North Carolina’s Hispanic population grew faster than any other state’s between 1990 and 2000. Now the transformation that has crept to the very walls of UNC also is taking hold inside the University with the inauguration last fall of the first Latina/Latino studies minor in the Southeast.
About a dozen students have inquired about declaring the minor, but only one had officially declared at the beginning of the fall semester. Maria DeGuzman, assistant professor of English who chairs the new minor, expects enrollment to increase over the course of the year, mindful that the formal inauguration of the minor occurred a month into the fall.
The minor is housed in the English department but encompasses classes in music, anthropology, African-American studies, public policy and others.
Since her arrival at UNC in 1999, DeGuzman has brought renowned academics from across the country to campus for the University’s “Latina/o Culture(s) Speakers’ Series.”
Forming an undergraduate minor was the next logical step for DeGuzman. Many of Carolina’s peer institutions have similar departments, including the University of Michigan and the University of California. DeGuzman started working in earnest on a proposal in September 2003. She submitted the proposal to the administration in January 2004, and it was approved as a minor on March 1.
“Students will gain cultural exposure that has relevance to the region we live in,” DeGuzman said. “I hope it gives them occasion to put together their studies in different ways.”
To complete the minor, students take five classes from a number of disciplines. Several of the classes existed before the minor, and some professors adjusted their curriculum to focus on Latina/o studies.
About 2 percent of UNC’s student body is Hispanic. The Hispanic population is as high as 12 percent in parts of Orange County.