Cal State Northridge has launched the first university Central American Studies program and academic minor in the country, aimed at serving a growing Southland ethnic group projected to number more than 2.5 million by 2010.
CSUN Interim President Louanne Kennedy and others announced the new program during a May 8 news conference at the university. Offered through the university's College of Humanities, the groundbreaking project will develop courses, conduct research and develop conferences covering a range of topics.
The transnational/global approach adopted by the university's Central American Studies program will place major focus on the strong economic, cultural and political relationships between the large Central American population in the United States and that in Central America.
For example, more than 5 percent of the gross national product (GNP) of some Central American countries comes from remittances sent by Central Americans living in Southern California. The region currently has several hundred thousand residents who came from Central America.
"The creation of the Central American Studies program reflects a major step in the life of the third-largest Latino group in the United States," said Roberto Lovato, coordinator of the new CSUN program and current president of the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission.
"This will not be an ethnic studies program. This is a new academic discipline emerging to match the challenges of a new historical period, a new community, a new moment in time," Lovato said. "When we consider that one in every four Americans will be Latino by 2050, such a program comes at the right historical moment."
Los Angeles already is home to more than half of all Central Americans in the United States. A significant portion of that population is in the San Fernando Valley where CSUN is located, making the university's new program especially pertinent, Lovato said.
Joining President Kennedy and Lovato in announcing the new program were CSUN College of Humanities Dean Jorge Garcia, Chicano Studies Department chair Gerald Resendez, and CSUN student Siris Barrios, a member of the Central American United Student Association (CAUSA).
Officials said students participating in the new minor will range from those seeking to better understand their own heritage to those planning to work in areas where knowledge of Central American issues would be helpful.
Public Affairs Offices/Campus News