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Ethnic Studies Major

Ethnic Studies Major Worksheet 

Description of the Major in Ethnic Studies

Ethnic Studies is the study of the histories, experiences, cultures, and issues of racial-ethnic groups in the United States. As an interdisciplinary major, the B.A. in Ethnic Studies emphasizes the social and historical study of race and racism in the United States. The Ethnic Studies discipline is defined by its attention to the systemic power relations that arise from institutional, cultural, and global productions of “race.” Through the study of power and its linkages to race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality students gain an understanding of historical movements for social transformation, resistance, and liberation. While the main focus is on the experiences of racialized peoples in the United States, the program also understands that race and racism are not unique to the United States. Committed to scholarly excellence and intellectual rigor, Ethnic Studies contributes to global discourses regarding human freedom. The program teaches students about the social dynamics of race, racism, structural violence, colonialism, legalized discrimination, assimilation, and the resulting impacts of such processes. Moreover, the program provides an in-depth understanding of our racial/ethnic diversity, indigenous and liberationist epistemologies, community and identity formation, artistic productions, and activism on the social, legal, and public policy front.

The major operates from a comparative approach. The Ethnic Studies core curriculum anchors students intellectually, theoretically, and methodologically. Augmenting the core, upper-division courses support the three themes of the curriculum: 1) Colonialism, Migration and Diasporas; 2) The State, Inequality and Resistance; and, 3) Identities and Representation. Students have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of ethnic studies via application in a capstone project and/or fieldwork opportunities in racial-ethnic communities.

Colonialism, Migration and Diasporas: This theme examines colonialism in domestic and/or international contexts, and the waves of (im)migration and resulting diasporas produced from exile. Students explore the political, economic, cultural and/or social forces that produce unequal relations (e.g., colonizer/colonized, propertied or dominant/dispossessed, and citizen/immigrant). Also considered are affected racial-ethnic communities’ responses to colonization or (im)migration.

The State, Inequality and Resistance: This theme explores the ways that the nation-state deploys power that unfairly and inequitably impact racial-ethnic relations, individual or cultural identities, and opportunities for advancement. Students examine institutional systems, discourses, and/or mechanisms of the state (e.g., legal, political, educational, criminal justice, bureaus and reservations, segregation and/or policies) that seek to control and contain populations. Along with the forms of resistance aggrieved groups undertake to challenge, resist and self-empower, consequences such as discrimination and inequalities produced by the state are considered.

Identities and Representation: This theme focuses on questions of identity, its construction for and by historically marginalized populations, and how representations and cultural practices are means to construct or sustain empowering and affirming cultural identities. Students will study modes of representation (e.g., media, artistic, or performative) adopted or created by marginalized groups as well as dominant representations of racial-ethnic communities.  

Program Student Learning Outcomes (PSLOs)

Students who graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies will be able to:

  • PSLO 1, Distinguish key theoretical concepts critical to the analysis of the experiences of racial & ethnic groups in the U.S.
  • PSLO 2, Evaluate social constructions of race in a domestic and/or international context.
  • PSLO 3, Discuss historical racial-ethnic conflicts and the strategies used by members of diverse racial, ethnic, or national groups to secure justice.
  • PSLO 4, Analyze representations and cultural practices as means to construct or sustain cultural identities.
  • PSLO 5, Evaluate the production of and responses to social inequities and forms of discrimination experienced by racial and ethnic groups.

Careers Opportunities

An Ethnic Studies degree provides students with theoretical understandings in racial and ethnic groups’ histories, experiences, and cultures that are organized by the themes structuring the major. The B.A. prepares students for a variety of occupations where knowledge and understanding of racial and ethnic groups is essential.

These may include fields such as: 

  • education
  • diversity training in the private sector
  • social services
  • immigrant rights activism
  • federal, state, tribal and local government and community service
  • public health education and policy
  • union organizing; natural resources development and technology transfer (practices, economics, and law in ethnic contexts)
  • media, archival and museum studies
  • non-profit agencies
  • politics
  • and graduate studies or professional programs

Degree Requirements 

Students must complete ETST 101 or its equivalent in advance of enrolling in the upper-division core courses. The design of the curriculum encourages students to complete the upper-division core courses, with the exception of the Senior Seminar, prior to registering for courses supporting the three themes. Completion of the major requires a minimum of 48-50 units.

Special Conditions for the Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies

All courses taken for the major must be completed with a grade of C (2.0) or better.

The Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies maintains the same general Undergraduate Admission and Graduation Requirements and/or Transfer Policies/Requirements described in California State University San Marcos’ catalog.

A minimum of eighteen (18) units of upper-division credits must be earned at CSUSM. No more than three (3) hours of independent study and/or internship may be applied toward the major.

Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies

General Education (48 Units)

Preparation for the Major

Lower-Division (3 units)
Course Units
ETST 101 3

Major Requirements

Language Proficiency (0-9 Units)

All Ethnic Studies majors must meet a second-language proficiency requirement. This is satisfied with a 200-level class or demonstrating proficiency in a language other than English. For details on how to satisfy this requirement, please refer to Language Proficiency Requirement .

Upper-Division Core (12 units)
Course Units
ETST 301 3
ETST 310 3
ETST 320 3
ETST 400 3

Theme Coursework (27-29 units)

Complete three courses in each of the three themes.

Some courses may support one or more theme, those courses are identified by an asterisk (**). In such cases, the course may only fulfill one theme.

Colonialism, Migration and Diasporas (select three courses): 9 units
Course Units
BRS 300 3
BRS 335 3
ETST 420* 3
HIST 334 3
HIST 345 3
HIST 346 3
HIST 347 3
HIST 350 3
HIST 371** 3
HIST 374 3
HIST 375** 3
HIST 381 3
HIST 382 3
HIST 383 3
LTWR 345 3
LTWR 410** 3
MUSC 423 3
MUSC 425 3
PSCI 337 3
SOC 349 3
SOC 469 2


The State, Inequality and Resistance (select three courses): 9 units
BRS335** 3
BRS 430 3
Comm 330 3
COMM 430 3
COMM 454 3
EDUC 364 3
ETST 420* 3
HIST 335 3
HIST 338A 3
HIST 352 3
HIST 371** 3
HIST 375** 3
ID 340 3
LING 341 3
PSCI 305 3
PSCI 338 3
PSCI 341 3
PSCI 348 3
PSCI 361 3
PSYC 341 3
SOC 313 4
SOC 322** 4
SOC 339 4
SOC 442 4
SOC 449 4
SOC 463 2
SOC 465 2
TA 325** 3
TA 410 3
WGSS 301 3
WGSS 303 3


Identities and Representation (select three courses): 9 units
Course Units
ANTH 200 3
ANTH 301 3
ANTH 325 3
AMD 323 3
AMD 368 3
COMM 410 3
COMM 455 3
COMM 485 3
ETST 420* 3
HIST 355 3
HIST 356 3
HIST 362 3
LING 305 3
LING 355 3
LING 371 3
LTWR 334D 3
LTWR 410** 3
LTWR 450 3
MLAN 331 3
MUSC 322 3
MUSC 427 3
SOC 322** 4
SOC 375 3
SOC 467 3
SPAN 350B 3
TA 323** 3
TA 325 3
TA 421 3

*ETST 420 - Special Topics in Ethnic Studies may be repeated as topics change for a total of nine (9) units. May count toward different themes depending on topic. Students should check the Class Schedule for a listing of current topics.

Upper-Division Electives: (6 units)

After completing the upper-division core, students are to select two additional courses from any of the three themes, which are not already used toward one of the themes. Students may also elect to complete an internship or independent study.