Cheers from demonstrators filled Scholes Hall Tuesday afternoon after the University of New Mexico Faculty Senate unanimously approved a master’s program, master’s certificate and doctoral program for the Chicana and Chicano Studies Department.
Established 50 years ago, the department is now one step closer to achieving their goal of having students pursue advanced degrees in understanding Mexican-American culture, language, identity and history across disciplines.
“We have a deep sense of satisfaction,” CCS Chair Irene Vasquez said between hugs and congratulations after the meeting. “It’s taken a long time and a lot of student and community effort to propel this effort forward — that’s why there’s so much jubilation here.”
While Vasquez said today was a vital step for establishing future programs, this is not the end of the road.
The department’s proposal must go before the UNM Board of Regents Academic/Student Affairs & Research Committee, face a full board meeting and finally go before the Higher Education Department for approval.
The program aims to have an incoming cohort for CCS graduate studies in the Fall of 2019.
Petitions circulated in support for the department in the weeks leading up to the April 24 meeting. Around 30 people — including students, faculty, staff and community members — crowded the second floor of Scholes Hall to support the program. They demonstrated with signs, accompanied with quiet guitar music.
Mercedes Ávila is a Master of Arts candidate in Language Literature and Sociocultural Studies at UNM. She graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s in CCS. She said the program helped her pursue her master’s degree, and without the department’s support, she would be unable to finish graduate school.
“(CCS) provided me a home at UNM,” Ávila said. “It helped me contextualize my history and allowed me to understand my responsibility.”
Moises Santos, a graduate instructor for CCS and a history Ph.D. student, was at the demonstration to show his support. He said he received his undergraduate degree in CCS and the unanimous vote was “incredible to see.”
“It’s a great step forward,” he said. “We’ve been going through the review process and we still have some to go through...and we’re looking forward to those processes, but this is definitely a positive push forward.”
Earlier this year, Gov. Susana Martinez line-item vetoed $125,000 from New Mexico’s budget that was approved by the Legislature for the CCS Department’s pilot program. Vasquez said the department will lobby for support of the program from the Legislature in January’s session.
Vasquez said support for the program has come from alumni, students and faculty, which has sustained the movement.
“It’s taken a lot of work and momentum to build to this point,” Vasquez said. “It’s pretty remarkable, because there’s been nothing on the website. It’s all been word of mouth.”
Danielle Prokop is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ProkopDani.
Madison Spratto is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.