Universities are slowly beginning to offer more opportunities in cultural studies for its students. As a Latina, knowing that the university I currently attend – the University of Texas at Austin – offers students the ability to get a degree in Asian, Asian American, Islamic, Jewish, and Middle Eastern Studies (just to name a few), really made me want to learn about the Mexican American Studies degree. Sooner than later, I decided to double major in it. For me, my heritage played a lot into this decision, but it really does not matter if you identify as Mexican American or not. It also does not matter if you know a lot of this culture because there are so many more things the Mexican American Studies degree can do for you.
Is a Mexican American Studies degree worth it?
It is important to understand the criticism that the idea of Mexican American Studies has been facing for the past couple of years. With schools in Arizona, Texas, and California struggling to offer Mexican American Studies in their schools, it is only harder for colleges and universities to do the same– especially when the degree can definitely be put into good use.
With a Mexican American Studies degree, for example, you can become a Study Abroad Coordinator for a university or Marketing and Advertising Manager for a big international corporation.
The degree also allows you to tailor another interest you might be pursuing as well. For example, if you are a government major and decide to get another degree at the same time in Mexican American Studies, then you can possibly become an Affirmative Action Specialist. If you’re a communications major and get a dual degree, you can possibly become a writer for a Latin@ based organization, or a foreign policy news analyst.
For Estela Maldonado, coming back to school to get a Mexican American studies degree meant being able to help more people. After having a son, she said coming back to school to major in Mexican American Studies meant she would be able to tell her son “more about where he comes from.” A frequent volunteer in events that raise awareness over immigration and labor form, she said, “with my degree, I can be a more informed member of the community I choose to take part in.”
Where can I study this?
Texas is not the only state that offers a Mexican American studies degree. There are different programs such as the Latino Studies Program at Cornell University, the Center for Latino Policy Research at UC Berkeley, and the Hispanic Research Center where this or a similar degree can be studied. Within these programs there are classes that are offered in areas such as Spanish literature, anthropology, and political science. Some course titles offered at the University of Texas at Austin, for example, include classes like “Introduction to Cultural Studies; “Mexico: From Aztlan to Zapata”; and “Chicanos and Film: Representation of la Raza.” At the University of Houston, you might take “MAS 3341: Mexican American Experience through Film” or “MAS 3342: Mexican Immigration to the United States.” If you go out of state, you can take classes like “MAS 485: Mexicana/Chicana Women’s History” or “MAS 369: Mexico Since Independence” at the University of Arizona.
Taking classes in these degree programs ask for an array of skills. It is not like your typical degree program where you might only be conducting experiments or attending meetings. Depending on the institution and track you choose (i.e. cultural studies, policy studies), the things you will be doing coincide.
For example, if you want to focus on studying the cultural side of Mexican American studies, you might be studying Mexican American literature, movies, and history. Because the Mexican American Studies degree is more of a specialization in cultural studies (since you can also study Asian American History, African American History, etc.), schools usually have an option for you to focus more on the political or social history side of Mexican American Studies. Other universities, such as Our Lady of the Lake University, offer more general courses in Mexican American Studies focusing on more of an overview in the area.
Recently, South Texas College in McAllen, Texas became the first college to offer a Mexican American Studies degree that can be earned completely online. There are currently 28 colleges and universities across the United States that offer a Mexican American Studies as a degree. But in other schools such as the University of Arizona, new Ph.D. and doctoral programs are now being offered.
So whatever the case may be, there are many possibilities for you to make the Mexican American studies fit to your needs. Do not be afraid to do some research and reach out to admissions offices about their Mexican American studies degree. You will not regret your decision!