Departments & Academic Programs
The College of Arts & Letters houses nineteen departments and several interdisciplinary programs. Teaching and research in the college span a broad range of traditional and innovative disciplines, from such fields as history, politics, economics, geography, languages and literatures to women's studies, international business, Chicana and Chicano studies, and rhetoric and writing.
Did you know?
The International Business program at SDSU is one of the largest undergraduate program of its kind and is ranked 8th in the nation according to the recently released 2014 rankings by US News and World Report.
Africana Studies (offers Bachelor's Degree and Minor; Interdisciplinary Minor in African Studies)
Afro-American Studies offers a broad, interdisciplinary program. The curriculum covers a variety of subjects pertaining to Africa and the African Diaspora. The major establishes a strong academic foundation that can lead directly into a career or into graduate study in a variety of fields. It also creates linkages between the university community and the broader community by developing frameworks for social change. In short, the major seeks to provide a well-rounded educational experience. Courses offered in Afro-American Studies are available to all who are interested.
>>View the Africana Studies brochure (.pdf)
American Indian Studies (offers Bachelor's Degree and Minor)
The American Indian Studies program focuses on individual elements that comprise the Native American cultures. Using literature, art, history and politics as touchstones, students come to understand the individual as well as tribal character of the Indian peoples, with special emphasis on the tribes of Southern California. The academic area also draws comparisons between American Indian life and the life of other members of American society. Career opportunities for graduates include jobs in business, education, government, politics, social sciences, and health and human services. Students may also find positions in programs and institutions located on local Indian reservations. Federal agencies also seek people with knowledge about and experience with American Indian people and their culture. Agencies include the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Indian Health Services, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forestry Services.
Anthropology (offers Master's Degree, Bachelor's Degree, and Minor)
Anthropology is the comprehensive study of people. It explores the fascinating world of human biological evolution and variation and the way humans in all parts of the world, from prehistoric times to today, adapt to their environment; from groups such as families, clans, tribes, and nations; survive and become extinct; regulate behavior through sanctions, laws, and government; worship and celebrate; communicate; educate their young; and change to meet new challenges. Anthropology gives students a new perspective for understanding and interpreting the world around them by learning how people in different parts of the world live their lives and adapt to their environment. To achieve this, all majors are required to take courses in each of the four main subdivisions of the discipline: archaeology, the analysis of past cultures; cultural anthropology, the study of cultural differences in contemporary societies; linguistic anthropology, examination of the relationship between language and other aspects of culture - the ways people communicate; and physical anthropology, analysis of the biological characteristics of past and present peoples. As anthropology majors, students explore humankind, focusing on the similarities and differences between humans and other primates, as well as the similarities and differences found in human populations yesterday and today. By taking courses in the four sub-disciplines, students develop a sufficiently broad background to make decisions concerning specialization.
Asian and Pacific Studies (offers Bachelor's Degree and Minor)
With nearly half of the world’s population living in East, Southeast, and South Asia, the importance of this immense and varied region cannot be overstated. More and more Americans are discovering the rich culture and history of the Asian people. Asians have made a major contribution to the world's literature, art, religion, and philosophy, and are increasingly important in international relations, business, and economics. Non-majors who wish to increase their knowledge about Asian peoples will find courses available in the Asian Studies undergraduate and graduate programs.
Chicana & Chicano Studies (offers Master's Degree, Bachelor's Degree, and Minor; Minor in United States- Mexico Border Studies; Certificate in United States- Mexico Border Studies)
The Chicana and Chicano studies degree provides the student with a timely, interdisciplinary education regarding the nation's fast-growing ethnic group, the Chicano/Latino, and the interplay of culture, politics, economics and society in the dynamic United States-Mexican border region. The Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies also endeavors to contribute to the development of knowledge about the Chicano/Latino populations and the border region through original scholarship on the part of its faculty and students. The department recognizes women and gender based issues as integral to a Chicano studies program. The Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies also offers a minor in Chicana and Chicano Studies as well as a comprehensive United States-Mexican Border Studies Minor and Certificate program.
Classics & Humanities (offers Bachelor's Degree and Minor in Classics; Bachelor's Degree and Minor in Humanities)
The Classics program embraces all aspects of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. It encompasses the art, archaeology, history, religion, language, and literature of over two thousand years. The artistic and intellectual achievements of Greece and Rome have served as models by which American and European cultures have been judged. A degree in Classics is for the student who is curious about life, who thrives on challenge, and who seeks out the reasons for beauty and the nature of truth.
