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In November 1995, the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) voted unanimously to approve a “New Academic Degree Proposal” that had been prepared by the Chicana/o Studies Advisory Committee, chaired by Professor Edward J. Escobar. The Board's action established a major and minor in Chicana and Chicano Studies (CCS) at Arizona State University. A little over a year later, in February 1997, ABOR voted, again unanimously, to establish the Department of Chicana/o Studies that administered the major and minor with Professor Escobar as founding chair.  From the very beginning, the goal of the curriculum was to prepare majors to be agents of social change and to provide the larger ASU student community coursework that would give them an understanding and, indeed, an appreciation of the diverse nature of American society.

Under the leadership of subsequent department chairs Vicki Ruiz and Cordelia Candelaria, Chicana/o Studies grew and prospered.  One of the department's major accomplishments has been acquiring major gifts. These include a $1.1 million gift from the Wells Fargo Foundation for a presidential chair, a speaker series, scholarships for students, and a teacher education program, and a $300,000 gift from the Motorola Corporation to establish the Motorola Presidential Chair in Community Revitalization within the department. 

Under the leadership of Professor Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez who took over as department chair in 2005, the department adopted transnationalism as one of its foundational pillars of the curriculum and broadened its instructional offerings to include materials on other Latino groups living in the United States. The change in emphasis was symbolized by a new name: the Department of Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies (TCL) which was approved by ABOR on February 11, 2007.

Most recently, the department became the School of Transborder Studies in 2010, becoming the first of its kind in the United States and globally. Some of the new developments include a Master of Advanced Study and PhD in Transborder Studies, scheduled to launch fall 2016. The overall curriculum will have both academic and applied orientations with a focus on the manner in which students may successfully solve the pressing issues facing Mexican origin and Latina/o Communities.