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Board of Trustees Approves New Major and Establishes Two New Departments

On June 3, the Board of Trustees approved the creation of a new undergraduate major in neuroscience and designated two new departments, Ethnic Studies and Women's and Gender Studies.


A Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience at SCU will provide students with the scientific foundation needed to understand the nervous system at many levels, from the molecular level to patient symptomatology. Students will examine the biological and psychological underpinnings of the nervous system, they will come to appreciate the role of the environment in contributing to disease, disorders and development, and they will be challenged to consider ethical issues of brain-behavior relationships in criminology, health care, diagnosis and treatment. 

Neuroscience is a multi-disciplinary field drawing on expertise of many disciplines to examine the molecular, cellular, and anatomical functions of the brain and behavior.

According to the Society for Neuroscience, the more than 1,000 disorders of the brain and nervous system result in more hospitalizations and lost productivity than any other disease group, including heart disease and cancer, making neuroscience an important field of study. In fact, neurological, mental health and addiction disorders are prevalent globally and can be devastating to the individual and society. Neuroscience is a field well positioned to help understand, treat, and possibly prevent many of disorders ranging from Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and alcoholism, to Zika virus-induced microencephalopathy.

Patti Simone, Associate Professor of Psychology, led an interdisciplinary team of committee chairs to design and implement this new major that reflects the ever-evolving needs in modern public health.


Ethnic Studies

The Ethnic Studies Program at Santa Clara University was established in 1969, in the context of national movements to expand civil rights and prominent local movements in San Francisco and Berkeley recognizing the enduring impacts of racial and ethnic discrimination. 

As one of the oldest programs of its kind, Ethnic Studies examines the legacy of racial and ethnic inequalities in the U.S, sources of resistance and transformation, and the contemporary impacts of these changes. Rooted in the lives of African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islander Americans, Chicanas/os and Latinas/os, and Native Americans/American Indians, Ethnic Studies provides both in-depth study of key populations and comparative analysis.

Earlier this year, Ethnic Studies and the College partnered to propose the change from companion major to stand-alone major. Even more recently, the program and College partnered successfully to change the status of Ethnic Studies from a program to a department.

Anna Sampaio, Department Chair of Ethnic Studies, has championed these changes and pushed for their approval over the past eight months.


Women’s and Gender Studies

Women’s and Gender Studies was founded as the Women’s Studies Program 36 years ago, evolving from an emphasis in 1980 into a Women’s and Gender Studies minor in 1994 and a companion major in 2005. During this academic year, Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST) became a stand-alone major and has now become a department of its own within the College.

Women’s and Gender Studies is now a multidisciplinary program that provides an integrated approach to understanding the social and cultural constructions of gender that shape the experiences of women and men in society. With its roots in social justice movements of the last three decades, the methods and goals of Women’s and Gender Studies support the University’s mission of education informed by both ethical and intellectual values.

Department Chair Linda Garber has been a tireless advocate of the WGST program and has worked collaboratively with the College and University to move the curriculum, major, and academic unit to its current status as a department.

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