The Social Justice and Community Engagement Program allows students to solidify their commitment to creating a more equitable world through both academic analysis and community-engaged learning. As defined by the program, social justice pertains to how humans relate to one another and come together to dismantle systemic barriers to equity in the world, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Community engagement compliments this through cultivating and fostering civic, social, and intellectual networks in pursuit of the public good.
The Social Justice minor equips students to engage social justice matters in their major and whatever career path they pursue.
The Non-Profit Organizations and Public Affairs minor gives students a foundation for careers in the non-profit sector by exploring the roles of non-profit organizations, philanthropy, and volunteerism in generating policy responses to significant social problems.
Nathan S. Bigelow
Director of SJCE and Professor of Political Science
Teaching and Research Interests: I focus on American politics with a special interest in exploring the intersection of power, inequality, rights, and policymaking institutions. Over the summers I also coordinate the SEPA summer grant writing program, a community engagement project that places students with area non-profit agencies.
“I was raised in a union household and my first job out of high school was working for a consumer rights group. As such, and for as long as I can remember, it’s been a commitment to social justice that informs the way I understand my role in society and certainly the way in which I understand my role as a teacher and mentor to students.”
Assistant Director of SJCE (Coordinator for the SJ Minor) and Assistant Professor of History
Teaching and Research Interests: I am a historian of the US, with a focus on issues of prejudice, politics, and popular culture, and particularly the power and influence of white supremacist groups. I teach a range of courses focused on the intersectional struggle for social justice, including Quest for Civil Rights, Immigration and the US, and Work and Wealth in the US.
"Long before I immigrated from England to the US, I was inspired by the founding ideals of freedom and equality. As a historian, though, I am continually confronted by the ways in which the US has often not lived up to those ideals. I find hope in the ways that generations of activists have pushed the country to try and live up to its promise. I am committed to helping others see that same hope and to discover in the past how we all can contribute to moving our society and our world into a more just and equitable future."
Lisa M. Brown
Dean of Social Sciences and The Herman Brown Chair in Psychology
Teaching and Research Interests: I am interested in the public and private nature of collective identities – particularly ethnic identity and sexual orientation identity. Identity as relates to longstanding inequalities comes up in classes I have taught such as Stigma & Prejudice, Health Psychology, Human Sexuality, and Environmental Psychology.
“I feel that so much of my life was affected by the intersecting identities of race, gender and class having grown up in Boston as the daughter of a divorced, Black woman working as a registered nurse. As a result, my framing of social justice and community engagement comes from experiencing and later interrogating the experience of structural factors (e.g., renting in Black neighborhoods that resulted from redlining) and choices my mother made (e.g., working at a community health center serving low-income patients in a Black neighborhood).”
Mari Elise Ewing
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
Teaching and Research Interests: In courses such as Environmental Justice, Food Systems, Resilient Systems, and The Decision Process, I explore questions about securing equitable access to public goods and ecosystem services and decreasing disproportionate impacts of so-called natural disasters, climate change, and consumer culture.
“I grew up working on a small but still-surviving family farm on the High Plains of Colorado. I am mindful of our disadvantaged students because of my own background in which college was only possible thanks to receiving need-based Pell and SEOG grants, juggling many jobs, and chancing upon invaluable mentors. I am committed to serving as one of those mentors to my students and extending access to all students.”
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Teaching and Research Interests: My focus is socio-cultural anthropology, with a range of courses about understanding the systems involved in enduring inequities. I teach courses about human rights, Native North American and African diversity and experiences with colonialism, sex and gender, race and ethnicity, and methodological approaches to all of the above.
"My world expanded when I was a student at Austin College, when I found a volunteer opportunity at the Center for Survivors of Torture in Dallas. Seeing the trials and triumphs of displaced people, and in our own back yard, inspired me to work to help students recognize global and local intersections in everything we do.”