A historic and overdue change came in fall 2016. For the first time, students can now major in women’s and gender studies and ethnic studies as stand-alone subjects. Both were formerly companion majors requiring a second field of study.

“I can’t overestimate the importance of the symbolism,” Women’s and Gender Studies Chair Linda Garber says.“It is an important institutional acknowledgment that the study of diversity and systems of power and privilege and oppression are real academic pursuits.”

In terms of curriculum, the women’s and gender studies major isn’t much different than other schools, but Santa Clara’s social justice mission makes it unique. “It’s an exciting place to be doing social justice and diversity work,” Garber says.

This isn’t just a fitting place for the change, it’s a fitting time, too. Anna Sampaio ’92, chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies, says she views her classes as continuations of conversations she’s already having. “I just get the benefit of having it in public with students who are already interested in it,” Sampaio says. “So, I walk in and I’m like ‘All right, here’s what happened today.’”

Sampaio says ethnic studies helps students find the right critical lens for important issues. “You take ethnic studies to be a better citizen of the world, to be a better version of yourself,” Sampaio says. “ People can just become amazing human beings and do amazing things and this place can make that happen. I’m fully committed to that idea.”

Santa Clara’s ethnic studies program is one of a handful culminating in a bachelor of science, approaching the field from a social science perspective. Faculty are heavily involved in collaborative, community-based research on topics like identity formation and voter accessibility, suppression, and intimidation in San Jose.

“We’ve got this really amazing collection of people doing some really fascinating work,” Sampaio says.


A major in neuroscience becomes available to students starting fall 2017. Offering training in a variety of fields, such as psychology, biology, chemistry, and neuroethics, the major addresses cognitive issues like aging, Alzheimer’s, and autism.

By Demand: Neuroscience is one of the fastest growing fields of study. Image courtesy Getty

The major grew organically with several students developing their own individual study majors that focused on neuroscience. In the past five years, there’s also been a surge in the psychobiology concentration of the psychology major, with 40 plus students currently enrolled in the major. Developing the official major and curriculum just made sense.

“Our understanding of the brain is still in its infancy,” Chair Patti Simone says. “But the problems to be worked on have the potential to impact us all.”

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