The Humanities major is based on the premise that anything pertaining to any human being in any culture or civilization is valuable to another human — however distant in time or place. Each of us is the product of our own civilization, and this civilization is the result of both past civilizations and the human condition. Through a study of past and present civilizations and our common humanity, we come to understand ourselves and our own potential. Individuals and civilizations express themselves in acts and works. Whether musical, artistic, or intellectual creations, these achievements may be interpreted and evaluated using the criteria and methods of various humanist disciplines such as literature, philosophy, art history, music, language, or religion.
Comparative International Studies (offers Bachelor's Degree)
The B.A. in Comparative International Studies is a program that prepares students to become citizens of the 21st century global world. The program offers a comprehensive interdisciplinary curriculum with a broad view of comparative international studies, combining the study of two world regions with language, study abroad, and research. Such a broad-based program is, indeed, timely in today's world of globalization.
The program allows students to explore areas of study in the social sciences and the humanities from an interdisciplinary perspective. Through the examination of themes, namely, human and social development, culture and society, populations and borders, institutions and change, and through the comparison of two world regions, the program of study in Comparative International Studies integrates knowledge about broad global processes with comparative analytical methods and techniques used to study them. Graduating international studies majors will be able to view complex global issues from broad, comparative, and interdisciplinary perspectives, hence, will be equipped with the knowledge, the skills, and the tools necessary to function well in the age of globalization, and to tackle complex world problems of the 21st century in a versatile way.
Economics (offers Master's Degree, Bachelor's Degree, and Minor)
Economics analyzes the ways in which societies decide what to produce, how to produce it, and who gets it. Because it deals with these fundamental issues of our material well being, it sheds light on the reasons why some societies, and some individuals, are rich and others are poor. At SDSU, economics majors will explore how producers and consumers make their decisions. Majors will also analyze the events that shape and result from these decisions, which are made by governments, businesses, and individuals. Inflation, unemployment, taxation, environmental and social policies, international exchange, and comparative economic systems are some of the topics studied by economics majors at SDSU.
English and Comparative Literature (offers Bachelor's Degree and Minor in Comparative Literature; Master's Degree (M.A.), Bachelor's Degree, and Minor in English; Master's Degree (M.F.A.) in Creative Writing; Certificate in Children’s/Adolescent Literature)
Comparative literature at SDSU offers students the opportunity to study a broad range of literature from various cultures around the world. Courses are offered in European literature from ancient to contemporary times; in the literature of Asia, Africa, and Latin America; in folk literature, legend, fantasy and science fiction; in literary theory; and in special topics, such as literature and existentialism, Japanese literature and film, and rock poetry. All reading is done in English translation. Majors who plan to do graduate work in comparative literature are required to complete additional courses in a foreign language literature taught in the original language. Other majors, including those pursuing a teaching credential, are not subject to this requirement. Traditionally, comparative study has been based on literary movements, periods, and lines of influence, as well as on genres, themes, myths, and legends. In recent years, comparative literature has come to include the comparison of literature with other areas of human experience, as well. Because the field covers so wide a range, the comparative literature student does not acquire a comprehensive knowledge of any basic list of "great works." Such a list, for all of world literature, would be far too long. Instead, students learn various comparative approaches to literature, along with specialized knowledge of areas that particularly interest them.
For those students who choose to major in literature and writing, SDSU offers a number of programs. Students may major in English for the single subject teaching credential, which can lead into a high school teaching career. Students may also major in English for the liberal arts degree. This program will ready students for graduate study in English, or prepare them for the many careers that require skills in critical thinking and writing. In addition, the English Department offers the certificate in children's literature to graduate students. This program requires students to complete six courses beyond the curriculum for their major, selected in consultation with an advisor. It has been designed for teachers, librarians, parents, or anyone interested in exploring the quality and nature of literature for children.
The Department of European Studies at San Diego State University is one of the few integrated, interdisciplinary European Studies departments in the United States. It takes a comprehensive and transnational approach to the study Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, the Mediterranean, and Europe’s diasporic and postcolonial communities around the world. The department offers a number of distinct degree programs, which in addition to the European Studies major include specialized B.A. degrees in French, German, German Studies, Russian, and Russian and Central European Studies. The department also offers minors in European Studies, French, German, Italian, Russian, and the Master’s degree in French.
