University of Oregon’s Ethnic Studies department is located on East 15th Avenue in Eugene, Ore. (Dana Sparks/Emerald)

The University of Oregon is the third university in the nation for number of ethnic studies degrees awarded, according to Data USA. Of the top three, it is the only department that did not have a graduate program — until now.

The ethnic studies department will welcome its first cohort of Ph.D.-bound students in fall 2021, Laura Pulido, department head of ethnic studies, said.


Laura Pulido is a professor and the head of the ethnic studies department at University of Oregon. The program expects its first PhD-bound students in 2021. (Dana Sparks/Emerald)

“We think given the demographic change in the Pacific Northwest, and certainly given the rise in white supremacy and white supremacist activism here, it is really important that we begin systematically studying and offering advanced opportunities to study [systems of oppression],” Pulido said.

Next fall, the program will also change its name to Indigenous, Race and Ethnic Studies to encompass the breadth of work faculty and students do in the program.  

“We wanted to foreground our work in indigeneity here. That’s really important to us,” Pulido said. “A number of other institutions have been changing their names.”

At Portland State, the ethnic studies department’s name is the School of Gender, Race and Nation and Arizona State University calls its ethnic studies department the School of Social Transformation.

The ethnic studies program at UO offers a focus on intersectionality and native studies — topics that are gaining popularity and recognition in the ethnic studies field, Pulido said.

“Within the world of ethnic studies, native studies is very dynamic — it’s exploding right now. We happen to have a lot of depth in that area, so that’s a great thing,” Pulido said.

The department presented its doctorate program proposal to the university senate in late January after it received approval from the senate’s graduate council.

The program will start small and aims to grow over time, Pulido said. The College of Arts and Sciences is allocating funding for five doctorate students for the 2021 school year and will accept five more students every other year.

Pulido said she wished the department could expand the program and welcome five students every year, however there are complications with funding.

“I’m really interested in finding supplemental funding to support a second year cohort, so we can firmly launch it, so people know this is an important place to come to do graduate work in ethnic studies,” Pulido said.

UO’s undergraduate ethnic studies department is relatively small, hosting about 75 majors and 75 minors, Pulido said.

Despite its size, the department offers specialized topics and unique perspectives that have attracted many students to the program.

“We know there is a hunger out there — a demand on the side of students for that kind of advanced training,” Pulido said.

The ethnic studies department will offer its first graduate level courses in the next academic school year for UO students.

“We wanted the campus to get used to the idea that ethnic studies now will be offering graduate courses,” Pulido said.

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