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Belisa González

Who defines progress, and how? Professor Belisa González – and a new major at IC – ask challenging questions about dominant social narratives.

Belisa González teaches a group of students in a classroom.

Belisa González at home in the classroom: teaching a sociology course. (Photo by Giovanni Santacroce.)

The story of any individual’s success is rarely the story of that individual alone. That’s especially true for minoritized communities, and an important consideration when talking about concepts like “progress,” said Belisa González, professor of sociology at Ithaca College.  

“Instead of thinking in terms of I, we think in terms of we,” she said. “So, progress for me would be thinking about the fabrics of people who brought something forward, and all of the people who contributed to [that] something and continue to remake it, rather than the one person's name who shows up in a history book or on a building.” 

Belisa also teaches in the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity (usually referred to as CSCRE among the college community), where the mission is to make place and space to study how those fabrics are woven throughout history and societies.  

She and colleagues in the CSCRE have created a new way for students to join that mission: the race, power, and resistance major unveiled in fall 2021. Much like the overlaps and intersections that are integral to understanding race, ethnicity, systems of oppression and the struggle against, the major leverages IC’s existing academic programs: women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; African diaspora studies; Latino/a/x studies; Asian American studies; and Native American and Indigenous studies. 

“Instead of thinking in terms of I, we think in terms of we.”

“That was really important because that's also a central feature of ethnic studies as well: the cross-disciplinary nature and trying to find what we can in an array of different disciplines, and not trying to stick to any one methodology or disciplinary trajectory.” 

Those varied lenses can present new perspectives on the typical lessons we learn from kindergarten through high school, where concepts like “progress” have been narrowly defined for a privileged group of people.  

“I think that's where the educational intervention is, is to not take progress as this given, wonderful thing, but rather really try and think deeply about the consequences of it potentially—the opportunities in it, but then also our own investment in it.”