June 6, 2011

First cohort completes Racism, Immigration and Citizenship course

The first cohort of students enrolled in a new academic concentration called Racism, Immigration and Citizenship has just completed its course of study. Created in 2007 under the umbrella of the Center for Africana Studies, this interdisciplinary program explores the complex interactions of three topics that are traditionally studied individually.

On May 10, Michael Hanchard, a professor in the Department of Political Science and co-director of the RIC program, awarded certificates of completion to 18 undergraduate and seven graduate students. The RIC concentration is rooted in the field of graduate-level comparative politics but is designed to attract undergraduates from other fields within the Political Science Department, as well as students from other disciplines who take political science classes as electives, expanding the range of options for both political science majors and nonmajors.

“Our hope for this program is that it will help shape the career paths of our students,” said Erin Chung, the Charles D. Miller Professor in the Department of Political Science and co-director of the RIC concentration.

According to Hanchard, racism, immigration and citizenship are independent but overlapping processes. He says that studying their interaction is key to understanding politics and culture in contemporary societies.

Daisy Kim, a graduate student and a Fulbright scholar, agrees. “The courses I’ve taken in the concentration have helped me broaden my theoretical and historical perspective and think about the implications of migration and the myriad ways migration is shaped by racism and citizenship and vice versa,” she said.

Kim is researching the increase in the number of women from China and Southeast Asia who migrate to South Korea for marriage and settlement. She credits her course work in the RIC concentration with contributing “immensely to my growth as a budding scholar.”

Other topics that graduate students in the program are currently researching include immigrant labor in the U.S. Gulf region, the expulsion of the Roma in France and intercultural adoptions in Japan and Korea.

Graduate student Meghan Luhman says that the RIC course of study has given her the tools to “think about how immigration and deportation policies intersect with ideas about national belonging and race.”

Claire Cravero, who received her degree on May 26, says that the program gave her “a whole new perspective on my studies.” An international studies major, Cravero is heading to West Africa to work on health projects with the Peace Corps.

Lester Spence, an assistant professor in the Political Science Department, who teaches several courses in the concentration, said, “The RIC program leads students to careers where they can talk about these issues. It brings a certain type of knowledge to the world which might otherwise get swept under the carpet.”