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University launches new minor in Latinx and Latin American Studies

By Dave Larsen

The University of Dayton’s new Latinx and Latin American Studies minor allows students from those backgrounds to see themselves in the curriculum, while also preparing students from other backgrounds to increase their knowledge and understanding of the historical and contemporary issues of the nation’s fastest-growing ethnic group.

Launched during the spring 2020 semester, Latinx and Latin American Studies is the third minor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Race and Ethnic Studies program, joining minors in Africana Studies, and Race and Social Justice. Latinx is a gender-neutral term, sometimes used instead of Latino or Latina to refer to people of Latin American origin or ancestry in the United States.

“The Latinx and Latin American Studies minor, and the more broadly constituted Race and Ethnic Studies program, work to cultivate in all students the skills to identify racism, sexism, Eurocentrism, heterosexism, xenophobia and colonialism and think through creative ways people have navigated, resisted and struggled to dissolve these intermeshed dimensions of our reality and build other forms of life and futures,” said Ernesto Rosen Velasquez, associate professor of philosophy. “By having students think from, with and alongside marginalized communities, we hope students will cultivate a sense of collective responsibility.”

Velasquez led the development of the new minor with Neomi De Anda, associate professor of religious studies and president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States.

The Latinx and Latin American Studies minor advances the University’s goal to create a more diverse and inclusive campus environment. “This minor brings a curricular side to some of the populations that exist at UD that don’t have a reflection of who they are in the curriculum,” said Tom Morgan, associate professor of American and African-American literature in the Department of English and director of the Race and Ethnic Studies program.

“This minor in particular, but the other two as well, is also designed to prepare our students for the world they are going to be entering — to give them the ability to speak effectively across difference, to know the history and experiences of different groups of people, and to make them better citizens,” Morgan said. “To accomplish the social justice mission of the University, it is necessary to provide our students the opportunities to develop these skills.”

Between 2008 and 2018, the Latino share of the total U.S. population increased from 16% to 18%. Latinos accounted for 52% of all U.S. population growth over this period, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

In the U.S., 36% of Catholics identify as Hispanic, according to a 2017 report published by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. Fifty-two percent of U.S. Catholics under age 30 are Hispanic.

“The majority of the young Catholic population under age 30 is from this Latino/Latina/Latinx background, so it is really important for us to keep that at the forefront as a Catholic and Marianist institution,” De Anda said.

The interdisciplinary minor requires 15 semester hours, including one approved special topics or independent study course from an appropriate discipline, and 12 semester hours in upper-level courses from at least three different disciplines.

Currently, the minor combines new and existing courses from the departments of art and design; English; global languages and cultures; history; philosophy; political science; religious studies; and sociology, anthropology and social work. Faculty hope to also add courses from the Schools of Business Administration, Engineering, and Education and Health Sciences.

The Race and Social Justice minor launched in fall 2019 and focuses on developing students' intercultural competencies through the lens of race, ethnicity and social justice. The goal of the program is to cultivate the intersectional thinking necessary to address systemic differences in power in order to pursue equity, inclusion, and forward the University’s mission of serving the common good.

“This generation of students is hungry for and interested in the opportunity to learn about race, intersectionality and how to engage people more authentically,” Morgan said. “These are minors that can help build community in a more meaningful and respectful way.”

For more information, visit the Race and Ethnic Studies program website.

Shown above: Tom Morgan, Race and Ethnic Studies Program Director.

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