American ethnic studies and gender, women and sexuality studies merging, joint degree program coming soon

Leasure Hall houses the department of gender, women, and sexuality studies and the department of American ethnic studies, which will be merged to create a new degree program. (Archive photo | Collegian Media Group)

The College of Arts and Sciences at Kansas State is consolidating the American ethnic studies and gender, women and sexuality studies to create a new degree program.

“For some time, there have been discussions of the possibility of a merger,” Charles Taber, provost and executive vice president, said. “In recent months, with my full support, these conversations have progressed to a planning process in the two departments for a merger.”

The Kansas Board of Regents recently reviewed programs across the Regents systems, and it discovered that the number of students majoring and graduating from these two programs at K-State fell below the minimum requirement. The KBR voted that the programs should be merged as soon as possible.

“Both of these departments are small and they draw relatively few majors to their programs,” Taber said. “At many universities, these programs reside together and benefit from fertile intellectual interaction, as well as economies of scale.”

Two committees, one for curriculum and one for structure, are working on the new program.

Scott Tanona, associate dean of academic affairs, said the structure committee is looking at how the two departments organize things — in terms of faculty and staffing structure and processes, and determining how the new unit will be organized.

The curriculum committee looks at the degree program.

“They are looking at the two majors and working up a proposal for a new major, deciding what courses will be required, how to set up different tracks or concentration areas, and so on,” Tanona said.

While the new unit will not be identical to the current layout of American ethnic studies and GWSS, the courses listed in these programs will still be offered.

“It’s too early to say [how the tracks will compare to each other], but the idea at the moment is to have concentration areas or tracks that capture the foci of the two disciplines,” Tanona said. “Students will still be able to focus in what they would have in American ethnic studies or gender, women, and sexuality studies, but it will be in a wider, common curriculum, and there might be other options for them as well.”

Taber said American ethnic studies and GWSS offer opportunities for social transformation for students and the community.

“They are central to our diversity, equity, and inclusion mission and engage our students in deep discussions of our multicultural world,” Taber said.

Students currently enrolled in either of the merging programs will be able to finish their degrees. Tanona said that once the new program is set up, there will be potential for students to switch if they are interested.

“We are really hoping to make the transition as smooth as possible for students, as well as faculty and advisors so that they know what to expect and what big things [advisors] will be able to recommend to their students,” Tanona said.

While there is no specific date for the program to be complete, Tanona said the committees work as fast as they can while still treating decisions about major curriculum changes carefully, following the university processes that need to occur to enact these changes.