Many of the 42 Penn State students in the two Principles of Social Justice classes (CI185) said in their final presentations Dec. 7 that they welcomed the opportunity to learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion and that what they learned they’ll take with them long into their professional and personal lives.
Taught by Ashley Patterson, assistant professor of education (language, culture and society), and Efraín Marimón, assistant professor of education and director of the Restorative Justice Initiative, CI185 also is part of a six-course social justice in education minor offered by the College of Education.
Penn State President Eric Barron said in his Dec. 9 Town Hall speech that Penn State has recognized the importance of making the University more diverse and welcoming. “We have focused on diversity as a moral, educational and business imperative,” he said. “One of the six foundations of our strategic plan is diversity, equity and inclusion. And we articulated our commitment in the Penn State Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“Right now, in university communities across the nation, we face profound challenges. Our mission is to serve and advance citizens through education, research and service to society. It is a mission that fails if we are not diverse and if we are not inclusive. There are many steps to take based on what we started to discuss today,” Barron said.
Patterson opened the three-hour, CI185 presentation event — a mini-conference serving as a culminating showcase of student learning across the semester — by saying she believes in the idea that there are two sides to social justice work. “One is the context that you’re in. The world … it can be a global scale or a very localized scale. And that’s what we were trying to get at (through students’ research during the semester),” she said.
“The other side of the social justice world that we can't move forward without is that personal work, those of our own ways of thinking, our habitual ways of thinking that we interrupt in order to make space for new learning that has equity at its center.”
Marimón concluded the afternoon event by thanking the students for sharing their reflections as well as their semester-long journey in which they got to be vulnerable and learn about each other.
“We experienced a very interesting semester together,” he said. “We want to encourage you to take the things not only that you learned in this class but that you talked about and learned and committed to and continue to engage in these types of inquiries as professionals, practitioners and advocates.”
In between, students shared their research and their feelings on diversity/equity/inclusion topics ranging from “Social Justice and Community” to “Teaching and Learning with Equity in Mind” to “Social Justice and Multiple Identities” to “Advocacy in Action.”
What follows is an abbreviated summary of some of the students’ presentations as well as their takeaways from CI185: