse populations and gives visibility to a program that has been in existence at the U for some 35 years,” added Haruko Moriyasu, coordinator of Asian/ Pacific American studies. “The ethnic studies program with its component parts—African American, American Indian, Asian Pacific American and Chicano studies—is the only program of its kind in higher education in Utah.”

Like Moriyasu said, the school’s ethnic studies program isn’t new. It was actually created in the 1960s and early 1970s as a response to the Civil Rights Movement, but started with separate programs for Black studies, Chicano studies and Native American studies. African American, American Indian, Asian/ Pacific American and Chicano studies were brought together in 1976 to form the ethnic studies program. The strengthen the program it was restructured and moved under the supervision of the Associate Academic Vice President for Equity and Diversity in 1982. Those milestones have made the ethnic studies program what it is today.

“An ethnic studies major at the U is long overdue,” added Joyce Valdez, University of Utah trustee in the release. “Class enrollments and demands have encompassed and crossed all demographics. The major will enhance the educational experiences of all students, broaden their understanding of the times in which they live and help them navigate in a global inclusive society.”

Majoring in ethnic studies can come in handy in a number of graduate programs including, but not limited to history, law, anthropology, education and political science.

“In our multi-cultural society there is a continuing need to promote educational opportunities to meet the needs of our growing diverse communities,” said Daniel Edwards, professor of American Indian studies and social work, in the release.