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University considers new minor

Kathleen McDonnell | Friday, February 9, 2007

As the University explores adding Native American Studies – the first fully student-initiated minor at Notre Dame – to its curriculum, the idea may become a reality in just a few years, said Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Letters Stuart Greene.

A resolution to enhance student life for Native Americans passed through both the Student Senate and the Campus Life Council this year. The resolution included a plan for the new minor and also proposed providing additional advising resources for Native American students and encouraged collaboration to present the history of Notre Dame with sensitivity to its former inhabitants.

Student interest can produce – or at least initiate – minors or majors, Grene said. The Education, Schooling and Society minor grew from persistent interest and faculty member’s independent studies. And Korean should be offered in two years due to student input.

The proposition for a Native American Studies minor, however, “is really the first time that students directly have come to the College [of Arts and Letters] and requested that at least a dean explore the possibility of a minor,” he said.

Destinee DeLemos, chair of the Senate Multicultural Affairs committee, recently met with Greene to discuss the possible addition of the minor.

The American Studies, history and anthropology departments currently offer courses with a focus or concentration on Native American culture. Greene thinks faculty “in spirit agree that we need to offer more courses that have a Native American component, if not actual courses on Native American history.”

But the College is not able to immediately create a Native American Studies minor due to a lack of resources, Greene said.

The University has lost faculty members over the last five years whose expertise was in Native American culture and history, he said. But when departments hire new faculty with this focus, Arts and Letters can consider creating a minor.

The University hires new professors every year, he said, and each department makes a case for its greatest needs. Now that student interest is widely known, professors who specialize in Native American studies could possibly be hired within the next few years, he said.

“Now we know that students are interested, and that this interest is growing. It’s possible that chairs of departments will begin to make [hiring faculty with an interest in Native American Studies] a priority,” Greene said. “It could take two to three years before beginning to get new faculty, or it could take five or more.”

DeLemos and her committee are already at work to speed up the process to make the minor a reality.

“We’re working on increasing student awareness for minority recruitment in general and also specifically for Native American recruitment,” she said.

Along with Arthur Taylor, the assistant director of the Multicultural Student Programs and Services, DeLemos is working on a letter to the Office of the Provost to present student concerns and continue the ongoing efforts to hire minority faculty.

“I think students need to tell our administration that we really do want them to recruit Native American professors,” DeLemos said. “We can’t recruit Native American students to the University if we don’t have a strong program or classes for that matter that relate to their culture and history.”

If new faculty members with Native American specialties are hired, the proposed minor will be of an interdisciplinary fashion, similar to the existing Irish studies minor, Greene said. Anthropological, literary and artistic perspectives could all be included in the minor.

Despite the obstacles ahead, Greene remains optimistic about the prospective minor’s future.

“I think it’s important to meet the needs of students and I remain hopeful that we’ll be able to do so and at the very least be able to offer students a minor in the future,” Greene said.