Ethnic Studies

The field of ethnic studies was born of, and is dedicated to, the struggles for social justice for all people.

The Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder draws on this traditionn of engaged scholarship to examine how race and the interrelated categories of ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality impact the lives of people in the United States and around the globe.

Our interdisciplinary department offers an undergraduate major and minor, a doctoral degree, and a graduate certificate in comparative ethnic studies.

Our faculty members engage in a wide variety of research on the cultures, histories, epistemologies, and experiences of African American, Asian American, Chicana/o, and Native American and indigenous peoples in the U.S. and beyond. Their research and teaching address these topics through critical transnational, queer, and comparative perspectives.

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 Australia, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, South Africa, Spain, and Taiwan.

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 2001 Foundations of Ethnic Studies no later than the fourth 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)

PhD in Comparative Ethnic Studies

This interdisciplinary program provides students with broad training that enables them to research and analyze the intersectional and relational workings of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality in national and transnational contexts. It draws theoretically and methodologically in interdisciplinary fields including; ethnic studies, women's and gender studies, cultural studies, literary and film studies, border studies, and American studies, as well as traditional discilplines including anthroplology, history, philosophy, and sociology.

In addition, the department offers a 12-credit interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Comparative Ethnic Studies (see below). The certificate provides specialized training in race/ethnicity and gender studies, Africana studies, Asian American studies, Chicana/o studies, Native American/indigenous studies, comparative ethnic studies, race and sexuality studies, and transnational/hemispheric ethnic studies.

Ethnic Studies Faculty Involvement in Graduate Studies

Faculty actively work to recruit African American, native American, 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, native American/indigenous 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.