Department funds new classes with grant

by Jessica Steeno

A grant awarded to the Department of Afro-American and African Studies is funding a series of new courses on public policy.
Rose Brewer, the chair of the Afro-American and African Studies department, received the $250,000 Ford Foundation grant awarded to the department. She used the money to help different ethnic studies departments work together in creating the course series, which will be in place for students by the 1997-98 academic year.
One course from the new program was taught for the first time last spring. The Color of Public Policy, a collaborative effort between the Afro-American Studies, American Indian Studies and Chicano Studies departments, looks at public policy decisions, especially those that affect minority groups, and the effects those decisions have on people of color.
“Few programs have come together like this,” Brewer said. “Students coming through our program will think about the interrelationship of people in these communities and the effects of public-policy decisions on them.”
The course will be offered again next spring through Continuing Education and Extension.
Cecilia Martinez, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at Metro State University, was hired to teach the course.
“My area is public policy,” Martinez said. “My work has really been about researching how mainstream public policy affects different communities.”
Brewer and Martinez said the course received “extremely positive” feedback from the students who enrolled.
“Most students were trying to figure out how public policies got implemented that had devastating effects on their communities,” Martinez said. “I think this class helped them see how the policies are implemented and how they get perpetuated.”
Martinez said students spoke positively about the ethnic diversity among those who took the course, as well as the unique perspective the course took on public policy.
“Public policy is often looked at as all communities of color being the same and from a disadvantaged standpoint,” Martinez said. “One of the key elements of this course was to break out of this and honor the integrity, history and culture of each of the groups, and at the same time to look at how dominant public policy affected all of these groups.”
Chicano Studies professor Guierrmo Rojas helped plan the course.
“The course is going to try and look at the issues and get away from the ethnicities,” he said. “When people are hungry and hurting, it hurts just as much no matter what color skin you’re wearing.”
The grant awarded to the Afro-American Studies department stretches over a three-year period. Brewer, Martinez, Rojas and American Indian Studies professor David Born, met this summer to plan the third year of the grant, during which three courses will be offered.
In the fall of 1997, three separate courses will be offered as the first part of a year-long sequence that will end with “The Color of Public Policy.” Two of the fall courses will explore the historical implications of the conquest of North America on its indigenous people — Latinos and American Indians. The third course will examine the implications of western Europeans’ contact with and conquest of African natives.
All three courses will examine the effects of contact between people of color and western Europeans, and what the impacts are on those cultures today.
The second course in the series will be team-taught by members of the Afro-American, American Indian and Chicano Studies departments. This course, which will be offered during Winter quarter 1998, will study how various cultures were treated by the United States’ political system.
The third course, “The Color of Public Policy,” will be offered spring 1998 for the third time. The course will be taught by Martinez all three times. Born said a major objective of the course sequence is to get more students from various ethnic groups educated about, and involved in, public policy decisions.
The grant will also be used to implement a summer seminar and a statewide conference to examine ethnic studies programs throughout the state. In addition, the grant will fund guest lectures in classes and public lectures by members of ethnic organizations.
Brewer also hopes that students will take advantage of internships and study-abroad programs supported by the grant.