UT’s Faculty Council passed plans Tuesday to add new majors to the School of Information and the College of Liberal Arts’ Black Studies program.
The bachelor of arts in race, indigeneity and migration and the bachelors of art and science in informatics will be added to the 2020-2022 academic catalogue. The former will add to the many undergraduate liberal arts majors, and the informatics major will be the first undergraduate major in the School of Information.
Religious studies professor Jennifer Graber and Eric Tang, director of the Center for Asian American Studies, presented the proposal for the bachelor of arts in race, indigeneity and migration. Graber said the major was created to answer a growing demand for more specialized areas of ethnic studies.
“Our classes are consistently full,” Graber said. “There’s a lot of student demand, so much demand, actually, it can be hard to … provide as many classes as students would sign up for.”
Tang, an African and African Diaspora Studies associate professor, said the University is a major hub for ethnic studies and has the ability to act as a leader in this field.
“We are essentially the headquarters, if you will, for race and ethnic studies and gender and sexuality studies in the region,” Tang said.
The race, indigeneity and migration major will have five tracks and consist of 30 hours of coursework, including three signature courses, Tang said. One of them will be a teaching race, indigeneity and migration track.
“There’s a labor shortage,” Tang said. “There’s not enough qualified teachers to teach these courses, so this would be an opportunity for students to get their certification (and) get teaching a secondary level right away.”
Graber said students interested in Native American and indigenous studies will benefit from the degree plan, as the subject is currently offered only as a certificate and a graduate portfolio program.
“This would allow the students who would like to do more than what is offered in the certificate to be a part of a broader intellectual program,” Graber said.
The new informatics major will also provide a new opportunity to undergraduates, as the School of Information only has an undergraduate minor and a masters and undergraduate certificate program available at this time. Information professor Kenneth Fleischmann said informatics, the study of processing information and data, is a growing field in Austin.
“We have been growing so quickly in the tech sector in terms of number of jobs that UT hasn’t been able to keep up,” Fleischmann said.
The University’s School of Information ranked number five on U.S. News’ top 10 information schools in the United States in 2017, but the University is also the only one of the 10 that does not currently offer an undergraduate program, Fleischmann said.
“Our enrollments have been going up dramatically over this period of time,” Fleischmann said. “We offer (an undergraduate) minor, and we feel the time is right for us to offer a major.”
Fleischmann said the major will likely interest potential computer science students who struggle to get into popular and selective computer science courses.
“We’ve wanted a long time for the School of Information to play a more active role in coding and programming education,” Fleischmann said. “This will probably be taking more stress off of (the computer science department).”