Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the undergraduate program at CSER. If you have any more questions, use the button below to schedule an appointment with CSER’s Director of Undergraduate Studies.
What would I study in CSER (Ethnic Studies)?
Ethnicity and Race Studies major and concentration encompass a variety of fields and interdisciplinary approaches to the critical study of ethnicity and race. Although various traditional disciplines such as history, sociology, anthropology, and literature offer valuable knowledge on the subject, ethnicity and race studies provides a flexible interdisciplinary and comparative space to bring the insights of various conceptual frameworks and disciplines together in critical dialogue.
Overall, the major introduces students to the study of ethnicity and race and the deep implications of the subject matter for thinking about human bodies, power, identity, culture, social hierarchy, and the formation of political communities. The major encourages students to consider the repercussions of racial and ethnic identifications to local and global politics, and how race and ethnicity relates to gender, sexuality, and social class, among other forms of hierarchical difference.
Students majoring in ethnicity and race studies may focus their work on specific groups, including Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, and/or concentrate on the comparative study of how race and ethnic categories are formed and how they transform. Students also have the option of designing an individualized course of study. Individualized courses of study may encompass a wide variety of themes. Among the most studied are those involving the relationship between race, ethnicity and law; health; human rights; urban spaces; cultural production; visual culture; and the environment.
What would I be able to do as a major or concentrator in CSER? What sort of opportunities do majors and concentrators in Ethnic Studies pursue after graduation (e.g., graduate study, jobs, other)?
The CSER curriculum is rigorously interdisciplinary which means that CSER majors and concentrators engage with a wide range of theories, methods, and practices—from critical race theories to performance theories, from ethnography to archival research, from community activism to creative writing. As a result, CSER students develop valuable expertise at creative and multiple approaches to problem solving, critical thinking, social responsibility, and cross-cultural understanding. The major enables a student to follow multiple directions after graduation. According to our internal surveys, nearly half of CSER students continue to graduate programs in history, anthropology, and ethnic studies, among other areas. A second group of students pursues a variety of professions, most notably related to law, medicine, media, social work, government, and human rights.
If I want to learn more about CSER, what introductory course(s) should I take in my first or second year at Columbia?
CSER majors and concentrators should enroll in one of the following introductory core courses during their first or second year at Columbia:
CSER UN1010: Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies (4 points, Global Core Course)
CSER UN1040: Critical Approaches to the Study of Ethnicity and Race (3 points)
CSER majors and concentrators should also enroll in at least one of the following core courses during their first two years of study:
CSER W3928 Colonialism / Decolonization (4 points, Global Core Course)
CSER UN3942 Race and Racisms (4 points)
When should I talk with the Director of Undergraduate Studies for CSER? Are there other advisers in CSER I should consult if I have questions about the major or concentration?
Whether you just have questions about what exactly the CSER major is or you are already a CSER major or concentrator and have questions about your remaining course requirements, you should always feel free to make an appointment to talk with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The easiest way to secure a time is to visit the CSER website and click on the “Undergraduate” tab and then on the “DUS Appointment” tab. You can then sign up for an available appointment.
I noticed that there are several ||tracks|| to choose from in the major. How do I go about choosing my track?
The “tracks” within the CSER major and concentration are designed to help students create a sense of coherence in their elective coursework. Some students find, for example, that they are interested in a particular “sub-group” within ethnic studies (i.e. Native American Studies or Latinx Studies) and choose to center most or all of their electives around that course of study. Other students prefer a more explicitly comparative approach and opt for “Comparative Ethnic Studies” as their track. Many CSER students are guided by an interest in a thematic approach to the major and, in consultation with the DUS, design their own track centered around a particular issue in relation to race and ethnicity. Some examples of these student-designed thematic tracks include: “Race and Representation,” “Studies in Race, Sexuality, and Public Health,” or “Race and Migration,” to name just a few. Feel free to meet with the DUS if you need more guidance about choosing your track.