Geography (offers Doctoral Degree, Master's Degree (M.A. and M.S.), Bachelor's Degree (B.A. and B.S.),and Minor; Interdisciplinary Certificate in Environmental Studies; Certificate in Geographic Information Science)
Geographers study the physical and human features of the earth, concentrating especially on explaining the location of these features and on the environmental relationships among them. In doing such studies, geographers integrate the theories of the physical sciences, biological sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Those geographers who emphasize the study of the earth's physical features (such as landforms, vegetation, and climate) focus on the processes that produce these features. As social scientists and humanists, human geographers explore such topics as the arrangement of people on the earth's surface, land use patterns, urbanization, resource and energy usage, and environmental conservation. Because geography is so varied and offers such a wide range of careers upon graduation, geographers have diverse abilities, such as protecting and managing natural resources, planning for workable and enjoyable cities, utilizing computer technologies, working toward clean and healthy environments, and helping people in developing countries improve their lives. The geography student is creative, enjoys challenges, can learn through observations and research, and enjoys the satisfaction of improving conditions in our societies.
>>View the Geography brochure (.pdf)
History (offers Master's Degree, Bachelor's Degree, and Minor)
History is the study of the past. It encompasses almost all aspects of human activity and behavior. The arts and sciences, technology and economics, ideology and social attitudes are all as much a part of history as politics and war. History is the most universal of the humanities. It is not merely a body of facts to be learned, but is a series of arguments and points of view to be debated. Study of the ideas, attitudes, and actions of peoples in the past helps to sharpen a person's own sense of values, offering moral lessons in the search for a global future of creative achievement and international peace. It also helps to cultivate a more tolerant and compassionate spirit toward peoples whose way of life may be different from one's own.
International Business (offers Bachelor's Degree jointly with the College of Business Administration)
International Business is an interdisciplinary major that culminates in a Bachelor of Arts degree offered jointly by the College of Arts and Letters and College of Business Administration. This program integrates course work in regional and cultural studies, business administration, and foreign language. Students complete an emphasis in one of seven regional/cultural studies: Africa, Asia, Russia and Central Europe, Latin America, Middle East, North America, or Western Europe. Students also complete an emphasis in one of eight languages: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish. All international business students are required to demonstrate proficiency in their foreign language emphasis.
International Security and Conflict Resolution (ISCOR) (offers Bachelor's Degree and Minor jointly with the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts and the College of Sciences)
The International Security and Conflict Resolution (ISCOR) major at San Diego State University is an innovative, unique, and comprehensive program designed to provide students with an understanding of world affairs and a commitment to conflict resolution. The only program of its kind in California, ISCOR is located in three colleges within San Diego State University: The Colleges of Arts and Letters, Professional Studies and Fine Arts, and Sciences.
>>View the ISCOR brochure (.pdf)
Jewish Studies (offers Bachelor's Degree consortial within CSU in Modern Jewish Studies; Minor in Jewish Studies)
The Jewish Studies program offers several purposes. The goal of the program is to aid in research and the study of contemporary Jewish and Israeli affairs, as well as modern Jewish history. It is also the program’s objective to give public lectures as well as symposia on Jewish topics and subjects. In addition to these lectures, the program also makes it a priority to compile and supply a list of regional speakers who are able to address subjects of interest to the Jewish community. Internships are very important to the program, as they provide students the chance to participate in organizations that relate to Judaic Studies.
Latin American Studies (offers Master's Degree (M.A.), Bachelor's Degree, and Minor; Master's Degree (M.B.A./ M.A.) jointly with the College of Business Administration; Master' Degree (M.P.A./M.A.) jointly with the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts; Master's Degree (M.P.H./ M.A.) jointly with the College of Health and Human Services)
Latin American Studies is a multidisciplinary major from the academic resources of the departments of anthropology, art, economics, geography, history, Mexican American studies, political science, sociology, Spanish/Portuguese and women's studies. Its goals are to provide a better understanding of the cultures and governments of the Western hemisphere and to offer basic education and training for business or professional careers requiring an understanding of Latin America. The Latin American Studies program at SDSU recognizes that the proximity to Latin America may accentuate the differences between the sociocultural systems of the Latin American nations and of the United States. The Program strives to develop a framework in which students can analyze and interpret where Latin America has been, where it is today, and where it will be in the future.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies (offers Bachelor's Degree and Minor)
San Diego State University is proud to be the first and only university in San Diego, and the second in the nation to offer a major in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies. LGBT Studies is a growing academic specialization in numerous disciplines across the United States, including literature, history, social sciences, media studies, political science, law, and many others. Individual courses in LGBT Studies have been offered at SDSU since the late 1970s, but they have never been consolidated into a coherent major for students until now.
