The Department of Ethnic Studies as it now exists is the result of 30 years of continuous evolution and development. Emerging at the end of the 1960s and borne out of demands for Bowling Green State University to seriously address national issues of race and ethnicity, an Ethnic Studies Committee was formed, by then-President William T. Jerome, in the Spring of 1970. Chaired by John Scott, who was then an instructor in Theatre, the result of the committee's work was the formation in July 1970 of the Ethnic Studies Program/Center, directed by Dr. Robert L. Perry. The stated purpose of the program was to "provide multicultural education and to improve racial balance in university course offerings" and an undergraduate degree program in Afro-American Studies was subsequently approved by the university's Academic Council in October 1971. As was the case with many nascent Ethnic Studies programs of the late 60s and early 70s, the primary concentration and focus of Bowling Green's Ethnic Studies curriculum was initially the African American experience. However, over the following few years the program addressed the broad spectrum of American ethnicities, and graduated its first class in the spring of 1975. Becoming a full department in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1979, Ethnic Studies increased and maintained its high profile and consistent efforts to encourage BGSU as an institution to respond to issues of diversity and multiculturalism. In 1985 Bowling Green's then President Paul Olscamp established a Minority Studies Committee which was chaired by Ethnic Studies Professor Ernest Champion and included both Dr. Rolando Andrade and Dr. Win Stone as serving members. The result of the Committee's report was the establishment in 1992 of the University's Cultural Diversity requirement that all students at BGSU take a class in multiculturalism. ETHN 101: Introduction to Ethnic Studies, amongst other courses offered by the department, plays a significant role in allowing students to fulfill this requirement.
Having chaired the department for almost two decades, Dr. Perry retired in 1997. His replacement was Dr. Michael Martin, chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Wayne State University for six years. Dr. Martin came to the department with the intention of continuing and expanding the legacy of nearly thirty years of Ethnic Studies at BGSU. Just as the department evolved from a concentration on African American Studies into a broader emphasis on Ethnic Studies as a field, the department is now evolving from a focus on ethnicity and race in the United States to a broader comparative focus embracing the issues of globalization and international migrations, so increasingly important to understanding domestic issues.
There is, then, an important history and legacy which should inform what we are trying to do within the Ethnic Studies department. Our goals should be understood within this history of social change at the university and within society generally. At its best, our teaching of Ethnic Studies should be an encouragement to both our students, and ourselves, to think in new ways about old things such as: intergroup relations, identity, belief systems, history, politics, and society.