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New Minor Takes Global Outlook

Published: September 3, 2013

New Minor Takes Global Outlook

CSULB welcomes a new minor in Global Migration Studies that will provide students with a strong foundation in migration studies and a critical comparative framework for understanding the connection of gender, culture and history to migration flows, according to Heather Rae-Espinoza of Human Development. The minor gives students the skills to understand many different migrant groups as well as to analyze questions of change and continuity between historical and contemporary migrations.

Rae-Espinoza, a member of the university since 2007, believes the strength of this minor lies in its use of existing courses that do not over enroll in a number of departments. “The minor does not create any new expenditures while providing the opportunity for students to gain crucial skills for helping multicultural populations,” she explained.

“This minor was designed to fit closely with the college’s mission of ‘the world is our college’ since a minor in Global Migration Studies will help students to understand worldwide factors that shape migration flows and migrants’ experiences,” she said. “The philosophy of this minor is to allow students to focus more on the factors that different migration flows have in common rather than focusing solely on one migrant population.”

There is a growing awareness of the complexities of diversity that makes this a good time for this minor, Rae-Espinoza said. “That timeliness is a reason there was so much support for this minor,” she said. “I never heard anyone say, ‘This minor ought not to happen,’ even if there were strong views as to how or when it should happen. I learned a lot from thoughtful feedback throughout the process. I received extensive support from the CLA dean’s office.”

The minor is an interdisciplinary program from faculty across five departments—Asian American Studies, Sociology, Human Development, Women Gender Sexuality Studies and International Studies—to provide students with an understanding of migration’s causes, effects and impacts. The core classes represent a survey of different migrant groups and offer a critical comparative framework for their experiences through history, gender and culture. The minor concludes with a culminating experience of an internship or research that ties together earlier coursework. Courses used to meet the minor requirements may, where applicable, be used to meet general education requirements or the major requirements of cooperating departments.

Rae-Espinoza is proud that the minor begins with the courses at hand. “There are so many courses that already exist on campus that we discovered we could offer a broad minor without creating a single new course,” she said. “As we discussed the minor across campus, we got great ideas on such topics as human trafficking, environmental sustainability and how the environment shapes human mobilizations. These are great ideas I would not have thought of without constructive criticism. I am looking for new collaborators to develop the ideas.”

Rae-Espinoza feels one of the minor’s greatest strengths is its range of subjects. “This minor offers the opportunity to work with a variety of diverse populations, providing a perspective that can complement other majors rather than compete with great programs like Chicano and Latino Studies or Asian and Asian-American Studies. We were able to demonstrate someone could take the whole minor in one semester. It offers course efficiency for the students and for the campus. It puts extra people in seats and improves their degrees.”

She argues that the minor has something special to offer. “Sometimes, I feel that students suffer from ‘bumper sticker knowledge’ along the lines of `I like people’ and ‘culture matters.’ They need more in-depth knowledge about why culture matters and this minor offers that. The in-depth look offered here is necessary to understand migrant groups. For instance, I’m happy there’s an emphasis on gender, a hot topic of migration studies that hasn’t fully been reflected in our curriculum. Some view women as new to migration, others view them as only new to the studies of migration.”

An important part in designing the minor was deciding what they didn’t want to be as much as what they did. “We didn’t want to be a miniature version of a department we already have,” she said. “Our students must take courses on at least two different migrant populations. It is a priority that our students get some experience with a specific migrant population, both practically and in historical research, as well as working on cultural diversity with that particular population. We want to work in terms of gender as well and augment more classes with a gender framework.”

Rae-Espinoza is glad that such a minor is available in Long Beach and reflects well on the university and the community. “Learning about immigrants solely from a book doesn’t take advantage of our Long Beach community,” she said. “Why not just go outside?”

One advantage to offering this minor in Long Beach is the search for internships. “We already have one student who volunteers at the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum,” she said. “I like that she’ll build her level of volunteering until the volunteer turns into an intern. If a student expresses an interest in a particular population, being in Long Beach makes it possible to put together an internship with that population. If you call and they don’t return your message, it may mean they really need you as an intern because they don’t have time to return calls. We expect our students to be involved in their own communities, acknowledging the diversity of our student population.”

–Richard Manly