This major draws on disparate courses to provide students with the opportunity to form a coherent interdisciplinary major. Required courses include: gay and lesbian identities in the modern world, gay and lesbian history and culture, history of sexuality, gay and lesbian literature, and critical studies of gender/sexuality/media. There are many electives, including psychology of human sexual behavior, sexuality in modern society, lesbian lives and culture, valuing human diversity, and fifteen internships in LGBT community organizations.
>>View the LGBT Handout (.pdf)
Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages (offers Master's Degree, Bachelor's Degree, Minor, Certificate in Computational Linguistics, and Certificate in Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (TESL/TEFL))
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. The use of language is one of the defining characteristics of human beings, and it is the basic element for the process of communication that holds society together. Linguistics is a field that relates to many other human activities that are heavily dependent on language.
>>View the Linguistics Major brochure (.pdf)
Masters of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences (MALAS) (offers Master's Degree)
The College of Arts and Letters offers a flexible multidisciplinary master’s degree in the liberal arts and sciences. An alternative approach to traditional graduate education, the program consists of coursework that crosses disciplinary boundaries so as to better appreciate the richness of existence and begin to apply multiple perspectives to the complex realities that face us. From explorations of the human condition to the social impacts of technology, the program focuses on issues central to the meaning and quality of our lives and the creation of sustainable, just, communities. MALAS draws upon SDSU faculty who are trained in disciplines but whose teaching and scholarship makes connections across disciplines. Interplays among the humanities, the social sciences, the natural sciences, and the arts are taken up in four required courses.
Philosophy (offers Master's Degree, Bachelor's Degree, and Minor)
The philosophy major at SDSU explores and seeks to understand values and the nature of reality. Through the study of philosophy, questions like the following are asked about existence and experience: What is truth? What is beauty? Is there an ultimate reality? Philosophy studies the types of questions that most other subject areas are unable to address fully. There are four different ways these questions are characteristically investigated in the philosophy major at SDSU. They are approached historically, by studying the history of philosophy from the ancient Greeks to the present; analytically, by carefully examining the meanings and interrelationships of ideas; creatively, by allowing students to explore imaginative new answers to these difficult questions; and critically, by training students in the art of rigorously evaluating significant claims.
Political Science (offers Master's Degree, Bachelor's Degree, and Minor; Preprofessional Curriculum- Prelegal)
Aristotle called the study of politics "the master science." Human beings live in communities governed by rules that affect their commerce, their rights, and their personal levels of well-being. Students who become political science majors will learn about who creates the rules by which people are governed, the attitude and behavior of leaders and members of the public which cause certain decisions to be made, and how these decisions affect such values as liberty, equality, welfare and justice. Political science is concerned with contemporary public affairs, problems in other political systems and contemporary international politics, as well as with historical growth, evolution, and decline of various types of governments. Our majors are encouraged to investigate the diversity of political institutions and practices cross-nationally, and to consider the changes occurring as a result of the increasing globalization of politics and problems.
Religious Studies (offers Bachelor's Degree and Minor)
The academic study of religion is central to the creation of a community of world citizens. Our program is designed for students who live in a pluralistic society and who wish to investigate the role religions play in human life and society. Because religion has shaped the human story of almost every culture, it is difficult to understand human behavior or to interpret world events without grasping how religion has helped to determine them. As United States Supreme Court Justices Clark and Goldberg wrote in their decision allowing the study of religion in public schools, “one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.” Part of the liberal arts, religious studies employs critical analysis and methods from a variety of disciplines to understand religious traditions as well as to question the dogmas, stereotypes and prejudices that may surround those traditions. In addition to investigating religious symbols, texts, practices, and belief systems, the study of religion examines the relationship of religion to ethics, contemporary social issues, politics, history, psychology, science, literature, and the arts.
Rhetoric & Writing Studies (offers Master's Degree, Bachelor's Degree, Minor, Certificate in Professional Writing, and Certificate in Teaching of Writing)
Rhetoric refers to the study and uses of written, spoken and visual language. It investigates how texts are used to organize and maintain social groups, construct meanings and identities, coordinate behavior, mediate power, persuade, produce change, and create knowledge. The Rhetoric & Writing Studies department works cooperatively with departments and campus groups to run a comprehensive writing program which integrates writing and reading with critical thinking throughout the curriculum. The department prepares students to write independently and collaboratively in school, workplace and community settings; to produce texts using a variety of different technological tools, and to become sophisticated, critically reflective knowledge workers.
