The Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora (RCD) at Tufts is undergoing a major renovation. Starting spring 2020, there will be a new class required for all RCD majors and minors, called Intro to RCD (RCD-0050). According to professors in the department, this intro class aims to better prepare students for higher-level RCD courses.
According to the Tufts RCD website, the RCD department includes six different educational tracks. This includes Africana, American, Asian American, Colonialism, Latino, and Native American and Indigenous Studies. In the School of Arts and Sciences, American and Africana Studies are offered as majors. All tracks except for American Studies are offered as minors. Both incoming RCD majors and minors will be required to take this new introductory course.
Director of Studies for RCD, Professor Kendra Field, spoke to the goals of the class.
“The course aims to introduce students to ways of doing interdisciplinary research and writing. Equally important with this course, we hope to introduce students to all of the faculty [in the RCD department],” Field said.
Unlike other courses, it will be taught by multiple professors from the RCD department, with the goal of giving students a more holistic experience for their intended study. Track Director of American Studies, Kerri Greenidge, will lead the course.
“The way the course is going to run this year is that Kerri Greenidge will be the convening faculty member,” Field, an associate professor of history, said. “Then each week with just a couple of exceptions there will be a rotating faculty from the RCD who comes in to lecture about their particular area of expertise.”
Not only will the rotating faculty expose students to different topics of studies, but they will also teach students different ways of approaching the material. Professor Greenidge explained how each scholarly discipline has its own lens when looking at work. With the rotating faculty, students will be exposed to various techniques that exist in each of the individual tracks.
“In Africana Studies, there’s a certain lens, certain practice, that you use as a scholar and [there are different lenses] in American Studies [and] Colonialism Studies,” Greenidge said. “It’s a way to introduce students to the way scholars approach this intellectual endeavor. It’s a way to ensure that students — when they take a higher level RCD course — have the best background, in order [for the students] to achieve and approach whatever project that is they end up doing.”
This new intro course aims to help build the intellectual integrity of the RCD department itself, explained Field. Hiring more faculty for the following years is just the start of the department’s growth. Another important factor of this growth is the community development that exists between the different areas of study.
“That’s an important third goal: to build departmental identity and community across these different tracks,” Field said.
Some students see a disconnect between the different identity groups and education tracks on campus. Jessie Lan, a member of the RCD Working Group and Tufts Asian Student Coalition, spoke more to this disconnect.
“I feel like the community, especially in marginalized communities, is really important. It’s hard to build that on a campus that already feels pretty fragmented,” Lan, a junior, said. “I think there’s a lot of talk about how the RCD different tracks are very separate and splintered and there’s not really community there.”
However, Lan believes that this new course has the opportunity to bring students from different ethnic and educational backgrounds together.
“If I take Latinx studies classes I’m not just studying Mexicans in Mexico. It’s the experience of racialized people in the U.S.,” Lan said.
According to students within the department, many of the tracks share common narratives and the impact of the courses can be stronger when taught together.
“The RCD courses definitely take into account differences in relation to power, and then study about how power affects different things and how that creates social structures around the world,” Lan said. “Especially in race, colonialism, and diaspora studies those are the things that push back against the dominant narrative.”
The course hopes to provide the opportunity to bring students of different backgrounds together, as well as to bring new students into the department.
“With the department, people can stumble into RCD,” Lan said. “If you’re a CBS [cognitive and brain sciences] major and don’t know anything but want to take this class, you come in with the same foundational understanding.”
Overall Lan expressed optimism for the course’s prospects. When Lan was a first-year, she felt like she didn’t know that much about race and ethnic studies. However, she believes this course will bring more open discussion to life earlier on in students’ academic careers
“I have high hopes for it [Intro to RCD] because they want to cycle through professors in the department too, so it’s not just one person teaching it all the time. Different faculty can have exposure with the students and [help with] community building,” Lan said. “[Since] it’s not specific to one track, hopefully a lot of different people with different identities and different politics will be in the same space.”
The Intro to RCD course is already filled for next semester, according to SIS. Twenty students are currently registered and five students are on the waitlist to take this course in spring 2020. Field said the RCD department is hoping to offer this course every year.
In addition to adding this course, they are also forming a new course specifically for RCD majors called Theories of Methods.
“The Theories [of] Methods course will be a more advanced course which is required only for majors,” Field said. “That will not be offered this year, but will be offered the year following.”
Field thought it was important to note that these new requirements won’t affect students who have already declared their majors and minors. The old requirements will still apply to them.
As a newer department, the RCD department hopes to strengthen its presence on the Tufts campus. Through reworking of its requirements, there are high hopes for more discussion on race, colonialism and diaspora.
“The same way history has a requirement and English has a requirement, this is going to be the required introductory class that introduces people to all of these ways of looking at humanities,” Greenidge said.