Ethnic studies is …

… the interdisciplinary study of race and ethnicity, as understood through the perspectives of major underrepresented racial groups in the United States. As a student, you will draw upon many disciplines and areas of thought to comprehend the sociocultural, intellectual, and historical experiences that inform the construction of racial, gender, and cultural identities.  You will question the origin and continuity of race and racism, and perhaps discover your own area of research and action that can affect social justice for all.

The beginning

Ethnic studies emerged in universities across the nation during the 1960s as a result of social reform movements for equity and empowerment of racial minorities.  Scholars developed research perspectives shaped partially by histories of oppression in the U.S. as well as by the intellectual and cultural resources and traditions of Black, Asian, Chican@, and Native American groups.  Fifty years ago there were virtually no courses reflecting the literature, art, culture, and politics of these racialized groups, and what was taught was negative or harmful.  Since the conclusion of the Civil Rights movement, ethnic studies programs have provided the means to address racial and ethnic concerns in a productive manner, and have contributed to critical analyses of such traditional fields such as:

  • history
  • literature
  • political science
  • anthropology
  • psychology
  • law & criminal justice

Why ethnic studies is important today

Ethnic studies is critical because it provides a multidisciplinary lens through which new approaches to learning will emerge. It produces culturally competent, global citizens; provides graduates and scholars a professional, competitive advantage in the workforce; and represents diverse perspectives of reality in a globalized world.

Being an effective citizen in today’s world means:

  • understanding worlds different from your own
  • engaging with the community for partnerships
  • integrating social justice in whatever you do
  • applying diplomacy, awareness, and respect to your work
  • valuing your own cultural identity and appreciating the differences around you

Ethnic studies at Northern Arizona University

Our mission

We aim to:

  • introduce students to theoretical, historical, and critical analyses of race and ethnicity in the United States
  • have students explore ways in which race and ethnicity have historically evolved, their relationships to power and inequity, and their intersections with other axes of stratification (i.e., gender, class, sexuality, and culture)
  • provide a curriculum that is comparative and interdisciplinary and offers essential perspectives on four under-represented groups:
    • African Americans
    • Chicanos/as/Latinos/as
    • Asian Americans
    • Native Americans

Our history

The Ethnic Studies Program was established in 2000 through the efforts of five faculty members from the Commission on Ethnic Diversity. The program is governed by a steering committee consisting of the Director, full-time and affiliated faculty, and an administrative representative.

Why ethnic studies?

The ethnic studies program will enhance your major and professional options by:

  • enhancing your skill base and career potential
  • challenging you to think in more complex ways about identity and history and avoid cultural stereotyping
  • strengthening your understanding of diversity, equity, and justice, which may provide a competitive advantage in future employment
  • preparing you for a more globalized world

But more importantly, a background in ethnic studies will:

  • teach you to value and appreciate diversity
  • make you more aware of global experiences and opportunities
  • give you skills for working with a variety of people
  • prepare you to make a difference

Ethnic Studies-related videos

The Mural at Murdoch (Oct. 7, 2011)

View a short video of the dedication of “The Historic Southside Mural” at the Murdoch Community Center, Flagstaff, Arizona—which was completed in the Fall 2011 by Prof. Ricardo Guthrie and community artists and residents.  

"A Southside Story" (LBM Studios: 2011)
Lawrence McCullum, videographer and visual communications graduate of NAU, presents a video-documentary on the effect of relocating the Rio de Flag river in the Southside.
"Precious Knowledge"
Ari Luis Palos and Eren Isabel McGinnis have produced a documentary film that tells the story of Tucson Unified School District’s Ethnic Studies program, which was banned by HB 2281. The film trailer captures the spirit, energy and perspectives of the high school students who benefited from the classes that increased student retention and graduation rates at Tucson High School.
"The danger of a single story"
Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice—and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.