In the late 1960s through early 1970s the African American Program and the Mexican American Program were established.
Black Studies became a degree-granting major in the late 1970s.
In 1988, the Center for Studies of Ethnicity and Race in America (CSERA) was constituted, incorporating the Black Studies and Chicano Studies programs, and adding American Indian and Asian American programs as areas of interest.
In August of 1993, CSERA submitted to A&S a "Proposal for the Creation of an Ethnic Studies Major and a Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder."
On March 31, 1994, the Student Coalition for the Advancement of Ethnic Plurality (SCAEP) issued their demands for the creation of an Ethnic Studies major and minor, as well as a master's and PhD program in Ethnic Studies.
The United Mexican American Students y Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (UMAS y MEXA) and SCAEP formed an alliance to address these and other diversity issues, and held a student rally, mass student protest, and a hunger strike that lasted six days. These actions resulted in the signing of the "Declaration of Diversity" on April 25, 1994, by the President of the CU system.
In May, 1994, the faculty of Arts and Sciences approved the Ethnic Studies major, which was converted from the old Black Studies (Afro-American studies) major. In October, 1994, The Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) approved the Ethnic Studies major.
During most of 1995, discussions ensued between the faculty and the campus administration regarding the status of CSERA and its relationship to the proposed Department of Ethnic Studies. An agreement was finally reached in October 1995, and the proposal for the creation of a Department of Ethnic Studies was submitted to the Board of Regents for its approval.
On January 1, 1996, the Department of Ethnic Studies came into being at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The Department of Ethnic Studies is one of only four departments nationally that offers a PhD in Ethnic Studies, along with the University of California Berkeley, University of California San Diego, and University of California Riverside.