Sophomore Willyann King has always had an interest in race issues, but until now her interests could not earn her a degree at Ithaca College.
King is waiting to declare an African Diaspora minor when the option becomes available next semester.
“It’s about time that a minor like this got established in Ithaca College,” King said. “Many colleges around the United States, not only in Ithaca, should have [this] set up.”
Two new minors, African Diaspora — the study of African culture in the Americas — and Latino/Latina studies, will be available in Fall 2007. The Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity in the Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies submitted a proposal for the minors to the academic policies committee in the fall.
The minors incorporate classes from several departments, including politics, health policy studies, history, English, sociology, art, music, anthropology and those offered through the center. Common courses for both new minors include Politics of Identity, Critical Health Issues and Power: Sex, Class and Race.
Asma Barlas, professor and program director of the CSCRE, said she hopes these minors will help students understand differences in the world that should not simply be acknowledged, but understood, respected and appreciated.
Barlas was chair of a committee of faculty who recommended creating the CSCRE, a center that would specifically deal with teaching students about communities of color by creating new minors.
“[The purpose of these minors is to] build understanding between people who think that they are very different from each other and to help them have a dialogue between each other,” Barlas said.
Unlike other general courses at the college, which may only spend a week or two focusing on minorities, the purpose of the minors is to thoroughly investigate the situation of minority groups, Barlas said.
Sean Eversley-Bradwell, assistant professor in the CSCRE, said the African Diaspora minor is designed to study the culture and history of blacks throughout the Americas, with references to Africa. The purpose of the minor is not to imply that black history is separate from American history, but that the separation already exists and must be acknowledged in order for the world to become unified, he said.
Eversley-Bradwell said he hopes African Diaspora will eventually become one of the key areas of study at the college.
“Understanding the black Atlantic experience seems to be crucial as the country continues to evolve demographically,” he said.
Alan Gomez, assistant professor in the CSCRE, said the Latino/Latina minor is not only to help students see the U.S. as a multicultural nation, but also to show the point of view of the fastest growing minority group in the country. The U.S.’s Latino community has a different perspective of the past, resulting in a different perspective of the present, Gomez said.
“Given the reality of demographics in this country, we need to continue to work on issues of racism and nationalism,” Gomez said.
He said members of the center hope the new minors contribute to the school’s goal to prepare students for the increasingly globalized world. The minors are meant to encourage students to make change in the local and larger community, Gomez said.
“Students need the tools to interpret the world around them and make decisions to act on it,” he said.