Explore Careers

The ethnic studies major is designed to develop students’ abilities to think through the larger stakes involved in their life choices and to apply their academic skills toward life-affirming social change. As such, many of our students move on to a variety of career tracks in public leadership and service.

In addition to advising within the Department of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies, there are many campus resources to help guide your career search.

Alumni Careers

Our graduates have used their training to find success in careers across a number of different fields. Below is a sampling of positions our alumni have held.

Organizing and Non-Profit Sector

  • Oregon State Director, Main Street Alliance
  • Human Resources Manager/Risk Management, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)
  • Development and Marketing Officer, Humanities Tennessee


  • Member, Oregon House of Representatives
  • Transition Coordinator, Oregon Department of Human Services
  • Director of International Relations, City of Portland

Business/Private Sector

  • Senior Associate Analyst/Program Manager, Microsoft
  • Broker, Coldwell Banker Seal
  • Event Producer, New York Public Radio

Higher Education

  • Native American Student and Community Center Manager, Portland State University
  • Student Activities and Outreach Manager, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
  • Externship Coordinator, Oregon Culinary Institute

K-12 Education

  • Program Director, Title VI Indian Education Program, Portland Public Schools
  • Principal, Cottage Grove High School
  • Managing Director of Southern California Recruitment, Teach for America

    IRES alum Matthew Rose

    “As a global health professional, I've found that my background in ethnic studies provides an essential foundation for comprehending intersectional identities, engaging with communities, and understanding systems of power. I credit my education for equipping me with the language and tools to address complex issues, deconstruct power dynamics, and contributing to positive change for a more inclusive, prosperous world.”

    —Matthew Rose, director, Global Health Strategies

    IRES alum Calla Wilson-Traisman

    “IRES provided me with a framework for understanding the many systems of oppression that make up our world. After spending several wonderful years in the program, I felt empowered with knowledge but wanted to transform my knowledge into action. This led me to pursue a career in law, so that I could provide legal support and advocacy for those who are most directly impacted by these systems and work toward creating a society that is more just and equitable for all.”

    —Calla Wilson-Traisman, attorney, CUNY School of Law Defender Clinic

    IRES alum Hoang Pham

    “Ethnic studies allowed me to center my own life and experiences in an academic context, recognizing that learning could be about unpacking my own identity. I was then empowered in each class to consider the historical, political, and social context through which race and ethnicity plays an integral role in our present and future society—and how we can shape a more inclusive world by engaging in meaningful and intentional ways. Throughout my career, ethnic studies has been the foundation for my approach in advancing justice and change.”

    —Hoang Pham, associate director, Stanford Center for Racial Justice

    Award-winning author and UO vice provost Kimberly Johnson

    "Ethnic studies (or IRES) helped hone the skills now critical to my success: inquiry, curiosity, understanding, and empathy. These traits have empowered my career, enabling me to tackle challenges affecting our students and driving institutional progress through inclusive leadership.”

    —Kimberly Johnson, award-winning author and vice provost for undergraduate education and student success, UO

    IRES alum Demiliza Saramosing

    “IRES played a vital role in shaping my academic, personal, and professional goals as a first-generation college student and as a Filipina from a working-class and low-income background born and raised in Kalihi, Hawai’i. I would not be pursuing my doctoral degree, with aspirations to become a professor, if it had not been for my ethnic studies education.”

    —Demiliza Saramosing, PhD candidate in American cultures at the University of Minnesota

    Why Major in Ethnic Studies?

    Read about examples of career paths and actual alumni jobs. 

    Major Map