Social Science (offers Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences; Bachelor's Degree with emphasis in Environmental Studies; Bachelor's Degree with emphasis in Islamic and Arabic Studies)
The social science program is concerned with providing a broad understanding of the social, cultural and intellectual world in which we live. Social science majors have a diverse interest in human problems and seek a liberal education in a broad spectrum of understandings, insights, and appreciations. Multidisciplinary in nature, this major seeks to provide an understanding of the interrelationships and varied methodologies of its many subject areas.
Sociology (offers Master's Degree (M.A.), Bachelor's Degree, and Minor; Master's Degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology (M.S.) jointly with the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts)
Sociology studies every kind of human activity - from intimate family relationships to newly developed social movements, from organized crime to work worlds, from cities to small groups. It focuses on how people interact with each other to build, maintain and change human society. Sociology emphasizes social relationships and the social causes, contexts, and consequences of human behavior. It is unique as a discipline for its wide scope and general relevance. In addition to the main areas of human activities it studies, sociology examines the way knowledge of social life is developed.
Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures (offers Master's Degree, Bachelor's Degree, and Minor in Spanish; Minor in Portuguese; Certificate in Translation and Interpretation Studies)
Spanish is the fourth most widely spoken language in the world and the second most frequently used language in the Southwest United States. Because of San Diego's proximity to Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, many students at SDSU are interested in learning Spanish. Their reasons range from practical application in jobs, teaching, travel, reading or recreation to a curiosity about the culture or literature of Spanish-speaking countries. SDSU's Department of Spanish and Portuguese offers a wide range of courses and programs designed to satisfy the varied needs of students who enter the Spanish major.
>>View the Spanish Program brochure (.pdf)
Sustainability (offers Bachelor's Degree in Sustainability; Interdisciplinary Minor in Environment and Society)
The major in Sustainability focuses on the interface of human and natural systems. In this program, students gain an understanding of sociopolitical, historical, philosophical, moral and scientific aspects of environmental problems. Students take courses in the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences and have the flexibility to concentrate their studies in one or more of these areas. Emphasis is placed on strong writing, research, and quantitative skills and broad liberal arts perspective.
The program takes an interdisciplinary approach to local, regional and global environmental issues. That approach fosters systems-thinking skills, written and verbal communication skills, quantitative and qualitative skills, analytic and problem-solving skills. These skills combined with knowledge of foundational scientific principles, an understanding of the human and social contexts of environmental problems, and the policy and decision-making contexts within which these problems are reckoned are consistent with careers focused on sustainability, that is, the improvement of the human quality of life through balanced and adaptive stewardship of resources that lie at the human-nature interface.
Urban Studies (offers Interdisciplinary Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences)
The Urban Studies, interdisciplinary major, focuses on cities and urban communities, with particular emphasis on their environments, peoples and cultures, economies and politics, and urban spaces and places. The program draws upon courses offered by the faculty in the Departments of Anthropology, Economics, Geography, Mexican American Studies, Political Science, and Sociology (all in the College of Arts and Letters) and the School of Public Affairs in the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts. The variety of courses in the major allow students to explore topics such as the origins and spread of cities, contemporary patterns of urbanization at local, regional, national and global scales, city forms and models, migration and ethnicity in urban contexts, different types of urban economies and forms of urban governance, power structures of cities, and urban social movements, to name a few. In addition, specialized training is provided in methods of analytical research in urban studies, from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives. In lectures, class discussions, computer lab exercises and practical field experiences connected with specific courses, students have the opportunity to gain knowledge regarding urban problems and analyze topics such as housing, land use, organization and management of urban governments, transportation, urban decline and gentrification, public space, border issues, and issues of social justice in contemporary cities. Many of these topics are examined in the context of metropolitan San Diego, the San Diego-Tijuana border region, and the state of California.
Women's Studies (offers Master's Degree, Bachelor's Degree, Minor, and Certificate in Women’s Studies)
Women's Studies possesses its own theory, yet it is also an interdisciplinary study composed of many different fields such as history, literature, art, politics, economics, sociology, anthropology, and psychology to name a few. This course of study allows students to study diverse women's roles, cultures, and lives. It explores how ideals set for women and co-created by them, imposed by institutional structures, and informed by ethnicity, race, social class, sexual orientation and physical able-bodiness. Women's Studies not only provides an excellent Liberal Arts education that improves one's verbal and writing skills, but it also prepares the student to work with diverse populations and mitigate the forces of privilege and oppression.