Published: Aug. 29, 2016

Department Chair Reiland RabakaWelcome to the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, CU’s premier academic unit dedicated to the interdisciplinary study and teaching of race, gender, class, sexuality, ethnicity, indigeneity, and decoloniality, among others. Boasting a faculty that specializes in African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicana and Chicano Studies, and Native American and Indigenous Studies, Ethnic Studies at CU-Boulder is bristling with intellectual excitement and innovation, often critically coupling the foregoing areas of study with Critical Race Studies, Feminist Studies, Queer Studies, Decolonial Studies, Transnational Studies, and Popular Culture Studies, among others. Incessantly blurring the lines between and “troubling” established academic borders and boundaries, Ethnic Studies encourages students to think criticallywrite creatively, and speak eloquently about the ways in which race, indigeneity, gender, class, and sexuality overlap and intersect in their life-words and life-struggles. Bearing this in mind, our students critically understand that Ethnic Studies is not simply about the bondage and oppression of the past, but even more about social transformation and human liberation in the present and future. 

The Department of Ethnic Studies is going through an incredibly exciting growth phase, establishing our new PhD Program in Comparative Ethnic Studies, expanding the curriculum of our Critical Sports Studies Program, and adding stellar new faculty members. Above all else, the department continues its commitment to offering our undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to not only intellectually grow and transform themselves, but to actually transform Colorado, the United States, and the wider world. In keeping with the core mission of Ethnic Studies, we want our students to graduate and go out into the “real world” and create equity and opportunities for others. 

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Nicholas Villanueva as the new director of our Critical Sports Studies Program. Professor Villanueva earned his PhD in History from Vanderbilt University in 2013, and subsequently served as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the American Studies Program at Vanderbilt during the 2013-2014 academic year. He then served as a Lecturer in the Department of Ethnic and Racial Studies at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse between 2014 and 2016. We are absolutely thrilled to have him and look forward to his contributions to the department, university, and wider Denver/Boulder community.

In our efforts to continue establishing our graduate program our faculty have developed and offered a number of groundbreaking graduate seminars that have attracted students from across the Boulder campus. For instance, seminars such as “Critical Race Theory,” “Indigenous Thought and Theory,” “Race and Citizenship,” “Decolonial Theory,” “Race and Sexuality Studies,” and “Black Queer Studies,” have given graduate students opportunities to critically explore race, gender, class, sexuality, and decoloniality from intensely interdisciplinary perspectives. With the new graduate course offerings the Department of Ethnic Studies conceives of itself as, literally, “decolonizing the curriculum” by emphasizing unapologetically intersectional and interdisciplinary epistemologies, methodologies, and praxeologies. Headed up by our esteemed colleague Dr. Seema Sohi (Associate Chair of Graduate Studies), we have embraced a “quality over quantity” model. In other words, we want to offer an intellectually intimate environment where our graduate students can grow and develop. Graduate students receive hands-on training here, from the beginning through to the end of their PhD journey, working closely with both acclaimed senior and innovative emerging junior scholars.

In closing, we would like to welcome our new Administrative Assistant, Ms. Brigitte Sellinger. Brigitte is a recent graduate of the Department of Ethnic Studies and, consequently, has an intimate understanding of our department’s distinct mission. Already she has made her presence felt. Along with our very able Program Assistant, Ms. Patricia Burton, Brigitte is key to our department’s day-to-day operations and ongoing success. Both Patti and Brigitte understand that at its heart Ethnic Studies is student-centered and that, in fact, it is one of the only academic disciplines that was called into being and established through student activism. May the humble student activism that initiated Ethnic Studies continue to solemnly goad and guide us as we continue to grow and develop Ethnic Studies here on the Boulder campus, throughout the country, and around the world. A luta continua! The struggle continues! 

Reiland Rabaka
Professor and Chair