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Teaching LGBT Pride

SDSU is the first California university to offer a degree in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies.
SDSU is the second university nationwide to offer a degree in LGBT studies.
SDSU is the second university nationwide to offer a degree in LGBT studies.

San Diego State is the second university in the nation and the first in California to offer an undergraduate degree in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies, thanks to approval from the California State University Chancellor’s Office last week.

LGBT-centered learning

The university has offered a minor in LGBT studies since 2009. The new major will begin accepting students in spring 2012. Existing courses comprise the requirements for the interdisciplinary degree, with initial offerings from three colleges, Rothblum said.

... A minor or major in LGBT studies is a huge asset
in getting them into medical school,
law school or even the corporate sector.

“We really are the first CSU, the first college in California, the first one on the West Coast and the second in the nation to offer this major,” said Esther Rothblum, professor of women’s studies and the LGBT studies academic advisor.

Rothblum said that she already has five students who have contacted her about applying to the major. She noted that the degree is applicable to a variety of careers, from medical to law to business.

“Students are realizing that having a minor or major in LGBT studies is a huge asset in getting them into medical school, law school or even the corporate sector,” Rothblum said. “It really shows that they have a level of expertise that a lot of places want. Most places really like it if their employees have an understanding of diversity.”

According to Associated Students Diversity Commissioner Channelle McNutt, students — whether they identify with the LGBT community or not — will benefit from the major.

“It definitely signifies our commitment to further understanding, exploring and showcasing our support and knowledge of the community,” McNutt said. “It presents a unique opportunity for students to engage in dialogue and to further their education on LGBT issues.”

Symbolic of change

Rothblum said that the degree reflects the change on campus in the past few years, from the implementation of the Safe Zones program to the annual Lavender Graduation ceremony for LGBT students.

“There are a lot of LGBT-friendly things on campus, in terms of the climate and student activities, so having an academic program really fit in well,” Rothblum said. “People really want to show off that SDSU is really the center of LGBT scholarship.”

The new degree coincides with changing national policies and opinions, from the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to the gay marriage debate.

“This is symbolic of a national change in education where inclusion is at the center of scholarly study,” said Aaron Bruce, SDSU’s chief diversity officer.

“It’s also part of a broader conversation on diversity that’s happening in the U.S. and throughout the world.”

Supporting the community

For two years, SDSU has been a leading LGBT-friendly university with a five-star rating from Campus Pride’s LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index. The nationally-praised index takes an in-depth look at LGBT-friendly policies, programs and practices.

Colleges are rated from one to five stars, depending on their answers to a detailed, voluntary questionnaire submitted to Campus Pride, a national non-profit organization working to create safer, more LGBT-inclusive colleges and build future LGBT and ally leaders.

SDSU has also participated in regional LGBT events for several years, including the campus rainbow flag-raising and the San Diego Pride Parade. For more information on LGBT programs and activities at SDSU, please visit the LGBTQ section of the SDSU Diversity website.


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