Freshman Clusters



Cluster 20A,B,CW
Interracial Dynamics in American Society and Culture

Lecture Schedule:Tuesday and Thursday | 12:30 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.

Faculty:Vilma Ortiz | Sociology, Coordinator
Scot Brown | History
Mishuana Goeman | Gender Studies
Valerie Matsumoto | History and Asian American Studies
Brenda Stevenson | History

Librarian: Annie Pho | Powell Library

"Unlike most classes, this will be a class that I will never forget and will use over the rest of my life. The lessons you learn from this class are amazing, and leave you talking about it with your friends (even those who are not taking the class)!"

–former Interracial Dynamics cluster student

How can a nation as racially diverse as the United States and a state as ethnically varied as California nurture its sense of unity and community? The Interracial Dynamics cluster strives to create a learning environment conducive to dialogue and debate on this question and others such as:

  • What is the role of race in society today?
  • How are racial stereotypes produced and sometimes challenged in popular culture?
  • What does it mean to be black in the United States and how is "blackness" measured?
  • How are Latinos racialized and how has this changed over time?
  • What does immigration policy tell us about the role of race?
  • Will a so-called model minority group such as Asian Americans ever achieve the privileges of "whiteness"?
  • Does the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II provide lessons for how to understand the treatment of Arab Americans in the wake of 9-11?
  • How have social movements changed ideas, practices, and policies about race change?

Course Format

In lectures and discussion sections during the fall and winter quarters, students examine race as a social and cultural category that shapes contemporary American life. Students also study race as a "lived" experience and a contested terrain through some of the following activities:

  • Student debates on topics such as affirmative action and immigration;
  • A race, place, and consciousness assignment where, instead of studying others, students study themselves by observing and participating in the activities of a place (sports event, club, store, mall, restaurant, etc.) where they are ethnically and/or racially conspicuous;
  • An analysis of historical cartoons and the implications for understanding race, immigration, and citizenship; and
  • Dinners with cluster faculty coupled with movie screenings.

Spring Seminars – Previous seminar titles have included:

  • Diversity, Immigration, and Democracy
  • Viewing Paradigms of Race through Film
  • Standing Together against Racism
  • Visualizing Race in Contemporary U.S. Fiction
  • Beaches, Bombs, and Bikinis: Race and U.S. Empire in Pacific
  • Rebellion, Romance, and Other Interracial Encounters in Modern Los Angeles

Writing II and Foundation Area General Education Credit

Upon completion of the yearlong cluster, students will fulfill the Writing II requirement and satisfy 4 GE course requirements:

  • 2 in Foundations of Society & Culture (1 in Historical Analysis; 1 in Social Analysis)
  • 2 in Foundations of the Arts & Humanities (1 in Literary and Cultural Analysis; 1 in Visual and Performance Arts Analysis and Practice)

Diversity Requirement

Upon completion of all three quarters of the cluster, students will satisfy the diversity course requirement.