As new and returning students begin selecting their courses for the fall, they will have another option to choose from – a new minor in race and ethnicity studies.

The new minor incorporates classes from 14 disciplines. Students who choose to pursue the minor must take five courses for 18 credits, 12 of which must be upper-level. Classes must also span at least three disciplines.

“Our world is increasingly multicultural,” said Melissa Johnson, associate professor of anthropology. “People are interacting with other people from all over the world, from all kinds of racial and ethnic backgrounds, so having an understanding of what that means and how those differences operate in the real world will be helpful for any career.”

Johnson said the new minor is part of a broader diversity initiative that has been ongoing at Southwestern since 2000. This initiative has been led by the Diversity Enrichment Committee, which includes faculty, staff and students.

The new minor was designed by a subcommittee of the Diversity Enrichment Committee  that included Johnson along with Carina Evans, assistant professor of English; Laura Glass, a library assistant in circulation services; junior Auberney Jackson; Terri Johnson, assistant dean for student multicultural affairs; Ken Mello, assistant professor of religion; Omar Rivera, assistant professor of philosophy; and Angeles Rodriguez, assistant professor of Spanish.

Paige Duggins, an English-education double major who hopes to pursue a career in teaching, is among the students who are interested in the new minor.

“I think it’s really exciting, and it’s really relevant to the changing climate of the university,” Duggins said. “The purpose of higher education is to prepare you to be in the world, and part of that is through interacting with people from diverse backgrounds. Having a foundation in Race and Ethnicity Studies is important to having a holistic approach to education.”

Junior Andrew Garcia also is interested in the new minor. “After taking classes with Dr. (Carina) Evans and Dr. (Shana) Bernstein, I’ve become really interested in race and ethnicity studies, the place of ethnic authors in the canon and the role of race and ethnicity within the context of American history and culture,” Garcia said. “To be able to actually minor in this subject is really exciting to me because it’s essentially what I’ve been trying to do.”

Although Race and Ethnicity Studies itself will probably not become a major anytime soon because of limited resources, Johnson believes it works well as a minor because it complements a lot of the disciplines, such as history, sociology and philosophy. The minor also contributes to the growing focus on interdisciplinarity at Southwestern that is centered on the new Paidiea program but also includes programs like Feminist Studies and Environmental Studies. Students who are interested in the minor will be required to complete a final essay or other project in which they have to think intentionally about how their different courses in the minor connect to one another.

−Devin Corbitt