Ethnic Studies at Cal Poly uses inter- and multidisciplinary approaches to study the lives of Indigenous, African, Latino/a, and Asian peoples in the United States within a global and postcolonial context. It is an important and valuable area of study that is indispensable to the academic experience of all students. With this understanding, a program in Ethnic Studies was established here in 1992. The expectation was that the program would continue to evolve and flourish and play an increasingly significant role in the life of the university. Thus, in 1994, the Ethnic Studies Program developed into the Ethnic Studies Department and a minor in Ethnic Studies was approved by the Academic Senate.
The Ethnic Studies curriculum provides students with unique forms of critical inquiry that advance their analysis of race, ethnicity, and cultural difference in an increasingly heterogeneous and complex world. Courses in Ethnic Studies examine how social hierarchies frame access to political power, allocate economic resources, and influence cultural expression. By critically exploring such issues, students develop not only a greater understanding of the legacy of racism, discrimination, and injustices in the United States, but also a greater appreciation for new and emerging knowledge about diverse American peoples and their global and transnational connections.
Housed in the College of Liberal Arts, the Ethnic Studies Department encourages critical dialogue about race, ethnicity, postcoloniality, and transnationalism across the entire university curriculum, with special focus on concepts that integrate the arts, humanities, social sciences, as well as the sciences and technology. The department offers a number of courses that fulfill both general education and United States Cultural Pluralism requirements. A major in Comparative Ethnic Studies is now offered (beginning Fall 2006). A minor in Ethnic Studies is open to all majors and provides a useful complement to the differing types of inquiry used in the wide variety of disciplines throughout the university.