Courses that Meet the UW-Madison Ethnic Studies Requirement

Every UW-Madison undergraduate must complete an Ethnic Studies course early in their UW-Madison career as part of the University General Education Requirements. Courses that meet specific criteria identified by the faculty are carefully reviewed and designated to meet the requirement. The requirement cannot be satisfied with courses taken pass/fail or as independent study.

Faculty Document 1736 reiterates UW-Madison's commitment to the campus-wide ethnic studies requirement, stating that "the University of Wisconsin-Madison is committed to fostering an understanding and appreciation of diversity, in the belief that doing so will:

  • Better prepare students for life and careers in an increasingly multicultural U.S. environment,
  • Add breadth and depth to the University curriculum, and
  • Improve the campus climate."
Faculty Document 1736 goes on to note that the Ethnic Studies Requirement (ESR) is one means by which the university hopes to achieve these goals. To satisfy the requirement, students must take a 3-credit course that considers ethnic/racial minorities that have been marginalized or discriminated against in the U.S. Because issues of ethnic diversity and religion are often intertwined and cannot easily be separated, courses that focus only on religion may, where appropriate, fulfill the ESR. All courses that the implementation committee approves as satisfying the requirement must provide evidence that the course material illuminates the circumstances, conditions, and experiences of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. (These statements and the faculty review procedure were discussed and approved by the University Academic Planning Council January 23, 2003, and were ratified by the UW-Madison Faculty Senate, 29 September, 2003.)  In June 2011, the University APC approved a statement requiring that, effective Fall 2012, all courses taken to satisfy University General Education Requirements - including the ESR - must be taken on a graded basis. 

The UAPC also approved a recommendation that oversight of the ESR be formally added to the responsibilities of the University General Education Committee. In 2005-06, a subcommittee of the UGEC was convened to review proposals to add courses to the ESR course array, to consider the best means by which to achieve the goals of the requirement via the University curriculum, and to regularly assess student learning in this area. The Ethnic Studies Subcommittee is appointed by the dean; the committee's responsibilities include convening regular meetings of the faculty and staff who teach ESR courses, reviewing courses proposed to meet the requirement, and evaluating students' petitions for course substitutions to meet the requirement.  Since 2014, the subcommittee has been working to increase the number of ESR courses available at the elementary and introductory level, to act on recommendations arising from assessment studies and the Diversity Framework that students should complete the requirement within the first 60 credits of courses taken in residence.

For more information about the Ethnic Studies Requirement, including learning outcomes and the descriptive guidelines for courses that meet the requirement, and for a description of the process for adding new courses to the ESR course array, please see the General Education Requirements website.

Please note: Students who are planning their schedules and looking for courses that meet the Ethnic Studies Requirement can search for them in the Course Search & Enroll App. Please remember that students are expected to complete the ESR early in their academic careers at UW-Madison.  

L&S Contact: 
Elaine Klein, Associate Dean for Academic Planning
(608) 265-8484,

See Also:

Keywords:General Education, Gen Ed, ESR, ES, ethnic studies, Curriculum Requirements   Doc ID:20091
Owner:Elaine K.Group:L&S Administrative Gateway
Created:2011-08-31 13:42 CDTUpdated:2019-12-23 15:49 CDT
Sites:L&S Administrative Gateway
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