San Francisco State University, home to the only College of Ethnic Studies in the United States, has added a bachelor’s degree in American Indian studies this semester.
The decision comes as a result of an increasing numbers of students declaring American Indian studies as their minor. The number of students to declare a minor in this field of study has tripled at SFSU since 2002. The department estimates that as many as 70 students will declare the major within the next five years. The bachelor’s program would also allow these students to pursue master’s or doctorates in American Indian studies.
Dr. Kenneth Monteiro, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, says that having a bachelor’s in American Indian studies at the university has been in the works for years.
“We are fulfilling a plan that began when the college was born 40 years ago and embarking on a new and exciting academic agenda,” Monteiro says. “As one of the founding departments in the college, American Indian studies completes the original plan by adding the B.A. At the same time, the innovative manner in which the current faculty have implemented it, makes this American Indian studies [bachelor’s program] a leading model for the future of the field.”
Dr. Joanne Barker, chair of the department of American Indian studies at SFSU, says the scope of the expanded curriculum would include a deeper focus on the native peoples of California, as well as the study of indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Pacific.
“We prepare students to become active, ethical citizens of their nations. We do this by providing a comparative, international curriculum in the histories, cultures and politics of Native peoples in the United States and U.S. occupied territories like American Samoa,” Barker says.
“Our emphasis on community participatory learning and cultural diversity allows students to be directly involved with their communities in a way that the founders of American Indian studies at San Francisco State envisioned.”
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