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Latino Studies Programs Grow on College Campuses

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Latino Studies programs are popping up in unexpected places.

Just this fall, Vanderbilt University announced the creation of a Latino and Latina Studies program. This occurred even though only about 8 percent of Vanderbilt students are Latino.

Community colleges are also considering such programs.

“In the last couple of years, there have been a number of community colleges asking for help in setting up programs,” Lourdes Torres, professor of Latin American and Latino studies at DePaul University, told Fox News Latino. “It’s not just four-year colleges, it’s two-year programs reaching out asking for help.”

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Such programs can sometimes be a long time coming.

When I was an undergraduate student at Northwestern in 2000, some Hispanic students organized a protest calling on the university to create a Latino Studies program. It took nine years for the program to become reality.

Time likely will determine the direction that these programs will take.

Some programs are struggling. In March, KPBS — San Diego Public Radio — reported that the Chicano Studies program at San Diego State University in California was falling short of its course enrollment goals. That occurred despite the fact that the university is defined as a Hispanic Serving Institution.

The KPBS article noted that the “Chicano” label is no longer as popular with Mexican American students, and can have a negative connotation that may impact enrollment. Many Chicano Studies programs were born out of protests by activists in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Identifying as Chicano symbolized solidarity with a proud, sometimes even militant, struggle against second-class status — a struggle by Mexican-Americans to be recognized by politicians, employers, and by academia,” the article noted.

However, the article noted that in contrast, the nearby San Diego City College has more demand than space for its Chicano Studies courses.

So is it that important to replace Chicano with Latino or Hispanic? And what sorts of careers are students who earn degrees in these majors pursuing?