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Spotlight On: Ethnic Studies Program

Katie SweeneyMar 29, 2013

A Speech Pathology major researched speech accents and racial discrimination. An African American student made a film about the cultural divide between Cambodian American youth and their refugee parents. And a Hmong student collected materials for creating educational documentaries for the Stockton Public Library about the culture and history of the Hmong people of Laos and Vietnam. 

These are just a few of the innovative research projects created by students in the Ethnic Studies Program at Pacific, says Xiaojing Zhou, Ph.D., professor of English and director of the Ethnic Studies Program. 

"The beauty of Ethnic Studies is that it broadens a student's major field of study," Zhou says. "It provides students with a repertoire of tools and knowledge, which helps lay a deeper foundation for their learning path and career path." 

An interdisciplinary minor, the Ethnic Studies Program examines the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, culture and class in the historical formations of the United States. The program highlights the experiences and perspectives of historically disenfranchised populations, such as African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and Native Americans. 

One of the program's strengths is its focus on interdisciplinary learning. Instead of being housed in a single department, the program incorporates courses offered in various departments and schools on the Stockton campus. 

The disciplines in its curriculum include Sociology, Anthropology, Communication, History, Sport Sciences, Ethnic Studies, English, Economics, Education, Modern Languages & Literature, Music, Political Science, Psychology and Speech-Language Pathology. Courses are just as diverse, ranging from "Introduction to Ethnic Studies" (the core required course) to "Documentary Film as Persuasive Communication," "Blues, Jazz and Literature," "History of American Immigration" and dozens of others. 

"Students start to see connections between Ethnic Studies and social issues and their major field of study and what they are learning in other classes," Zhou says. "They see that these issues are in every aspect of society: politics, business, science, law, literature, film and television, and the environment."

Another key to the program's success is its focus on student-centered learning, including opportunities for independent research and community-based projects, such as the documentaries about Hmong and Cambodian Americans. 

"Ethnic Studies is not easy. It entails very rigorous intellectual inquiry, and it can be uncomfortable and deeply personal," Zhou notes. "But I see students becoming engaged and empowered. It prepares them not only for their careers, but also for their future roles as global citizens and as responsible participants in democracy."