New Academic Department, Ethnic and Race Studies, Empowers Students to be Change Agents in a Multi-Ethnic Society

Professor and Department Chair Patricia Mathews with work study student in Ethnic and Race Studies Department office.
Ethnic and Race Studies Department Chair Patricia Mathews with work study student at BMCC.

April 15, 2021

The Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) Center for Ethnic Studies has led the way to the creation of a new department, the Department of Ethnic and Race Studies, which offers an Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree in Ethnic Studies.

The mission of the new department is to highlight universal human values that lead to positive change.

Graduates of the program will gain core competencies in the social sciences, arts and humanities. They will learn research methodologies and critical thinking skills as they examine the histories and formation of racial and ethnic groups in the United States and globally.

New department supports students’ growth as agents of change in a multi-ethnic society

Through BMCCarticulation agreement with Lehman College, CUNY, Ethnic Studies graduates will be able to transfer seamlessly into Lehman’s Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree programs in Latino Studies or Latin American and Caribbean Studies, without any loss of credits.

The Center for Ethnic Studies, which preceded the Department of Ethnic and Race Studies, was established in 1970 and served BMCC students for more than 50 years.

Patricia Mathews, a professor of anthropology who taught in the former Center for Ethnic Studies as well as in the BMCC department of Social Sciences, is chair of the new Ethnic and Race Studies Department.

The Ethnic Studies courses providerigorous discussion to address the painful history of our country and find ways to fight for a more just society,” says Professor Mathews. The Ethnic and Race Studies faculty are committed to guiding students through this process, and to validate their potential and strength as agents of change in this multi-ethnic society.”

She says students will also analyze the interrelationships among historical background, cultural patterns, artistic expressions and politics.

This will help students achieve a well-rounded understanding of relations between Asian, Asian American, African, African American, Latino/a and indigenous peoples of the United States.

Students apply research methodologies in interdisciplinary courses, to explore a topic in-depth

“The creation of the department is long overdue and necessary, especially during this time of social justice and political upheaval,” says Acting Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Erwin Wong.

He stresses that the BMCC community needs to be made aware of the importance and significance of race, diversity and inclusivity.

“That is the mission of ethnic studies, and it is accomplished through an interdisciplinary approach,” Acting Provost Wong says. “That is who they are and what makes them unique. No other department at BMCC offers courses that are all interdisciplinary. It speaks to BMCC’s leadership in the movement in higher education to globalize curricula. Congratulations to the faculty and staff in Ethnic Studies!”

The Ethnic and Race Studies departmentoffers coursesin Asian and Asian American Studies, Africana, Afro Latin and Latinx Studies, as well as courses such as Introduction to Ethnic Studies, Comparative Studies, Urban Health in Historically underrepresented communities and Research and Writing Methods.

Students will not only learn history and gain vital factual information about events, they will sharpen their scholarly skills as they explore a topic in-depth, engage in independent research, develop their analytic skills, and apply concepts and theories to new cases,” says Professor Mathews.

She adds that students will apply a variety of methodological approaches to doing ethnic studies research, and engage in the pursuit of self-knowledge that is central to self-empowerment.”

For more information on the Ethnic and Race Studies Department, please contact Program Coordinator, Professor Rigoberto Andinoat





  • BMCC Center for Ethnic Studies replaced by the Department of Ethnic and Race Studies, which offers an Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree in Ethnic Studies.
  • Ethnic Studies majors apply various methodologies as they research racial and ethnic groups in the United States and globally.
  • Ethnic Studies curriculum is interdisciplinary and students gain core competencies in social sciences, arts and humanities as they learn to be change-agents in a diverse society.

share this story »