Ethnic Studies

The ethnic studies major was created to initiate and promote interdisciplinary research and teaching in Africana studies, American Indian Studies, Asian American studies, Chicana and Chicano studies, American studies, and cross cultural/comparative studies.

The discipline of ethnic studies comprises a series of distinct approaches and theoretical analyses of the historical, political, social, and cultural forces and phenomena that have shaped the development of America’s diverse racial and ethnic peoples. This approach begins with an overview and understanding of these group experiences prior to the time of the European invasion, and continues with a subsequent and primary analysis of the impact that race and ethnicity has had in America during the past 500 years.

The ethnic studies major provides a broad liberal arts education to all students. It imparts fundamental skills in critical thinking, comparative analysis, and oral and written expression. The major provides appropriate training especially for those considering admission to graduate or professional schools and careers in education, law, medicine, public health, school work, journalism, business, urban planning, politics, counseling, international relations, creative writing, as well as university teaching and research.

The Department of Ethnic Studies has a core faculty of its own, but also draws on the faculty resources of many departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the College of Architecture and Planning, the School of Education, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the School of Law, the College of Music, and University Libraries.

Study Abroad

The Department of Ethnic Studies encourages students to participate in the study abroad programs offered through the Office of International Education. These programs give students a deeper understanding of culture and attitudes of people of color in other parts of the world and their carryover into the United States. CU-Boulder partners with several study abroad organizations that offer summer, semester, and full year programs in many locations around the world, most notably in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Programs of special interest include study abroad in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Ghana, Morocco, Spain, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, and South Africa.

For additional information, contact the Office of International Education. Students should always consult with their academic advisor prior to choosing their study abroad program.

Course code for this program is ETHN. 


Bachelor's Degree Program(s)

Bachelor’s Degree in Ethnic Studies

In addition to the general requirements of the College of Arts and Sciences, students must complete 33 credit hours of ethnic studies requirements: 12 hours of required ethnic studies core classes and an additional 21 credit hours in ethnic studies, 15 hours of which must be upper division for a total of 24 upper-division credits in the major (required courses mentioned below are included). The 21 credit hours in ethnic studies can be selected from the current ethnic studies course offerings; they may include courses that are cross-listed with the Department of Ethnic Studies, as listed in this catalog. 

A grade of C- or better must be received in all courses used to satisfy the major requirements, with an overall average of 2.00 in the major. No more than 6 credit hours may be taken in independent study. No pass/fail graded courses may satisfy the 33-semester-hour minimum requirement. 

Required Courses and Semester Credit Hours

  • ETHN 2001 Foundations of Ethnic Studies—3
  • ETHN 3501 Theory, Writing, and Methods in Ethnic Studies—3
  • ETHN 4951 Senior Seminar in Ethnic Studies—3
  • ETHN topic. Select one: ETHN 3101, 3102, 3103, 3105, or 3106—3

Graduating in Four Years

Consult the Four-Year Guarantee Requirements for information on eligibility. The concept of “adequate progress” as it is used here only refers to maintaining eligibility for the four-year guarantee; it is not a requirement for the major. To maintain adequate progress in ethnic studies, students should meet the following requirements:

  • Declare ethnic studies as their major.
  • Complete at least 12 credit hours toward the ethnic studies major requirements by the fourth semester.
  • Complete at least 21 credit hours toward the ethnic studies major requirements by the end of the sixth semester.
  • Complete ETHN 4511 Research Practicum in Ethnic Studies no later than the seventh semester.
  • Complete ETHN 3501 Theory, Writing, and Methods in Ethnic Studies not later than the seventh semester.
  • Complete at least one ethnic studies selected topics course selected from the following: ETHN 3101, 3102, 3103, 3105, or 3106 no later than the eighth semester. 
  • Complete ETHN 4951 Senior Seminar in Ethnic Studies no later than the eighth semester.

Minor Program

A minor is offered in ethnic studies. Declaration of a minor is open to any student enrolled at CU-Boulder, regardless of college or school. To obtain the ethnic studies minor, students must:

  • Declare a minor in ethnic studies
  • Complete 18 credits hours in ethnic studies course work; requirements include the following:
    Complete ETHN 2001 Foundations of Ethnic Studies (3 credit hours)
    Complete 15 credit hours from elective courses in the Department of Ethnic Studies. Nine credit hours of the elective courses must be at the upper-division (3000-4000) level

The minor emphasizes critical thinking, the construction of grounded social theory, data gathering, and comparative analysis. The minor also fosters developmental, experiential learning of appropriate skills in research design and implementation. A principal focus of the curriculum is the recognition and incorporation of multicultural definitions and values that can become part of the university’s mission.

Graduate Degree Program(s)

Ethnic Studies Faculty Involvement in Graduate Studies

Faculty actively work to recruit African American, American Indian, Asian American, and Chicana/o students for graduate studies at the CU-Boulder, with special attention given to students who are interested in carrying out theses and/or dissertations that involve substantive and theoretical work revolving around the broad topic of “ethnicity, race, and gender in America.” Faculty are further committed to the intellectual mentorship of such students, which might include instruction in graduate courses, directed reading courses, service on students’ MA or PhD committees, as well as helping to prepare graduate students for their qualifying examinations. An important dimension of this commitment includes attention to the step-by-step progress of these graduate students through their academic course work and research agendas.

Ethnic studies faculty will also recruit and employ whenever possible such students as graders and teaching assistants in large undergraduate courses, with the intention of providing experience in all aspects of classroom instruction, including syllabus design, design of assignments, grading, and issues of pedagogy vis-à-vis course content.

Ethnic studies faculty will mentor such graduate students in the area of writing for publication, and seek to facilitate publication opportunities in journals focusing on “ethnicity, race, and gender.” After successful completion of graduate studies, faculty will assist graduates with their employment goals.

In sum, by making an active commitment in each of these areas, ethnic studies faculty assume a responsible, proactive role in ensuring a greater diversity in the graduate programs at the University of Colorado.

Certificate Program

Graduate Certificate in Comparative Ethnic Studies (GCCES)

In order to enhance the Graduate School training for enrolled graduate students at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Department of Ethnic Studies (DES) has been approved to offer a 12-credit Graduate Certificate in Comparative Ethnic Studies (GCCES). The purpose of the certificate is to provide specialized training opportunities in race/ethnicity and gender studies, research and interdisciplinary training in Africana studies, American Indian studies, Asian American studies, Chicana/o-Latina/o studies, decolonial feminist studies, comparative ethnic studies, race and sexuality studies, and transnational/ hemispheric ethnic studies to students pursuing degrees in various disciplines on campus. The certificate is the initial phase of graduate study within the department and signals the forthcoming Department of Ethnic Studies PhD program in comparative ethnic studies. This doctoral degree is pending approval from the president and the Board of Regents.