Vanderbilt University may not seem like a likely place for a Latino/a Studies Program. It has a steep tuition of nearly $42,000 (a total cost of $61,112 if you factor in on-campus living), a student body whose population is only 8 percent Hispanic and it is located in Nashville, where the demography indicates a similarly small Hispanic population.
Yet the university launched its program this fall, joining nearly 433 other higher education schools that offer Latino/a Studies Programs. That translates to nearly 7 percent of the post secondary schools in the country – a steadily increasing number that suggests administrators and academics think that a key to their success lies with Hispanics.
“We are confident Vanderbilt is a leading institution, but in order to round its offering it does need to embrace Latino studies,” said William Luis, director of the Latino/a Studies Program at Vanderbilt University.
The programs of today differ wildly from the Chicano and Puerto Rican studies of the 1960s and 1970s. While those programs were largely born out of activism, often led by students, the more recent programs cropping up are inspired by faculty, with less of an outreach on community and empowerment and more of a desire to tap a growing demographic – both to increase diversity and to turn out much needed research.
Some of the early programs have married the academic movement of today to the social changes they were rooted in, such as the one in Berkeley College in California, which is now known as the Chicano and Latino studies.
“There have been many Chicano studies scholars who have resisted the shift from Chicano to Latino studies,” said Frances Aparicio, director of the Latina and Latino studies program at Northwestern University.
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