Race, Power and Resistance Major Will Center Under-Represented Voices

By Danica Fisher ’05, May 13, 2021
IC’s Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity will offer the new major this fall.

College students across the country have been calling on their institutions to diversify the curriculum and include more varied perspectives and experiences, especially those from marginalized communities. Ithaca College’s major in race, power and resistance is designed to do just that. Housed within IC’s Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity (CSCRE), the new major will launch this fall. 

"This major is important because it stresses the idea that race is not an add on,” said Belisa Gonazalez, director of the CSCRE and associate professor in the Department of Sociology. “Racial analysis is not an afterthought. Students of color want to see themselves reflected in the curriculum, see themselves reflected in the faculty and have their experiences and histories validated.” 

While the events of last summer brought intensified attention to issues of racial injustice, Gonzalez and her colleagues have been designing the major for two years. Gonzalez points out that they brought students together last year to ask them what they wanted to see in the major. 

“This is an amazing example of how the college is evolving to not only meet student need and interest, but to synthesize a pathway of inquiry that transcends disciplinary boundaries and offers an educational experience that prepares students to meaningfully contribute to our world.”

President Shirley M. Collado.

“With the sort of attention that has been given to racial disparities and the lack of racial justice-oriented curriculum across higher education, it seemed that there was a lot of intersecting momentum for this major at this time,” said Gonzalez. “The difference between what we’re offering and what traditional disciplines offer is that we are starting from a place of centering minoritized voices and experiences, instead of trying to retrofit a discipline to add those voices. Part of that is acknowledging that there are consequences attached to not understanding how systems of oppression work and how they relate to race. Racism is sophisticated, and it is always changing.” 

The major will complement the Center’s existing minors in African Diaspora Studies, Asian American Studies, Latino/a/x Studies, and Native American and Indigenous Studies. 

“This is an amazing example of how the college is evolving to not only meet student need and interest, but to synthesize a pathway of inquiry that transcends disciplinary boundaries and offers an educational experience that prepares students to meaningfully contribute to our world,” said President Shirley M. Collado. “That this new major for the college is the first for our CSCRE is an incredible and proud milestone, and I offer my sincere gratitude to the array of faculty whose determination and vision brought this moment to life.” 

The major will consist of 36 credits, with nine required, making the major flexible for students and easy to double major with as it intersects with other disciplines. 

“Students were telling us they wanted the flexibility so they could easily double major,” said Gonzalez. “The curriculum centers the experiences, the wisdom, the joy and yes, sometimes the oppression of minoritized groups. The curriculum offers people an understanding of the value of centering marginalized voices.” 

“The Ithaca Forever plan includes the goal that Ithaca College will become a model for diversity, equity and inclusion. In the higher education field what that means is that you have to have a very strong rootedness in a curriculum that all IC students can access, to essentially study power, qualities of marginalization and under-representation.” 

Paula Ioanide, professor in the CSCRE.

Paula Ioanide, professor in the CSCRE, also highlighted the flexibility of the major.  

“We conceptualized the race, power and resistance major with flexibility in mind,” said Ioanide. “It was to allow students to not only explore our department, but also multiple departments to get those different interdisciplinary perspectives.” 

The race, power and resistance major is also a progression of the Ithaca Forever strategic plan. 

“The Ithaca Forever plan includes the goal that Ithaca College will become a model for diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Ioanide. “In the higher education field what that means is that you have to have a very strong rootedness in a curriculum that all IC students can access, to essentially study power, qualities of marginalization and under-representation.” 

Gonzalez said that the major offers opportunities for experiential learning and myriad opportunities to incorporate topical and timely events into the course material. 

“There’s never any shortage of examples going on in the world to draw connections to,” said Gonzalez. “There’s so many opportunities to apply what we’re leaning, and that’s something that we really value.” 

Ioanide said students in the major will have opportunities to gain knowledge and experience through hands-on learning as the major requires students to take a methods course to study different approaches to studying race and ethnicity.  In the Applied Research Methods course, students engage in qualitative research methods like in-depth interviews where they then code interviews and assess findings. 

"This major is important because it stresses the idea that race is not an add on. Racial analysis is not an afterthought. Students of color want to see themselves reflected in the curriculum, see themselves reflected in the faculty and have their experiences and histories validated.” 

Belisa Gonazalez, director of the CSCRE and associate professor in the Department of Sociology.

“In the past, we have partnered with the community-based nonprofit Ultimate Reentry Opportunity (URO) to assess systemic barriers to community reintegration for formerly incarcerated people in Tompkins County,” said Ioanide. “CSCRE students not only interviewed justice-involved people, coded and analyzed interviews for themes, but produced a report that made our findings available to community stakeholders, Tompkins County legislators, and government actors. This is a perfect example of hands-on, engaged learning for the major that we plan to continue.” 

“We want them to understand that this is how you would apply your knowledge if you became a researcher, or a policymaker, or a producer, so they can really start seeing through this lens that you adopt and then you can practice it in many ways,” Ioanide added. 

Nicole Horsley, assistant professor in the CSCRE, voiced her hopes for students who participate in the major. 

“Hopefully, the major will provide a means to recruit and retain students who wish to study race, power and resistance, along with assisting them to develop critiques that move beyond representations and respectability politics, to imagine alternative futures,” said Horsley. “Students will be able to learn tried and true strategies and to develop new ones for the struggles to come.” 

Jacqueline Laferriere ’22, a Sociology major and a BOLD Women’s Leadership Scholar, is interested in the new major because it is a combination of everything she has been wanting to study. 

“The CSCRE has been the place throughout my college career where my mind has been expanded the most, and I have learned so much, and the addition of this major will only deepen that type of learning for more students in the future,” said Laferriere. “I admire everyone who put in so much work to create this major over the years, and I am so excited to see the major get implemented in the fall.” 

Ioanide reflected upon the significance of the social movement that we’re living through and how she and her colleagues couldn’t have anticipated the increased importance students would have in the major. 

“Students are hungry for this right now, students from all walks of life, who have genuine questions, curiosity and inquiry around wanting to understand the world that they live in and better articulate their own place in it,” said Ioanide. “I’m very proud of the fact that there’s great synergy between what students are asking for, both in terms of curricular flexibility, but also content in the major.” 

Gonzalez and Ioanide would like students to take the study and the reality of racialized experiences seriously and understand the nuances that this major will delve into. 

“I want students to walk away with a greater clarity of how the world works, specifically the power structures that impact groups and individuals,” said Ioanide.