Santa Rosa Junior College introduced a new ethnic studies department this fall that includes five new full-time faculty and five introductory courses in Native American, Asian, Chicanx and Latino, African American, and Ethnic Studies.
The department has been in the works for two years, since July 2020, when the Academic Senate approved the creation of a black studies major as the first component of an SRJC ethnic studies program and created an ad hoc working group to start planning the program.
“It has been a difficult but magnificent job to see these things come together, to meet the deadlines, to get on the books and now offer this highly relevant course to our students,” said Robert Holcomb, dean of the new department.
Holcomb said the Ethnic Studies Task Force made recommendations and developed the new department and courses within a year, an ambitious timeline.
“There is an easy way to do it and a thorough way. The easiest way would be to take the existing courses and modify them, then submit them for approval and change nothing else. You don’t hire new instructors or have a new department,” Holcomb said. But the Ethnic Studies Task Force did not choose the easy way out.
There was not only a moral imperative to diversify and improve SRJC’s curriculum, he said, but also a new requirement of the California State University system for studies. ethnic. The law, AB 1460requires CSU students graduating in 2024-25 and beyond to take at least one three-unit course in ethnic studies to graduate.
Holcomb has no doubt that ethnic studies classes will fill up, either because of the CSU requirement or because of student interest, but enrollment is currently low. He said state-level curriculum committees don’t approve JC ethnic studies courses for CSU transfer until a month before the semester begins, making it difficult for counselors to encourage registration. Holcomb believes the 25 courses offered will be complete within a year, and then the department can begin implementing the more in-depth courses outlined in the SRJC Ethnic Studies Course Catalog 2022-2023.
“The next phase would be to develop courses beyond introductory courses,” Holcomb said. “Now that we have full-time teachers on board, we have expertise and they can write more specialized courses.”
Holcomb said SRJC is tackling the historic inequality of its traditionally Eurocentric agenda.
“My mom is from northern Mexico,” Holcomb said. “Growing up, I didn’t always have the opportunity to learn about the Mexican American experience, but when I did, it was super empowering. I also greatly benefited from the opportunity to learn more about African American, Asian, and Native American authors and scientists. »
The ethnic studies department will provide job opportunities for students, such as student tutors, he said. It may also allow for the hiring of Black therapists and Latinx financial aid counselors who can meet the needs of students in culturally appropriate ways.
Stephanie Chang, a professor of Introduction to Ethnic Studies and Introduction to Asian American Studies, is currently working on her doctorate in gender studies at UCLA, where she earned a master’s degree in Asian American Studies.
Chang’s teaching style is rooted in her experience as an Asian American feminist, a lived experience that she hopes will influence the campus community.
“Something that I think is important for ethnic studies is the idea of a political coalition, to work with different communities together to build a racially just environment,” she said. “I like the idea of talking about everyone’s experiences to create these spaces.”
Chang came to SRJC because she believed in the vision of community colleges and in helping students overcome barriers to entry while envisioning a different future.
“I would like to have more community classes, where students can work with larger community organizations beyond SRJC, and how to work together to uplift Santa Rosa and the community college,” Chang said.
Chang said she was excited by the motivation of SRJC students to establish an ethnic studies department and to be in Northern California where the strikes and protests for the ethnic studies program began. The first ethnic studies program was established in the state of San Francisco in 1969.
SRJC hired Chang as an Asian American specialist, but she wants to expand her scope. As a doctoral student, Chang became interested in horror films and she hopes to teach a class on this genre in the future.
Moises Santos, a Chicanx and Latinx studies instructor, came to SRJC after receiving his doctorate in history from the University of New Mexico and teaching classes in Chicano and Chicana history and studies at Central New Mexico Community College . Like Chang, Santos plans to expand SRJC’s course offerings in his area of expertise, which includes the history of Chicanx and Latinx education and politics, and transnational networks among people in the United States. and in Latin America.
“I come from a tradition of working in ethnic studies where everyone is involved – students, community and faculty, people inside and outside the institution,” Santos said. “There are a lot of immigrant communities in Santa Rosa who are students at SRJC, so I look forward to growing the program with them.”
SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong said he was delighted to be at the SRJC for the start of the Ethnic Studies Department. He majored in ethnic studies as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1985 he started the Violence Against Asians Task Force in Oakland to end violence against families. loatiennes.
As a Chinese-American, Chong is concerned about the recent increase in violence against Asian Americans. He said one of the best ways to combat racial hatred is to educate ourselves about other ethnicities through courses like those found in the ethnic studies curriculum.
“White students should take ethnic studies as much as people of their own ethnicity.Latinos need to know more about Asians and Asians need to know more about Blacks, etc. said Chong. “We need to learn more about our commonalities rather than our differences.”
For more information about the Ethnic Studies department, lecture series, and faculty, visit the SRJC Ethnic Studies Webpage.