The University Record
April 17, 1995
By Angela Sawyer
U-M-Flint's College of Arts and Sciences recently restructured and renamed the Chicano Studies Program to more accurately mirror the Latino/a experience in the United States. The program, now titled the Mexican American and Latino/Latina Studies Program, underscores the diversity of the Latino culture and the complexity of creating politically correct vernacular and curricula.
The new program utilizes an ad hoc committee comprised of members from the local Latino community, and offers a broadened and updated curriculum and academic minor.
"The expansion and revision of the courses and creation of a minor were important, but the name change is significant because it reflects the problem of institutionalizing labels that are politically contested internally and externally," says James McDonald, professor of anthropology and acting director of the revised program.
Because communities are often baffled by university reasoning and policy, the importance of the University working closely with the community for input is vital, says McDonald.
The Mexican American and Latino/Latina Studies ad hoc committee links the University and the local Latino community, fulfilling a mission of the program.
"I take my challenge to be working with the community, meeting regularly, seeing what the interests are, what they want, and explaining why we do things the way we do," McDonald says.
The multidisciplinary curriculum is socially and intellectually oriented to the Latino experience in the United States, and the root of this experience in Latin America. It is designed to strengthen career preparation for individuals, Latino and non-Latino, planning to work in multiethnic settings.
"We can't get very far only looking at a 'USA-centric' view of people," McDonald says. "There is a lot of movement of people that affects us all, and this program is important for comparative purposes as well."
A plan for revitalizing the program includes: administrative autonomy (physical and intellectual), utilizing the efforts of current faculty and recruiting additional faculty, networking in Flint's Latino community, networking with Latino studies programs at other state colleges and universities, recruiting and retaining Latino students at U-M-Flint, identifying learning resources on Mexican American and Latino/a studies, and exploring external funding support.
"There are a few robust programs similar to this within a 50-mile radius," said McDonald. "I'd like to see us tap our resources by contacting other colleges. The program benefits everyone, and is good for a lot of different populations."
For information, contact McDonald, (810) 762-3340.