Victor Rodriguez was born in Puerto Rico and came to the U.S. to study business. Shortly after he arrived, he discovered a passion for ethnic studies. He held multiple teaching positions at different universities, but once he arrived at Long Beach State, he fell in love with the diversity on campus.
“When I came to [LBSU], I was fascinated because [the campus] was so diverse,” Rodriguez said. “And the conversation here was richer.”
Rodriguez, the now retired chair of the Chicano and Latino studies program, said ethnic studies helped him connect with the shared experiences of other cultural and ethnic groups.
“When I read the history of Mexican Americans in the United States, it was the history of my country,” Rodriguez said. “It was my colonized experience.”
Rodriguez was one of many faculty members and students from four of LBSU’s ethnic studies programs that filed into Lecture Hall 150 on Tuesday for a panel recognizing the 50th anniversary of ethnic studies in the U.S.
The panel took place as part of The Ethnic Experience in the U.S., a class that brings together students and professors from the various ethnic studies departments on campus.
Barbara Kim, vice chair of Asian and Asian American studies department, moderated the panel made up of current and former department chairs, professors and students.
The panelists shared their personal experiences with ethnic studies classes and discussed their historical and cultural significance. There was also a short Q&A session where attendees received advice regarding their own pursuit of ethnic studies.
Francis Cullado is an LBSU alumnus and executive director at Visual Communications, a nonprofit organization that develops and supports Asian American and Pacific Islander media artists.
Cullado shared he hadn’t originally planned to get an ethnic studies degree.
“I was in undergrad for 10 years,” Cullado said. “I didn’t declare for my Asian American studies degree until the semester I was actually graduating.”
Africana Studies Department Chair and activist Maulana Karenga discussed how his relationship with ethnic studies began as a personal journey.
“I’m one of the founders of the discipline of Black studies,” Karenga said. “I came into Black studies and ethnic studies as a lived experience.”
Karenga stressed the importance of active participation in ethnic issues.
“I see my role as an intellectual activist,” Karenga said. “I don’t believe knowledge is for knowledge sake, I believe knowledge is for human sake.”