Ethnic Studies – For All Students

Ethnic Studies at Lawrence is the critical and interdisciplinary examination of race and ethnicity through a focus on the experiences and expressions of people of color in and beyond the United States.  Students learn how ethnic groups identify on the basis of national origin, family heritage, shared historical experience, customs and traditions, and/or language. Students critically examine how constructions of race and racism are still embedded in institutions and everyday life.

Ethnic Studies breaks down barriers and benefits all students. For a few examples, Ethnic Studies classes:

  • Look at the roles played by race, ethnicity, class, gender and sexual orientation in American society and other global contexts.
  • Debate issues – immigration, national identity, poverty, education, equal opportunity, and more—that challenge the United States and the world.
  • Discuss diversity in relation to workplaces, education, legal systems, food systems, public health, the environment, sexual attraction and dating, and so on.
  • Examine the ways race and ethnicity are expressed, reflected and constructed in film, theatre, literature, visual arts, music, and popular or social media.
  • Build skills for negotiating multi-ethnic and interracial communities, and diverse workplace environments.

Thus, Ethnic Studies at Lawrence is for all students not just students of color and not just student majors or minors.  All students benefit academically and socially from Ethnic Studies.

For further information, read about our social justice requirement below OR see how to build an ETST major or minor in the Major/Minor Requirements menu tab OR explore ETST classes in the Course Descriptions menu tab.

Social Justice Requirement in Ethnic Studies

The Ethnic Studies major requires a social justice or community-based learning experience in an off-campus site (local, domestic, or global) accompanied by a reflection. A non-credit bearing requirement, students may fulfill this through work-study, volunteering, or service-learning in a community or organization.  Students may fulfill this requirement for elective credit if completed as part of an internship or community-based learning.  Ethnic Studies Program faculty approve social justice proposals that students submit before they undertake their experience. A small panel of Ethnic Studies faculty reviews reflection essays upon completion. Students will find useful the following guidelines and tips for writing social justice reflections.

Writing Up A Social Justice Reflection

Successful social justice reflections (5- to 6-page, double-spaced essay) should describe details about locations, timeframes, responsibilities, and actions of a student’s social justice activity. They discuss why that organization or activity, and how such work promotes social justice.  Moreover, successful reflection essays explain how volunteer work, an internship, or community-based learning experience relates to what students have learned inside Ethnic Studies classrooms, and how social justice work connects to Ethnic Studies theories and concepts.  And finally, model reflection essays demonstrate why the social justice requirement is a necessary component of the Ethnic Studies major at Lawrence University, and they illustrate what students learn and value most from this experience.

Additional Tips

There’s no need to wait! The social justice requirement can be fulfilled before your senior year (even as a rising sophomore) through internships, volunteer work, service-learning working, and community-based learning. Ideally, you will need to have taken at least one core course in Ethnic Studies (e.g. ETST 110, 210, 301 and so on) to have some grounding in Ethnic Studies. But, taking these courses beforehand is not absolutely necessary, depending on student circumstances.

Ask what is “social justice”!  Social Justice can be defined in various ways. What does “social justice” mean to you? What are kinds of organizations or activities that promote social justice?

It’s not a competition!  The social justice requirement is not a competition for who can do the hardest or most radical service. Rather, serve in communities beyond the classroom that connect to your values and interests, whether local, national or global.  Fulfill this social justice requirement in a way that is personally meaningful.

Journal!  When doing your social justice work, you might record your daily experience in a reflection journal.  Memories go stale and become unreliable sources.  Daily journaling turns memory into reliable testimony.   In a journal, you will have a record of your experience that you can read and re-read (even months) later, for the purposes of writing up your social justice essay.

Reference a central term, book or article in your essay!  There’s no need to select or start social justice work on the basis of Ethnic Studies scholarship. But, upon reflection—during and after— your essay should explicitly connect your social justice work to Ethnic Studies theories and concepts, including at least one citation and bibliographic reference.

Don’t neglect good essay form! Good essay form (5- to 6-pages, double-spaced) starts with a thematic title and an opening paragraph that both introduces the social justice work and the “take-away lesson” for or about Ethnic Studies. Body paragraphs can vary in tone, voice, and writing style, as long as they address the above-mentioned criteria. Conclusions should underscore how one’s social justice work connects to Ethnic Studies.