University adds ethnic/race studies major

Program can inform careers from public health to law

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Sept. 17, 2019) California Lutheran University is adding an ethnic and race studies major to help students gain a deeper understanding of communities of color in the United States and build cultural competence in working with diverse groups.

Launching in fall 2020, the interdisciplinary program is structured so that it can be easily added as a second major to better prepare students for careers ranging from business to public health.

Academic preparation in ethnic and race studies could be applied to work in communication, community development, education, environmental justice, film, human resources, immigrant rights advocacy, law, marketing, media, nonprofit management, medicine, public policy, social work and theater. As the U.S. population becomes more diverse, employers increasingly value leaders who can work effectively with people from various backgrounds and use diversity as a resource in reaching organizational goals.

Expanding what had been an ethnic studies minor to a full degree program will also help the U.S. Department of Education-designated Hispanic-Serving Institution to better serve its students. Studies have shown that ethnic and racial minority students who complete classes related to ethnic and race studies have higher retention rates and perform better academically than those who don’t take them. About 45% of Cal Lutheran’s traditional undergraduate students from the U.S. identify themselves as Latino, black, American/Alaskan native or multiracial.  

“This major will help students develop a solid identity validated by the historical, literary, artistic, social and economic contributions of the groups with which they identify. It will also help all students, regardless of background, develop multicultural perspectives and become effective leaders who bring diverse people together,” said Jessica Lavariega Monforti, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “Ethnic and race studies is about scholarly excellence, intellectual rigor and giving students the opportunity to make important contributions through critical thinking and holistic storytelling.”

To enable more students to add a double major in ethnic and race studies without adding to the time it takes to graduate, the program offers many electives that also count toward general education requirements. Elective course options include “Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Crime,” “Contemporary Chicano Literature,” “Civil War: Slavery to Civil Rights,” “Multiculturalism, Race & Politics in U.S.” and “Introduction to Gender Studies.” Students will also have civic engagement opportunities and will need to complete substantial fieldwork or internships in communities of color as capstone projects.