Rehumanizing Education: Ethnic Studies in the California Community Colleges

ASCCC South Representative
ASCCC North Representative and Transfer, Articulation, and Student Services Committee Chair

On August 17, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1460, which created the California State University (CSU) Ethnic Studies General Education Breadth Requirement, calling on all 23 CSU campuses to require a three-unit ethnic studies course toward graduation (Zinshteyn, 2020). Subsequently, the CSU developed the Area F Ethnic Studies general education area, which adopted the CSU Ethnic Studies Council Ethnic Studies Core Competencies, and in November 2020 the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) passed Resolution 9.03 F20 recommending Title 5 changes to include ethnic studies as a community college graduation requirement. [1] Since fall of 2020, California community colleges have developed, modified, and adopted ethnic studies courses to fit the new Area F Ethnic Studies Competencies. In light of these changes, the ASCCC passed Resolution 09.01 SP21 to develop a set of resources that could assist in establishing ethnic studies programs in alignment with California State University requirements, with the request for access to “a set of resources for local academic senates to assist in establishing ethnic studies based programs.”

Defining Ethnic Studies

Ethnic studies is used as an umbrella term that references the four core autonomous disciplines of African American/Black/Africana studies, Chicana/o (Latina/o) studies, Asian American studies, and Native American/American Indian studies. These four disciplines are the heart of ethnic studies (Velez, Guerrero, & Cheshire, 2023). Integral to the development of new ethnic studies programs and courses is the emphasis on the unique epistemology of each of the ethnic studies core disciplines.

An ethnic studies report from the National Education Association’s Center for Enterprise Strategy, titled “What the Research Says About Ethnic Studies,” reveals that ethnic studies invokes transformational educational development for students in a variety of ways: “students who participate in ethnic studies are more academically engaged, develop a stronger sense of self-efficacy and personal empowerment, perform better academically and graduate at higher rates” (Sleeter & Zavala, 2020).

Building the Team

Ideally, faculty from any discipline being established will be primary in developing curriculum, in which case those faculty must meet the California Community Colleges minimum qualifications or the equivalent. The local college sets the standard, typically through its curriculum committee, for how faculty within the college propose new curriculum. The California Community Colleges Ethnic Studies Taskforce recommends that faculty who meet the ethnic studies minimum qualifications lead the development of curriculum, as any discipline would, to maintain fidelity to the ethnic studies discipline.

Each campus provides guidance in the development of programs and courses. Faculty working in such efforts should maintain contact with their campus curriculum chairs and rely on the California Community Colleges Program and Course Approval Handbook (California Community Colleges Chancellor’ Office, 2023).

Developing the Program

Ethnic studies programs are vast and follow different organizational patterns. Larger colleges have autonomous stand-alone departments in each of the ethnic studies core disciplines, such as the San Diego Mesa College Black Studies Department or the East Los Angeles College Chicana and Chicano Studies Department. Other colleges have developed ethnic studies departments that house two or more of the core disciplines together, such as the Sierra College Ethnic Studies Department or the San Jose City College Ethnic Studies Department. Still other colleges place their ethnic studies courses in social sciences departments; for example, the Los Angeles City College Social Sciences Department houses African American studies, Asian American studies, and Chicana and Chicano studies.

However a college seeks to organize its programs, it must create programs and courses that provide students the opportunity to make choices among the different core disciplines. Although many colleges have crosslisted courses, the California Community Colleges Ethnic Studies Task Force strongly discourages crosslisting ethnic studies courses in general, particularly if doing so would lead to faculty without ethnic studies discipline expertise teaching the course. In addition, the decision to crosslist courses may negatively impact transfer or associate degree for transfer acceptance at the CSU (California Community Colleges Chancellor’ Office, n.d.).

Colleges must be certain that courses have the appropriate course title, such as Ethnic Studies XXX, Introduction to Chicana/o Studies or Chicano Studies XXX, Introduction to Chicana/o Studies, Ethnic Studies XXX, Introduction to African American Studies or African American Studies XXX, or Introduction to African American Studies. When ethnic studies courses are developed, maintaining fidelity to the autonomous core disciplines is key.


California Community Colleges Chancellor’ Office. (2023). Program and Course Approval Handbook. Eighth edition.
California Community Colleges Chancellor’ Office. (n.d.). Ethnic Studies Implementation FAQ. Vision Resource Center.
Sleeter, C., & Zavala, M. (2020, October 15). What the Research Says About Ethnic Studies. National Education Association.
Velez, M., Guerrero, C., & Cheshire, T. (2023, February). The Driving Principles of the Ethnic Studies Disciplines. Senate Rostrum.
Zinshteyn, M. (2020, August 18). California State University now requires ethnic studies. CalMatters.


ASCCC 2023 Exemplary Award Winning Programs

The San Diego Mesa College Ethnic Studies Faculty Council (MC-ESFC)
Chabot College Ethnic Studies
MiraCosta College Ethnic Studies Program
Glendale College Ethnic Studies

Sierra College – Ethnic Studies, Honorable Mention
Fullerton College Ethnic Studies, Honorable Mention

Ethnic Studies Core Competencies

University of California Core Competencies
California State University Core Competencies
California Community Colleges Core Competencies
Faculty Discipline Review Group (C-ID), Ethnic Studies Core Competencies

California Community College Chancellor’s Office Ethnic Studies


Allocation for Implementation ~ (PDF)
Spending FAQ (PDF)


Webinar - Title 5 Implementation of Ethnic Studies: Are You Ready (May 5, 2023)
Webinar slides
Ethnic Studies FAQs Fall 2022

ESS Guidance Memos

ESS 22-300-011 Ethnic Studies Area F Course Certifications ~ (PDF)
ESS 22-300-008 CCC Ethnic Studies Implementation Update ~ (PDF)
ESS 21-300-014 Ethnic Studies Implementation ~ (PDF)
ESS 21-300-001 Ethnic Studies Transfer Alignment ~ (PDF)

ASCCC + Ethnic Studies

Ethnic Studies-CCC Core Competencies, 2023 Curriculum Institute
The State of Ethnic Studies Education in the California Community Colleges, 2022 Fall Plenary Session
Ethnic Studies, 2022 Curriculum Institute
Light the Fire! Embedding Ethnic Studies at the Local College, 2021 Curriculum Institute

For additional information, contact the Ethnic Studies faculty at the California Community College Ethnic Studies Faculty Council at cccefc [at] (cccefc[at]gmail[dot]com)

1. ASCCC Adopted Resolutions