Chicano Studies department turns 45
Cal State L.A. salutes three alums who were active in the Chicano studies movement
In fall 1968, Cal State L.A. made history by founding the nation’s first Department of Chicano Studies, offering an enriched multidisciplinary program that examines the history, social science, culture, language, psychology, literature, arts, and politics of Latino communities.
The department, originally referred to as the “Mexican American Studies” program, was formed through the organized efforts of students rising up against the social, economic and academic inequalities among Mexican Americans in the city of Los Angeles. This founding event also coincided with the mass demonstration by Chicano youth in 1968—led by Cal State L.A. alumnus Sal Castro—in which students chose to walk out of high school classrooms as a collective protest against inferior education.
Today, the Chicano Studies department at Cal State L.A. offers a major with two options, three minors, and an M.A. program. It also prepares students for careers in teaching, human services, public policy, law, medicine, business, and for graduate study and research.
As a Hispanic-Serving Institution with a 53.8 percent Hispanic student body, CSULA continues to play a significant role in furthering the study and research of the Latino communities in Los Angeles and Southern California. Many of its graduates have moved on to become educators, professionals and organizers in the Los Angeles community.
As a simple, but important, tribute to the 45th anniversary of Chicano Studies, here are three Cal State L.A. alums who were among those instrumental in helping to establish the pioneering department at Cal State L.A.
Carlos Muñoz, Jr.
Dr. Carlos Muñoz, Jr. is professor emeritus in the Department of Ethnic Studies at University of California, Berkeley. Raised in the barrios of East Los Angeles, Munoz is the son of poor working class Mexican immigrants. He earned his A.A. from Los Angeles City Community College, his B.A. with honors in political science from Cal State L.A. and his Ph.D. in government from the Claremont Graduate School. Muñoz was the founding chair of Cal State L.A.’s Chicano Studies department and the founding chair of the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies. He is also author of numerous pioneering works regarding the Mexican American political experience and on African American and Latino political coalitions. After 44 years of teaching in higher education, he has gained international prominence as a political scientist, historian, journalist, and public intellectual.
“My most memorable experience at CSULA was sharing the excitment of the students I worked with in the establishment of what came to be the first department of Chicano Studies in the nation.”
“The education I received at CSULA paved the way for my Ph.D. and a rewarding career in higher education. I am proud to be an alumnus of this institution.”
“I think the future of Chicano Studies at CSULA is bright because the department has faculty who are outstanding scholars.”
Dr. Monte Perez has been serving as president of Los Angeles Mission College (LAMC) in Sylmar since May 2011, a community college with more than 11,000 students. Perez received his bachelor’s degree in social science government at Cal State L.A. and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in public policy and administration from USC. He began his career as assistant director of admissions at Stanford University. Subsequently, he served as director of the Educational Opportunity Program and Student Support Services at Cal State L.A. while also teaching political science and Chicano studies. He implemented numerous outreach and retention programs at Stanford and Cal State L.A. Before his tenure at LAMC, he was president of Moreno Valley College in Riverside and vice president of student services at Golden West College in Huntington Beach. As president of LAMC, he is currently working jointly with the Los Angeles Community College District.
“The most memorable experience at CSULA was working with the United Mexican American Students Committee in hiring Dr. Ralph Guzman to develop a concept paper that would serve as the foundation for the future Chicano Studies department.”
“Not only did I learn academics, I also learned about social consciousness and community activism at CSULA. I also learned a great deal about higher education administration when I became the director of the Educational Opportunities Program in the 1970s.”
“I think Chicano Studies will provide a roadmap for future leadership in California and the nation. This leadership will be inclusive and will engage people from a diversity of backgrounds. We will also become global leaders as well.”
Maria Lourdes Baeza is board president of Men and Women United in Justice Education and Reform (MUJER), which promotes healthy lifestyles, emotional wellness and stability by providing services to families and individuals affected by domestic violence and sexual abuse. Baeza graduated with a B.A. in political science at Cal State L.A. and completed a master’s degree in Latin American Studies at Stanford University. Shortly thereafter, she began her career as an administrator in higher education. Among various positions, she served as assistant to the dean at UC San Diego and assistant to the president at Stanford University. She also lived in Argentina and Brazil and participated in the women’s movement, experiences that helped deepen her identity as a Latina and also prepared her for the leadership positions she subsequently held at Florida International University and United Way in Miami.
“The pioneering class, entitled the “Psychology of the Mexican American” and taught by Dr. Dunbar at CSULA, gave me and other Chicano students the opportunity to see our own life experiences reflected in the bourgeoning social science and cultural studies literatures focusing on Mexican Americans. This was a seminal moment for me that made all the time, energy and struggles that accompanied the establishment of Chicano Studies department at CSULA incredibly worthwhile and a dream come true.”
“I was very fortunate to have been a student of many great scholars at CSULA, including Dr. Donald Bray and Dr. Tim Harding, both well-known scholars of Latin American history and politics. Many other CSULA faculty were also instrumental in encouraging my participation in the Chicano student movement of the ’60s and ’70s at a time when it was difficult for women to participate in meaningful leadership positions.”
“I firmly believe that other Latino experiences and histories must be included as part of a broader approach to Chicano studies. I am persuaded that the time to think more profoundly about Latino studies as an academic field is long overdue in view of the growing diversity of Latino populations has accelerated across the United States. In particular, I believe Latino studies can be very instrumental in broadening and strengthening the social science at the elementary, high school and college levels, thereby contributing to better educational outcomes for all students.”
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