Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools
In November 1995, the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) voted unanimously to approve a “New Academic Degree Proposal” that had been prepared by the Chicana/o Studies Advisory Committee. The Board's action established a major and minor in Chicana and Chicano Studies (CCS) at Arizona State University . A little over a year later, in February 1997, ABOR voted, again unanimously, to establish the Department of Chicana/o Studies that had the function of administering the major and minor.
These actions were the culmination of a long process of development by members of the faculty at the University and especially so the leadership and design mastery of Gary Keller, Ray Padilla, and Chris Marin. . At the request of the CLFSA in fall 1992, Provost Milton D. Glick invited Cordelia Candelaria to coordinate and direct the early stages of the CCS project, build institutional support, and establish a preliminary infrastructure for a programmatic entity. She accepted on an interim basis and proposed a national search for a director within the academic year. The successful search led to the appointment of Edward Escobar who became project director in August 1993.
Professor Escobar began the next phase of developing actionable proposals to make Chicana/o Studies a reality at ASU. One of the distinctive aspects of the proposal was the idea of a bidisciplinary curriculum. The purpose of the bidisciplinary curriculum was to provide students with knowledge and insights into the Mexican American community and grounding in a skill or other knowledge area that they could put to use in service to the Mexican American community and the broader society. Consequently, CCS became the only major in the university that required its students to take a minor in another field. The proposal to establish the department established that CCS would assume the traditional functions of an academic department within a major research university.
The new department acquired basic resources, attracting highly qualified and well-respected senior faculty to assume leadership roles. Specifically, four senior ASU faculty members transferred all or part of their lines to CCS. In subsequent years, the department hired junior faculty from some of the most prestigious graduate programs in the country. The combination of these senior faculty members' leadership and experience and the dynamism of the young emerging scholars led to a period of growth and development for the department.
Under the leadership of department chairs Vicki Ruiz and Cordelia Candelaria Chicana/o Studies grew and prospered. Departmental faculty members have produced prize winning books and articles. One of the department's major accomplishments has been acquiring major gifts. These include a $1.1 million gift from the Wells Fargo Foundation for a presidential chair, a speaker series, scholarships for students, and a teacher education program, and a $300,000 gift from the Motorola corporation to establish the Motorola Presidential Chair in Community Revitalization within the department. These gifts are in addition to over $500,000 [this number has undoubtedly increased in the last 2 ½ years.] in funded grants that CCS faculty members have been awarded in recent years.
More recently, the department has turned in a bold new direction. Under the leadership of Professor Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez who took over as department chair in 2005, the department adopted transnationalism as one of the foundational pillars of the curriculum and broadened its instructional offerings to include materials on other Latino groups living in the United States. The change in emphasis is symbolized by a new name: the Department of Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies which was approved by ABOR on February 11, 2007 . Already, the new emphasis has borne fruit. In just one year the number of majors has risen by over 400% and the department is recognized nationally and internationally as a leading center for the study of migration, health, education, and regional economy and its consequences in a transnational context. The future, too, looks bright. Most recently, TCLS will contribute a part of its course work as a major leading to a certificate in Latin American Studies. As well, the department is developing a Ph.D. program in Transborder Studies and Development which will advance the knowledge of transborder, transnational, and global structures and processes that constrain and limit human social, political, educational, economic, and cultural potential. Scheduled for implementation in the Fall of 2010, accompanied by certificates in transborder health, transborder education, and cross border media as well as professional masters in the same areas. The overall curriculum will have both academic and applied orientations with the focus on the manner in which students may successfully solve the pressing issues facing Mexican origin and Latina/o Communities.