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The Growth Of Ethnic Studies Programs In Higher Education

July 23, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Shutterstock_313677374 Closeup shot of young man and woman discussing on note. Happy and smiling student studying at the library. Multi ethnic group studying on book for the next exam.

Ethnic studies, which includes the interdisciplinary study of marginalized communities including African Americans, Latinx, Native Americans and Asian Americans, was first introduced at San Francisco State University (SFSU) in 1969, with the formation of The College of Ethnic Studies. The College of Ethnic Studies at SFSU was the only one of its kind in the country until the very recent consolidation of Cal State LA’s Chicano Studies Department, Pan-African Studies Department and Asian and Asian American Studies programs into a unified College of Ethnic Studies.

However, many universities across the country have robust programs that offer degrees in ethnic studies. In 2018, 7,727 degrees in ethnic studies were awarded, and 384 colleges and universities offered ethnic studies degrees of some kind. The recent attention around racial justice across the country could spur an increased interest in ethnic studies programs, and education marketers should be prepared to address this desire from prospective students.

California May Require College Students To Complete An Ethnic Studies Course

Beginning 50 years ago in San Francisco, California has been a leader nationwide in spearheading ethnic studies programs. Many of California’s state universities have ethnic studies programs, and several private universities and community colleges also offer degrees in ethnic studies or similar majors. 

Recently, a bill was introduced in California that would require “students at California State University, the nation’s largest four-year public university system” to take courses in ethnic studies. “Ethnic studies courses play an important role in building an inclusive multicultural democracy,” states the text of the bill, according to an article from public radio station KQED.

Ethnic Studies Programs May Be Needed To Meet The Cultural Moment

Elwood Watson, a professor of history, African American studies and gender studies​ at East Tennessee State University notes the importance of ethnic studies during this time of increased awareness about racial injustice across America. “Students of color are projected to become the majority in many higher education institutions within the next decade or sooner. The current political, social and cultural climate calls for in fact, demands the inclusion of ethnic studies programs across disciplines and departments throughout higher education,” said Watson in a recent Inside Higher Ed editorial.

How To Reach Students Interested In Ethnic Studies Programs

There are infinite ways to connect with students across racial and economic lines interested in pursuing ethnic studies programs, but the tactics defined below may work best during the current social distancing environment.

Create Targeted Social Media Campaigns To Expand Awareness Of Ethnic Studies Programs

Shutterstock_384195502 Diverse People Electronic Devices Concept

Social media campaigns that emphasize the activities and ongoing opportunities within ethnic studies programs can give prospective students an idea of what to expect. Social media is also used fairly evenly across ethnicities making it a useful option when trying to reach a mix of audiences. However, when trying to reach specific targets, deploying effective, differentiating creative to reach those student segments is essential to make the messaging feel relevant to the diverse audience groups.

Utilize Free Webinars To Promote Ethnic Studies Programs And Campus Life

Effective content marketing, like free webinars, can be an efficient way to share ethnic studies program details with prospective students. Additionally, webinars can be a broader outlet for details about the university at large, including resources and student life. During coronavirus, when many college campuses aren’t offering on campus admissions programming, content marketing and virtual tools like webinars and video tours can be useful assets for reaching students.

Highlight Students Within Ethnic Studies Program Marketing

Highlighting students currently enrolled in ethnic studies can offer prospective students context for what their own experiences and successes might look like moving forward. Encourage current students to speak directly with prospects questioning their higher education program or institution of choice.

Ethnic Studies Programs Around The Country Need To Be Differentiated To Help Prospective Students Choose

The various ethnic studies programs around the country each have their own unique approaches to teaching this intersectional and complex subject area, and differentiating between the programs is essential for education marketers who want their schools to stand out, particularly during a time of immense scrutiny. The new normal may require education marketers to be innovative with their marketing, particularly as less common programs gain popularity. 

Are You Looking To Connect With Prospective High-Intent College Students At Scale?

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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