Borderlands and Ethnic Studies (BEST), a new academic program at New Mexico State University
The program rests on the shoulders of spiritual and intellectual predecessors and ancestors who struggled for holistic and accurate representations of marginalized communities—Indigenous, Chicanx/Latinx, African American, Asian Pacific Islander—within higher education. A field of critical study that began in the Bay Area, California, in the 1960s, is now finding a home at New Mexico State University as the nation celebrates the 50 year anniversary of Ethnic Studies. This dynamic and ever-changing field pushes students to understand how historical events shaped and designed contemporary inequalities that are systemically embedded. It also nurtures and encourages students to be self-reflective about their own life journey within micro- and macro- societal systems that provide disproportionate privileges for some and disproportionate obstacles for others.
BEST offers a multidisciplinary graduate certificate that critically explores the social, historical, cultural, and legal ways communities experience and navigate social constructs such as race, gender, and sexual orientation. These constructs permeate life, are entrenched in social structures and institutions, and shift and mutate over place and time in ways that reproduce existing power relations. The program outlines and analyzes the history, cultural production, politics, and consequences of racialization and identity formation from a diasporic and transnational/transborder approach that remains rooted in a place-based, Borderlands imperative.
Dulcinea Lara, Ph.D., is Director of the Borderlands & Ethnic Studies program and an Associate Professor in the Criminal Justice department at NMSU. She identifies as Chicana Indigena, honoring her Apache and Rarámuri ancestry that is deeply-rooted in the region now called southern New Mexico. Dr. Lara earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies from University of California-Berkeley (2006). Her teaching and research center the critical viewing and questioning of systems and knowledges that are designed and operationalized to advance some people/groups while creating obstructions for other people/groups. Dr. Lara’s scholarship is multi-method and multi-media. She collaborated in the creation of an interactive, bilingual museum exhibition about social justice and inequalities in the Borderlands region called, Trotando Pasos Ajenos (2017). Dr. Lara’s work explores various kinds of residual evidence of colonization in colonias, poor and rural communities, and other “sacrificial zones.” Her generative work aims to restore these zones into sacred places through collective dreaming, healing, and making.
The BEST program seeks to partner with community, organizations, and agencies to develop and implement real-world solutions and innovations to challenges facing people in our region.