Ethnic Studies Department Begins Expansion to Include Traveling Abroad


Adam Fondren

The Block U on the University of Utah Campus, Salt Lake City, UT on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 (Photo by Adam Fondren | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Jacqueline Mumford, Managing Editor

In April of 2017, the Ethnic Studies department at the University of Utah received a $10,000 grant from Global Learning Across the Disciplines and the Office for Global Engagement. The decision to award the grant came from input from both students and faculty who wanted to expand the reach of the department.

Previously, courses offered by the department had insular focuses that discussed language and tradition in specific communities. The goal of the grant was to add an increased global perspective to the previously limited courses. The team leading the effort was made up of three professors, Lourdes Alberto, Edmund Fong and Elizabeth Archuleta, with backgrounds in ethnics studies, English and political science, respectively.

The money from the grant is available this semester and its implementation is currently in progress under three different phases. Phase one, happening now, will last throughout the Fall 2017 semester and will focus on brainstorming.

“During the first phase, itís a brainstorming, exploratory time,” said Elizabeth Archuleta, associate chair and academic program manager in Ethnic Studies. “We’re using the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) rubric to adjust existing courses, we’re looking at other institutions, especially other Pac-12 schools, to see what other people are doing in their curriculums. Weíre gathering ideas to make sure our classes have that global learning focus.”

Right now, the Ethnics Studies department does offer some study abroad opportunities, for example, a professor takes students to Mexico each year, but the department says that is not enough. The grant will be used to establish one new course and then to adjust other already existing courses to fit the new global-perspective curriculum. However, the topic of the new course and subsequent professor have not been nailed down yet.

“We’re looking at classes that study the movement of people back and forth from the islands to the states, what their tourism, labor and economy are like [and] the disconnection that arises from immigration,” Archuleta said.

Many students at the U are immigrants and refugees, and the newer, adjusted curriculums hope to reflect that.

“Increasingly, a lot of our students are coming from refugee and immigrant populations. We have Muslim students, Nepal-American students, students from Sudan,” Archuleta said. “We want to be teaching classes that would speak to their experience from coming from refugee settlement camps to here.”

The department hopes to achieve this by adding different assignments and applying a new focus on how things are read. The application of these new curriculums will vary by professor and course type.

The second phase, designing the actual courses, will commence in Spring 2017, and it will include guest lectures and meetings among the Uís Ethnic Studies department and other faculty. The department plans to bring on new faculty members and design the new courses around their expertise and the AACU guidelines.

Once the class plans are solidified, it is unlikely that the new course will be available in Fall 2018. The process of greenlighting a new course takes a year, after being vetted by multiple departments and the university. However, the redesigned courses may be open for registration, depending on the time it takes an individual professor to rework their course.

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