Chicano and Latin American Studies
The Chicano and Latin American Studies Department consists of faculty whose teaching and research expertise cover a broad spectrum, including anthropology, education, history, sociology, political science, Latin America, Latino literature, and the arts. The department is the proud sponsor of Fresno State's Los Danzantes de Aztlán. The offices of the department also serve as a resource center for many of the Chicano/Latino student organizations and as an information center for the community.
Message from the Department Chair
Supporting and building on my colleague’s significant comments—former CLAS Department Chair Dr. Cristina Herrera—I wholeheartedly invite you to consider the Chicano and Latin American Studies Majors.
First, thank you for your interest in Chicano and Latin American Studies!
Many students ask us: “What is Chicanx Studies?” “What is Latin American Studies?” In short, Chicano and Latin American Studies examines the diverse histories, cultures, literatures, and social experiences of Latinx and Latin American peoples both in the United States and Latin America.
The Chicano and Latin American Studies Department faculty hold degrees in disciplines including Literature, Anthropology, History, American Studies, Political Science, and Education with a particular focus on Chicanx/Latinx/Latin American populations. Since the CLAS Department is committed to diversity, the fundamental equality of all human beings, and social justice, its faculty members welcome and support all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, national origin or immigration status. The Department endeavors to create an environment of civility and respect that promotes an enriching educational inclusivity for all students by fostering dialogue, reflection, and the development of broad knowledge. In an increasingly cross-cultural world, the mentioned elements facilitate a person’s ability to thrive.
In today’s challenging times, CLAS and Ethnic Studies courses affirm the humanity and significant contributions of Latinx communities. The interdisciplinary CLAS Department faculty members give students opportunities to pursue work that can help policy makers, fellow researchers, educators, service providers and the interested public better understand cultural and social justice issues while engaging the Latinx communities. For example, the Department’s new Certificate in Chicanx/Latinx Studies in Secondary Schooling prepares future teachers and administrators in teaching Ethnic Studies in the 9-12 grade system. The CLAS Department’s academic major is particularly suitable for students preparing to enter the fields of community service, local government, teaching, or social work, as well as preparing those intending to enter various graduate professional fields, e.g., history, sociology, psychology, library science, political science, social work, law urban studies, and others. A 2018 study by San Francisco State University, in fact, found that students who enrolled in and passed Ethnic Studies courses graduated at higher rates than students who did not (see Insider Higher Education, July 9, 2018 report).
The CLAS Department’s Latin American Studies Major promotes the values that diverse cultures and societies reveal through multiple forms of knowledge and opens opportunities to studies abroad. These do not only occur in the classroom but in faculty organized activities, through community building, and student development events, such as the Latin American Film and Lecture Series. With the recognition of the interdependence of the Americas comes the demands that students gain exposure to the cultural-historical and contemporary forces that have shaped the region and its relationship with the United States. The many connections between the United States and Latin America include trade and finance, politics, and culture. Latin American music, art, and sports have influenced mainstream culture in the United States in both rural and urban areas. People who acquire a Latin American Studies degree can, for instance, go on to advanced degrees in business, education, or journalism where they use their knowledge of Spanish language and/or cultures to develop a career.
So, what can you do with a CLAS degree? Anything! With the Latinx population now being the largest ethnic group in the state of California—not to mention the growing Latinx population in the rest of the nation—various industries require knowledge of this population. The Department Majors (Chicano and Latin American) can be used as preparation for a career in such fields as teaching and education, counseling and social services, health and human services, public service, law, and business. In addition, the Majors also provide excellent undergraduate preparation for students who intend to do graduate work in the field of Latinx and Latin American studies or associated areas in the social sciences, humanities, or arts.
Echoing the above, CLAS Department graduates have gone to graduate school and have worked as teachers, lawyers, social workers, and nurses, to name only a few professions. As teachers, community advocates, social workers, government employees, and victims’ advocates, for example, your degree in Chicano or Latin American Studies will prepare you to consider how issues—such as language, gender, ethnicity, race, and citizenship—affect the Latinx community, helping you to become a more aware of a wide range of perspectives, understanding communities, and becoming a critical and informed professional.
Your training will serve you well in the mentioned fields and more. I invite you to check out our website, or follow us on Facebook (@FresnoStateCLAS) and Twitter (@CLASFresnoState) to view our latest news and announcements. I hope you consider our major, minor, or double major options!
Dr. Ramon Sanchez,
Chicano and Latin American Studies Department Chair