Editor's Note: In the original version of this article, the Daily Lobo reported that the Faculty Senate Curricula Committee approved the creation of a master’s and doctorate program for Chicana and Chicano Studies in 2015. That is incorrect — the Faculty Senate Curricula Committee approved the departmentalization of the program in 2015. This has been corrected. The Daily Lobo apologizes for any confusion.
Ethnic departments across the University of New Mexico are advocating for change, with strong support from all departments.
Chicana and Chicano Studies and Native American Studies are looking to add a master’s and doctorate degree to their curricula. Africana Studies is currently looking to earn departmental status, but hopes to add a master’s and doctorate degree to their program in the future as well.
Africana Studies at the University of New Mexico is currently a degree-granting undergraduate program that offers majors and minors for students in Africana Studies but is looking to become a department, according to Africana Studies Director Dr. Charles Becknell, Jr.
“We plan to complete a proposal for department status by the end of this summer and moving into the 2018-2019 academic year,” Becknell, Jr. said. “Department status is our initial goal, and our future goal is to offer a graduate program — and the reason behind this is that many of our majors and minors want to stay at UNM after they complete their undergraduate degree. But unfortunately, we do not have a master’s program, so we are losing students to other universities who offer graduate degrees. So, it makes common sense and fiscal sense to offer an M.A./Ph.D. program where we can retain students.”
When discussing the importance of ethnic studies programs and departments at the University, Becknell said, “(UNM) cannot live up to its potential or promise, or its claim, to be a diverse institution without establishing vibrant, stable ethnic studies graduate degree-granting departments."
Chicana and Chicano Studies
The Faculty Senate Curricula Committee approved the departmentalization for Chicana and Chicano Studies in 2015.
Irene Vasquez, a professor and the chair of Chicana and Chicano Studies, said the committee supported the department’s proposal without opposition.
“We have left no stone unturned, as (we have) gone through a very careful methodical process of developing a very strong rationale in the proposal,” she said.
Hundreds of students signed petitions in support of adding a master’s and a doctoral degree to the department and dozens who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in the department, Vasquez said.
Vasquez said the department has an incredible community that showed support, and Chicana and Chicano Studies launched a social media campaign to help.
She said the department has a very strong, distinguished award-winning faculty who will be part of the master’s and Ph.D. program.
If the proposal is passed through the academic Senate, Vasquez said the next step is for it to go through the state’s Higher Education Department, which could take up to a year.
“We are very confident about that level of review, because we already have about a dozen legislators who are supporting us, and five of them have recently sent a letter to President Stokes asking for her support for the master’s and Ph.D. program,” Vasquez said, adding that she is optimistic UNM will approve the new program.
Moises Santos, an instructor for the department and a Ph.D. student in the history department, said the idea is great, and he is happy that the application form was approved by the Provost’s office.
“I’m very excited, because it’s a great pathway, especially for undergrads like me,” said Lucy Honorato, and online Chicana and Chicano Studies student, adding that she is looking forward to the potential of being able to apply to the M.A./Ph.D. program in the future.
Native American Studies Department
The master’s and doctoral degree pathways at the Native American Studies Department have not been finalized.
Llyod Lee, an associate professor in the department, said he supports and appreciates the decision to make Native American Studies a department. He said UNM should also approve Africana Studies’ departmental status, as it is long overdue and the faculty for all ethnic programs are “well-known and excellent.”
“Universities all over the U.S. should recognize these kinds of programs,” Lee said.
Tasawar Shah is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tashah_80.