SDSU offers LGBT Studies majorFeature Story Thursday, October 13th, 2011
Step aside Hobart and William Smith Colleges. You’re not the only university with an LGBT Studies undergraduate program anymore.
Beginning January 2012, San Diego State University students may declare a major in LGBT Studies. This addition makes SDSU only the second university in the United States to offer a bachelor’s degree in this growing field of study.
Although SDSU has offered courses in LGBT studies since the 1970s, it wasn’t until three years ago that the school grouped the courses together to offer a minor, making it easier for students to find the right classes.
“Students who wanted to take these courses (before the minor) had to rely on the grapevine,” said Esther Rothblum, LGBT Studies academic adviser and professor of Women’s Studies at SDSU. “They would hear that psychology was teaching a course or history but there was no place to put all the classes together.”
Upon further investigation, the university found that they already offered enough courses to support an LGBT Studies minor. Since beginning in 2009, about 30 students each year have completed the minor. In recent years, the inclusion of an LGBT Studies minor has been becoming more popular in colleges throughout the country and Rothblum believes there are close to 30 universities now offering the minor.
In order to create the major, Rothblum worked with several other faculty members to outline the required courses. Then the proposed major worked its way through a variety of committees at the university before arriving at the California State University’s chancellor’s office and being approved.
Since its approval last month, Rothblum has already received feedback from several students who are interested in declaring the major. Within the first day after she sent an announcement about the major, she received five emails from prospective students expressing their interest in the degree. Students can’t officially declare the major until the spring, although they can begin their coursework in January.
SDSU is only the second university in the United States to offer a major in LGBT Studies. Hobart and William Smith Colleges, a private college of 2,000 students in upstate New York, has offered the degree for the past decade.
The major will be composed of an assortment of already existing required and elective courses. Both “Gay and Lesbian Identities in the Modern World” and “Gay and Lesbian History and Culture” will be required as well as “History of Sexuality.” A total of 27 credits are needed for the major.
A degree in LGBT Studies can help open the door to several fields, many of which are increasingly looking for candidates with diverse backgrounds.
“Graduate schools are looking for people who have diversity education,” Rothblum said. “Really almost any career path, whether it’s entering a profession like medicine or law, or being a professor, or going into the corporate sector, or working for a non-profit and obviously, if they want to work in an LGBT organization, it would be a good major.”
This isn’t SDSU’s first groundbreaking academic addition. The university was the first in the world to have a Women’s Studies major and department
San Diego State University has proven to be an open-minded, welcoming school for the LGBT community for years. Most recently, it received the honor of one of the top LGBT affirmative schools in the country by Campus Pride, a non-profit that strives to make college campuses more LGBT friendly.
Campus Pride ranks universities based on a questionnaire of the available programs and services available for LGBT students. SDSU joined the prestigious top group of 20 schools that received five out of five stars when it was upgraded from 4.5 stars two years ago. While last year 20 schools placed in the top tier, this year the group has expanded to include 33 colleges with five stars.
A major contributing factor to SDSU’s ranking is its Safe Zones program, which teaches students, teachers and faculty to be LGBT aware and supportive. The free workshop, began in 2007, provides all the information needed to help create a friendly campus environment for all students.
Other LGBT friendly events and organizations at SDSU, including the lavender graduation ceremony for LGBT students and the queer-based sorority, Gamma Rho Lambda, also contributed to the university’s highest ranking in the poll.
In recent years, SDSU has also proudly participated in a variety of LGBT events around San Diego as well, such as the Pride parade.
The LGBT friendly community extends beyond the students and the university has hired four queer faculty members in the Arts and Letters college to teach history, English, linguistics and women’s studies, according to Rothblum.
“It really shows that all of these departments know that they really need someone to teach LGBT literature or history,” Rothblum said. “It’s interesting that this is now permeating to so many departments.”
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