Starting in the fall of 2018, Centre College will offer a new interdisciplinary minor in social justice, which was approved earlier this year by the College’s Committee on Curriculum and Academic Standards.
“The social justice minor stemmed from Centre’s relationship with the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty’s (SHECP) internship program,” said Mindy Wilson, assistant director of the Center for Career & Professional Development.
“For the past five years, Centre students have participated in an internship focusing on poverty and inequality, and those students have returned with an enhanced desire to engage in more focused academic study of issues related to social inequities and marginalization,” she added. “Throughout this time, several faculty and staff members discussed ways for students to be able to extend this study beyond the internship and to include non-Shepherd interns.”
Wilson said that, while the College has been discussing the idea for a few years, a committee of faculty and staff was formed in the fall of 2017 to work on creating the minor.
“It has been a goal to enhance our offerings related to the SHECP internships ever since we joined the program,” said Richard Axtell, H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Religion and the College chaplain.
Axtell explained how the SHECP program was an important model for Centre’s thinking of the minor, because they explicitly note that Shepherd Internships, and the accompanying academic study, are not necessarily about preparing students for careers in social work.
“Rather, they prepare students to be citizens who are well informed about crucial issues in our society,” he continued. “In addition, they offer students the opportunity for deeper study of issues they will encounter as educators, doctors, lawyers, policy-makers, ministers or business leaders. Hence, they will be more effective in their chosen careers, because they understand the social realities they will encounter at more than a surface level.”
Up until now, there have only been two classes required for Shepherd interns: Social Structure (SOC 120) and Studied in Ethics: Poverty and Homelessness (REL 340). The social justice minor would require 19 credit hours in courses that discuss areas of methods, intersectionality and political economy, in addition to a number of electives covering topics of race, gender, wealth, poverty, environment and others.
Axtell said that, through this minor, Centre can offer students a strong focus in poverty and social justice studies to complement the experiential learning in internships that focus on poverty and various other forms of social inequities and marginalization.
“This is high impact pedagogy at its best, because students will have practical experience in the field with agencies that deal with social inequities as well as classroom work that encourages theory and analysis,” he said. “In addition, this minor, with its practicum requirements, is a unique combination of curricular and extracurricular aspects of the Centre experience, bringing together internships, academic work in the classroom, community-based learning and Bonner worksites, among other endeavors. This has been an exciting partnership between aspects of our campus community that too often remain in separate silos.”
The social justice minor will be offered starting in the fall of 2018. Currently, there are 11 students registered for the social justice minor, along with one student who has designed the model as a major.
by Kerry Steinhofer
June 20, 2018