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Courses in Ethnic Studies

Students who are interested in learning about world issues and getting a global perspective on current events can pursue a degree in ethnic studies. Ethnic study programs at colleges and universities provide students with a multicultural education and also connect students with minorities in their community, and on campus. Faculty members may themselves be of a particular ethnic group to provide direct experience, and students may participate in lectures, workshops and multicultural events throughout their term.

Ethnic Studies Programs

Ethnic studies programs are designed for students that want to understand the social ramifications of different ideas that have shaped the collective experience of different ethnic groups throughout history. Some programs focus on a specific minority, while others offer a more broad perspective on different ethnic groups and the psychophysiological and social issues that have affected the generations. Many colleges and universities that offer ethnic study degree programs undertake a humanities perspective to examine the lifestyle of a particular ethnic group in the areas of film, music, folklore, art, drama and literature amongst others.

Ethnic studies programs may also focus on the following areas:

  • Background and history of a particular ethnic group
  • Laws affecting different ethnic groups
  • Cultural life examined through film, literature and music
  • Social problems amongst ethnic minorities and families
  • Media studies
  • Ethnic feminist thought
  • Gender and minorities across the decades
  • Transnationalism and the community

Types of Ethnic Courses

Since ethnic studies degree programs are generally broad and multidisciplinary in nature, courses cover a wide range of topics including:

  • History of ethno-racial groups
  • Anthropological quantitative methods
  • Sociological research methods
  • Research methods of ethno-racial communities
  • Qualitative analysis of ethnic groups
  • Critical analysis of social contexts
  • Comparative ethnic literature
  • Women of color

Some schools that offer ethnic courses may also offer specialized courses in the areas of Asian American studies, Chicano and Latino studies, Native American studies and history of ethnicity in North America.

Ethnic Studies Degree Programs

Most colleges and universities offer ethnic studies degree programs that include a combination of Asian American Studies, Chicano and Latino studies, Native American studies and general studies in ethnic cultures and history.

Undergraduates pursuing degree programs gain skills in areas such as historical knowledge, interpretation and qualitative analysis, quantitative methods, theory and critique and empirical knowledge. They also learn about the relationship between communication and culture from critical, social and behavioral perspectives.

Some of the most common preliminary courses for an ethnic studies degree program include:

  • Theories and Concepts in Comparative Ethnic Studies
  • Introduction to Ethnic Studies
  • Comparative Survey of Racial and Ethnic Groups
  • Indigenous Peoples in Global Inequality
  • Ethnicity and Race in Contemporary American Films

Graduate degree programs are designed to train students in advanced interdisciplinary methods and comparative theories. Some of the most common graduate level courses include:

  • Oppositional thought
  • Surveys of post-colonial theory
  • Visual culture and racialization
  • Psychoanalysis and phenomology
  • Cultural politics

Students who successfully complete graduate studies may sit for a doctoral qualifying exam a the end of their program and begin a dissertation project. The dissertation typically shows original research on a topic of significance in the field of ethnic studies and must be approved by the Dean of the department.

Many colleges and universities have relationships with ethnic communities in their area so students may have the opportunity to meet with community leaders for special projects they are involved in. Students take a close look at the history, culture, sociology and politics of Third World communities and minorities around the United States and compare them to contemporary American society.

Ethnic studies programs empower students to conduct research and find ways to improve the lives of communities and racial minorities for better social change. Internships and externships with local community organizations and nonprofit groups may be a part of the curriculum to further enrich the student's education.

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