GRI program office area in Thompson Building.
Taylor Johnson / Nevada Sagebrush
The Gender, Race and Identity program’s office area as it stands on Monday, Jan. 27. GRI program will become a department of the College of Liberal Arts in July.

The Gender, Race, Identity program announced it will become an official department in the College of Liberal Arts in an email to CLA students on Tuesday, Jan. 21. The program is approved for departmental status on July 1.

Dr.Jen Hill, the Director of GRI said with departmental status, GRI will increase student interest for GRI courses and degrees, mature interdisciplinary studies and research of the theories and increase national and global interest in identity, politics and the relation between personal experiences and cultural movements.

“We gain a more nuanced understanding of the diversity of experiences and the complexity of our democracy, business and civic leaders are realizing that it’s important to develop leaders and community members with expertise in questions of identity and culture,” Hill said in an email to the Nevada Sagebrush. “Most important, however, has been the support of academic leadership at UNR…”

Hill said there will have more classes available for students which include: GRI 103, GRI 460 and new courses focusing on Latinx, indigenous studies, sexuality, social movements and social justice. She added there will be major concentrations in ethnic studies and comparative GRI. Hill also mentioned there is a new GRI master’s program.

GRI 103 will be an introduction to theories and methods of intersectional identity. GRI 460 will be called “Intersectionality and Social Movements” and will be considered a CO14 or applied capstone course.

Along with classes, Hill said there will be minors in Latinx Studies, Indigenous Studies, Holocaust, Genocide and Peace Studies, Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies and Religious Studies.

She stated how it was significant to note how in the university’s support of GRI’s transition from program to the department, the university became a national leader in the intersectional study of identity. 

“We receive a lot of queries and attention at regional and national levels about GRI as an innovative research and teaching center and have been flattered by other universities adapting our strategies for interdisciplinary hires and curriculum,” Hill said.

According to Hill, the GRI program grew out of the women’s studies program approximately 15 years ago. She said its vision was to enable students and faculty to study intersectional issues regarding gender, race, culture and society. Hill also said Professor Emerita Mary White Stewart, Dr. Daniel Enrique Perez and others had a long-term goal of departmentalization. 

“Their motivation at the time…was to build a program that better reflected the complexity of contemporary identity and new approaches to studying it,” Hill said. “They also wanted to raise the profile of and protect smallish minors like Ethnic Studies, Holocaust Genocide and Peace Studies, and Religious Studies that, at the time, existed kind of as afterthoughts in file drawers scattered across campus.”

Hill said she hears about students who were advised not to pursue GRI degrees because “the degree is difficult to earn and hard to implement professionally since they are not a real department.”

“That’s just flat out not the case, obviously, but the departmental status will make us easier to find for students who want to develop their critical skills in these areas with both social sciences and humanities approaches,” Hill said. “It will enable us to more nimbly develop curriculum, and continue to build the rich research and teaching community that has traditionally had a home here in GRI.”

Hill said the program evolved within the last four years. They have four jointly-appointed tenure track faculty. They plan to look for a fifth with research focuses on Sociology and an emphasis on African American and Black Diasporic experiences. They also converted adjunct positions to three teaching professor tracks. 

GRI will continue to work with the university’s Diversity Initiatives. Hill said they advise and work with student groups, serve on committees at all levels of the university and serve as consultants and on boards in the community and region. 

“Being able to think critically about power, politics, social movements and social change, identity and agency is critical in the twenty-first century,” Hill said. “The complex intersection of those issues just so happens to be at the heart of the coursework, research, and programming of GRI.”

Taylor Johnson can be reached at tkjohnson@nevada.unr.edu or on Twitter @taylorkendyll.