Oregon State University

Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT EXACTLY IS ETHNIC STUDIES?

Ethnic Studies as a field of studies emerged in late sixties and early seventies in response to claims by university students that traditional disciplines did not include the study of the experiences of ethnic "minorities." Given the interdisciplinary nature of the field, courses draw from a variety of disciplines such as literature, history, sociology and cultural studies. The deep and broad focus of the discipline not only prepares students for understanding the experiences of the various racialized minorities in the Unites States, but also helps them understand and examine American society at large, as well as the important continuities and commonalities across other national and racial boundaries. The faculty of Ethnic Studies at Oregon State University have a deep commitment to social justice; hence, this ideal is central to their teaching philosophies and practices.

WILL A DEGREE IN ETHNIC STUDIES AFFECT MY PERSONAL LIFE?

Knowledge gained from Ethnic Studies courses will enhance the quality of your life by freeing your from limiting, narrow perspectives and stereotypical thinking. It will help you prepare for work and play in a society that increasingly will require the ability to negotiate across cultural boundaries and to respect differences. Furthermore, work in Ethnic Studies will teach you the importance of building coalitions and social networks through which you can contribute to the common social good. Students who come to OSU from ethnic communities will feel personally empowered by the study of their histories and cultures. Their understanding of the value of "difference" will better equip them to interact across those cultural boundaries to which they may be accustomed.

WHAT CAN I DO WITH A DEGREE IN ETHNIC STUDIES?

But what about job skills? Will you learn any job skills? The greatest job skills you can acquire through a liberal arts education are "people skills." Employees can teach you the nitty gritty skills of the job. But they don't have the time to teach you how to work with and for people. In the College of Liberal Arts and the Department of Ethnic Studies at Oregon State University, you will learn how to work with people of different backgrounds because you will have knowledge about their cultures, their social and historical experiences, and their ways of interacting and being in the world. The knowledge and skills you gain through a concentration in Ethnic Studies will open career doors for you in government and state agencies, community social service agencies, educational institutions, community organizing, foreign service departments, labor unions, law firms, hospitals, and research organizations. Possible job titles of Ethnic Studies graduates are: foreign affairs officer, legislative aide, business manager, community planner, educator/professor, employment counselor, lawyer, human services worker, human resource specialist, social worker.

WHAT WILL I HAVE TO DO TO GET A DEGREE IN ETHNIC STUDIES?

As a major in Ethnic Studies you will take a core of courses that will introduce you to the general concepts regarding race, gender, class and ethnicity and how these social formations overlap and intersect. In addition, you will choose an area of concentration from the following four areas: African American; Native American and Alaskan Natives; Asian and Pacific Americans; U.S. Chicano/a and Latino/as. Some courses will focus on the discrete historical experiences and cultural contributions of these groups; others will engage in comparative analysis. In addition, majors are required to take a nine-credit internship during their junior or senior year. The internship is designed to give majors "hands on" experience working in the communities whose histories and cultures they are studying.

DOES ETHNIC STUDIES RELATE OTHER FIELDS OF STUDY?

There are a number of minors that are excellent complements for a major in Ethnic Studies. Sociology, family studies, political science, history, communications, women studies, and anthropology are some of the more popular minors chosen by our majors. A combination of any of these fields with Ethnic Studies provides strong preparation for graduate or professional programs in Law, Sociology, Criminal Justice, Ethnic Studies, Education, and Cultural Studies. Students in other colleges, notably Business, Agriculture, Home Economics and Education are increasingly finding the field of Ethnic Studies an exciting complement to their primary concentration and declaring minors or second majors in our Department.

WHAT ARE PROFESSORS IN THE DEPARTMENT OF ETHNIC STUDIES LIKE?

