Considering the broad and wide implications of the Chicana and Chicano Studies (CCS) program at The University of New Mexico, it’s no wonder that the department’s goal for CCS graduate studies degrees has been received with such resounding support.

Interacting with other people is a basic human need, right up there with things like nutrients, shelter and sleep. The irony of the ever-expanding digital world we live in is its “connection disconnection” that can leave us feeling more isolated than ever. Which is what makes the home of the CCS program so refreshing.

Walking into the small house on Sigma Chi Road on UNM’s main campus, the community-minded foundations of CCS are abundantly clear. Posters announcing current and past events hang from the walls, next to historical photographs and signs calling us to action. Bright paper flowers hang from an archway, inviting you into the front room where students and program participants work, play music and share space with wide-eyed Ricky, the CCS baby. 

Chicana and Chicano Studies staff, faculty and students
Back to front: Moises Santos - CCS grad instructor/History PhD student, Ricardo Santos - CCS baby, Lucy Honorato - CCS undergrad student, Doris Careaga - visiting professor, Antoinette Rael - unit admin, Dr. Irene Vasquez - CCS Chair, Natalia Toscano - CCS grad assistant/American Studies PhD student, Gustavo Garcia - CCS Community Advisory Committee member/American Studies PhD student

From its inception in 1970 until 2014, an interdisciplinary minor was offered in what was formerly known as the Chicano Hispano Méxicano Studies program. Renamed Chicana and Chicano Studies, the department only became official as recently as 2015, granting a CCS bachelor’s degree with several different concentrations available. The academic purpose of the department is to promote a critical understanding of Mexican/Spanish/Indigenous people through teaching, research, advocacy, and service.

With a mission so integral to furthering the understanding of New Mexico's past, present and future, CCS Chair Irene Vasquez and other members of the CCS faculty and staff wasted no time working toward their next ambition, crafting a proposal for CCS to offer advanced degrees, including a master’s program, master’s certificate and doctoral program. On April 24, UNM’s Faculty Senate unanimously approved the proposal. Vasquez attributes this momentum to the many successes of the CCS department.

“We built interest in the community, our enrollment grew, and we introduced courses into the (UNM academic) core.” Vasquez said. “We’ve met every benchmark given to us by the dean and/or the provost.”

Indeed, at a time when most universities are struggling with significant declines in enrollment, the CCS program at UNM saw a 30 percent enrollment increase between 2016 and 2017. The popularity of the department and its community connections have surely contributed to the avid endorsements of advanced CCS degrees.

“In spite of constrained resources, we’ve used strategic planning and word of mouth to achieve both short- and long-term goals,” Vasquez said. “We’ve become a sort of hub for grad students in other programs with an interest in Chicana and Chicano Studies.”

Through this unofficial hub, CCS has been able to provide mentorship, help publish academic papers and house research and education collectives. Taking the successes of the CCS undergraduate program and creating a path to graduate programs felt like common sense to Vasquez.

“The CCS department is unique in that we are here to serve students and the greater community,” Vasquez said. “We sponsor community activities, we have a community advisory board… our work attempts to serve the grassroots community.”

As for the journey toward CCS offering graduate degrees, Vasquez emphasized that we are not at the end of that road.

“The proposal will be reviewed by a Board of Regents subcommittee on May 3, and if it moves forward it will go before the full Board of Regents on May 11. That’s where our focus is now,” Vasquez said.

To contribute your voice, write and/or call members of the UNM Board of Regents in regards to offering advanced degrees in the Chicana and Chicano Studies Department at UNM.