When it comes to prestige, there is always something to be said for being the first. It is with this in mind that the UCSB Chicana and Chicano Studies Dept. is stepping into the spotlight with the world’s first Chicano studies doctoral program.

First submitted in 2000, the proposal was approved by the University of California Board of Regents in early August. Chela Sandoval, former head of the UCSB Chicana and Chicano Studies Dept., said the department had been working on organizing a doctorate program for a decade.

Proposals for classes in the program drew from 13 disciplines, ranging from women’s studies to comparative literature. Course subjects for the doctorate, including studies in linguistics, Chicano history, bilingual language development, contemporary American literature, Aztec religion and cross-cultural psychology, have already been selected. Aside from filling the increasing demand for professors in the area of Chicano studies, Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Policy Maria Herrera-Sobek said Chicana and Chicano studies Ph.D. holders could hold positions in local and national government, international corporations and social work.

Having obtained approval, the UCSB Chicana and Chicano Studies Dept. is currently preparing to accept applications from students for Fall 2004. The department has found a wide range of interest for the program.

“We wanted five or 10 people and we’ve gotten, just from the newspaper articles that have come out, at least 150 inquiries,” Sandoval said.

While the majority of Chicana and Chicano studies scholars are of Chicano or Latino background, the department has also received inquiries from places such as England, Italy, France and Germany. Herrera-Sobek attributes European scholars’ attraction to the program to similarities in the issues discussed in the department and those facing ethnic minorities in Europe, such as Turks in Germany and Arabs and Africans in France.

Sandoval also noted how the program could benefit European students.

“The study of Chicanos in the U.S. allows these students to better grasp a new consciousness regarding borders,” Sandoval said.

Of the 12 professors in the Chicana and Chicano Studies Dept., all plan to teach in the new Ph.D. program. Sandoval described the faculty of the department as enthusiastic about participating in the program.

“The doctorate in Chicana and Chicano studies heralds a new era in international and indigenous intellectual histories,” Sandoval said. “We can now say that the university is moving toward a truly global perspective on human consciousness and culture. I am proud and excited to be a part of a faculty, staff, student and community clientele whose commitment is to better the planet for an increasingly diverse population.”