There are currently five faculty members in the Department of Ethnic Studies. The Department maintains strong ties with other Departments in the College of Liberal Arts and a number of faculty from departments such as Sociology and Philosophy are affiliated with Ethnic Studies. The faculty in Ethnic Studies are professionally active individuals. They are members of the following national and regional organizations: Oral History Association, The Modern Language Association, Minority Ethnic Literatures of the United States, National Association of Ethnic Studies, and The Western Historical Association, The Association of Asian American Studies. They have served on national boards such as the American Association of Departments of Foreign Languages, and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project. Their publications include work on Asian American literatures and cultures, the history of various Native American groups, the history of the Spanish language in the United States, the culture and literature of U.S. Latinos. Professors Patti Sakurai, Kurt Peters, Robert Thompson, Jun Xing, and Erlinda Gonzales-Berry are a "student friendly" group, giving many hours of individual attention to their students, to majors and minors, and to student organizations. They serve as faculty advisors for a number of ethnic student organizations on campus, and work hard to provide educational activities beyond the classroom. Their involvement in the ethnic communities they represent is also an important part of their professional and civic life.

WHAT KIND OF ATTENTION CAN I EXPECT FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ETHNIC STUDIES?

Ethnic Studies majors and minors can expect a good deal of individualized attention. Each major and minor is assigned a department advisor who meets each quarter with his/her advisees.

Student Comments (taken from exit surveys)

HOW SATISFIED ARE YOU WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE AS AN ETHNIC STUDY MAJOR IN RELATION TO THE DEPARTMENT'S STATED MISSION? EXPLAIN.

The majority of the department "lead by example", they treat their counterparts and students both male and female with respect and courtesy. I wish that students at Oregon State University would be required to take more classes from this department, as it will in all cases aid them in their ability to succeed in the multicultural environments that await them in the future.

I am very satisfied but more importantly I am grateful for all of the "eye" opening experiences! I have no regrets choosing this major.

I am very satisfied with the Ethnic Studies department and all the courses they have to offer. Having a reliable and helpful front desk person has helped greatly. I appreciated the help from Evelyn and now Eva. I am very impressed with both of them. I've been to other offices and they just don't make you feel like you are entering a friendly environment but Ethnic Studies does. I was also very impressed with all of the professors that I have encountered in the Ethnic Studies department. They have understood my needs and I have learned so much from them. All of them knew their material and I have learned that you never stop researching and studying when you are a professor.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND ETHNIC STUDIES AS A MAJOR TO ANOTHER STUDENT? WHY?

Yes, I believe, and have recommended ethnic studies to kids at the many high schools and community colleges which I have had an opportunity to speak to over the last two years. I firmly believe that the ability of future generations to coexist depends on communication based on understanding and mutual respect. This can only be accomplished if we learn to embrace and understand the struggles and histories of all heritages. Take time to see how values can, and are cross cultural in their application. Be willing to approach all people with an open heart and mind; free of perceptions and propaganda.

Why? Without stuttering, I would say, "You have to take some classes, and if you like them become a major." But then most people would ask, "What can you do with it?" Specifically, a niche already waiting for Ethnic Studies majors does not exist. This is because we are a rather new discipline we have to be pioneers and carve these niches. You have to be patient with practical results. Thus, you can do anything you want with it, be creative, and be flexible. But if you are concerned with practicality, become a double major in any other field to make yourself more marketable.

Throughout my career at Oregon State I have mentioned Ethnic Studies to my friends to major, minor and/or just take classes to see if they would enjoy it. Everyone I recommended Ethnic Studies to, took one or more courses and they really made them open minded about many issues in the society that we live in. There are so many advantages of being an Ethnic Studies major. I'm grateful for the education the Ethnic Studies department has provided me.

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS STRONG ASPECTS OF THE ETHNIC STUDIES MAJOR?

Its interdisciplinary nature provides a broad foundation to view the world around us through a variety of lenses. Moreover, the emphasis on critical thinking gives us the tools to penetrate the smokescreen that masks alternative truths. Finally, the vast history that has been marginalized by the dominant group becomes represented, leading to personal empowerment.

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