Ethnic studies minor to be available for students fall 2024

The ethnic studies minor will include an introduction to ethnic studies course along with other electives. Photo illustration by Assoah Ndomo.

By Ashlyn Beck | Staff Writer

After six years of brainstorming and planning, a minor in ethnic studies will be available to students of all majors in fall 2024.

Dr. Coretta Pittman, associate dean for diversity and belonging, said the minor will explore different racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

“If a student wants to understand historically and culturally what’s going on between the U.S. based on racial and ethnic groups and the different issues and challenges that they face, this is the kind of minor that will give them that information,” Pittman said.

Pittman said one of the goals of the minor is to educate students on how racial and ethnic groups relate to the world.

“By taking these different classes, they can begin to see the parallels and intersections between those different racial and ethnic groups,” Pittman said.

While the minor will help students learn more about historical and current groups, Pittman said it will also be useful for students after college because it will provide the tools they need to communicate effectively in a global world.

“I think we can give students the language as undergraduates to use so that when they go out into their workplaces, they can have conversations because they understand the experiences of people who don’t look like them,” Pittman said.

Woodlands sophomore Ashlyn Manley said she is committed to pursuing an ethnic studies minor at Baylor.

“You do not have to be a minority to be an ethnic studies minor,” Manley said. “It is so important for everyone when it comes to problems of injustice, racism and equality. It’s one of those things where nothing will change unless it’s everyone’s problem.”

Manley said part of why she wants to study ethnic and racial groups is to learn more about her own culture and heritage.

“I always grew up in a predominantly white area,” Manley said. “With that, I always really wanted a place where I could learn about my own culture, because I’ve always been taught about everyone else’s.”

According to Pittman, the minor was first considered around 2018, but it gained considerable traction in 2020 after the death of George Floyd. She said his death motivated a “Dear Baylor” Instagram post by students, which pushed Pittman and eight of her colleagues to pursue the minor.

“They were just saying that in many ways, they felt a sense of belonging on campus, and some of the stories we were reading in the ‘Dear Baylor’ posts made us a bit upset,” Pittman said.

In summer 2020, Pittman and her colleagues talked about uniting all of their areas of expertise to move forward with the minor, and in spring 2023, it was approved by the provost.

“We thought about what courses we already have at Baylor that we can put together that students could take,” Pittman said.

The minor will include an introduction to ethnic studies course along with other electives. Pittman said it will hopefully encourage students to grow in their willingness to talk about ethnic issues.

“We want people to also be kind and to be nice and to be considerate and to value the scholarship around some of these concerns, because sometimes we think there’s only one way to do things,” Pittman said.

Pittman, who studied English and Black studies, said one of the reasons she has been dedicated to creating the ethnic studies minor at Baylor is her past experiences in school. She said she remembers enjoying her classes in Black studies because she was surrounded by students with shared experiences.

“When I came to Baylor — and particularly again in 2020 when I was reading those ‘Dear Baylor’ posts — it sort of reminded me of my own experiences as an undergraduate student,” Pittman said.

Similarly, Manley said growing up, she had only two Black teachers: her kindergarten teacher and an elective teacher in her junior year of high school. Manley said having Black people to look up to would help her see more potential in herself.

“It’s really nice to see kind of that representation because it gives you an idea of like what you can be,” Manley said.

There will be tabling events in March and April around Fountain Mall to spread the word about the opportunity.