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What it means to be human; Cultural Studies looks to expand

By Daniel Montaño, Staff Reporter

The Cultural Studies department plans to expand its current offerings to include sophomore level courses that will delve deeper into issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability and disability—in short, what it means to be human, Dr. Felecia Caton-Garcia, English and Cultural Studies instructor, said.
Although a strict timeline has not yet been set for when the classes will be offered, Dr Caton-Garcia said that the department’s faculty is motivated to offer the courses sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, the introductory courses, such as Pop Culture, Women’s studies as well as Chicano and Native American studies, will continued to be offered at all campuses, and can be found in CNM’s course catalog.
“There’s a lot of energy to make this happen. There’s a lot of interest on the part of the faculty for expanding the department because so many of us have various areas of expertise that are being underutilized,” she said.
Department faculty have been discussing plans to include courses that are currently offered at UNM, such as feminist studies, southwest studies and environment, science and technologies, Caton-Garcia said.
Faculty want to offer courses that are easy to transfer, which will be aided by aligning the courses offered at CNM to those at UNM, but also want to make sure that the courses are interesting, she said.
“For instance I would love to teach a class on Chicano film. I incorporate film into my Chicano studies class but I could teach easily 16 weeks on Latino representation in film,” she said.
But before the department offers classes like “Race and Gender in Hip-Hop Culture,” Caton-Garcia said the department needs to make sure that there are students who are willing to attend the new courses.
Part of that battle is getting students into the introductory level classes, she said.
“What we find is that once students take a cultural studies class, they often want to take another one. That’s very common, but getting students into the classes in the first place can be difficult,” she said.
In the fall 2012 semester, the department changed the course names, numbers and prefixes of those introductory classes in order to bring in more students, and again, to help make the courses transferable, which will help raise student interest, Caton-Garcia said.
The change in course numbers enabled the department to expand course offerings, and now the department hopes that students will see the courses, enroll in the introductory classes and see that cultural studies is the sort of program that directly informs students about issues that come up in everyday life, she said.
“Social interactions, economic interactions, political interactions, everything from who we date and why, and what our families think of that, to how we determine what is equitable for us economically moving forward, and is all part of what we study when we study culture,” she said.
While courses, such as anthropology or sociology, touch on similar subjects, cultural studies is an eclectic program that draws from several academic fields to present an in-depth and detailed view of cultural issues, Caton-Garcia said.
Cultural studies courses pull literature, psychology, history, film and many other approaches together to create a multifaceted picture of a social or cultural issue, Caton-Garcia said.
“In my Chicano Studies class for instance, I use the work of sociologists and I use fiction written by Chicano authors. I place those two in radical proximity to each other so we can speak about them, find out how they interact,” she said.
Approaching a subject from different angles allows students to gain a true appreciation for the subject, and helps move students beyond the classroom in order to participate in social change, she said.
“There’s an active thread running through cultural studies that education should not only offer knowledge, but should be a transformative experience through which we can find ways to promote equity and justice,” she said.
Caton-garcia believes that if more students realized what the impact of an education in cultural studies could do, the classes would start filling up, she said.
“I would really, encourage people to check these out. If they have any room in their schedules at all for the fall, they are offered at all the campuses and we would love to see them,” she said.

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