College offers social justice Master's for 'scholar-activists'

Marygrove College, a Catholic graduate institution in Detroit, is now offering students a chance to earn a master’s degree in Social Justice.

According to the program’s webpage, the graduate program “is ideal for those interested in learning and promoting social justice/ change and becoming a scholar/activist.” 

Through various courses offered by the program, students will get a chance to learn about concepts such as “corporate power,” “white privilege,” “psychology on social justice,” and more.

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Among the courses that count towards a Master of Arts in Social Justice degree are “Justice [in] U.S. Economic Structures,” “Religion and Justice: Conflict and Congruence,” “Organizing for Social Change,” and more.

“Examination of race and racism will be presented from the lenses of Colonialism, Post-Traumatic Slavery Syndrome, and the dysfunctional side of white privilege,” one course description reads. “In addition, it will explore contemporary perspectives on spiritual and emotional intelligence related to social injustices.”

“This course is designed to introduce students to the law and policy of environmental justice,” explains the description of another course. “Environmental justice is at the confluence of the civil rights movement and the environmental movement. Students will develop an understanding of the scientific, economic, ethical, and legal underpinnings of environmental justice decision-making with a focus on Detroit.”

A course on human rights, meanwhile, offers students an opportunity to “examine how narratives (including films) enable or disable memory, truth telling, and justice in the aftermath of atrocity,” while a “special topics” Theology class helps pupils “develop their own theology of resistance.”

According to the main description of the degree plan, the Master of Arts in Social Justice curriculum is intended to provide “for analysis and reflection in the ways of thinking, including the values, assumptions, and the actions that maintain the economic, political, and cultural structures that shape our lives.”

“It also seeks to build competencies and skills to transform these structures toward a more just society,” the description continues. “In addition, this program seeks to create an internal culture of justice among the candidates.”

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When asked about the degree, the director of the program, Dr. Brenda Bryant, told Campus Reform that scholar-activists are focused on bringing about “systemic change” in society.

“We are ‘scholar-activists,’ fierce about getting to the truth, so we can take right action for equity and justice,” Bryant explained. “We focus on systemic change...not individual. Many issues drive students to participate...water, school to prison pipeline, money in politics, gerrymandering, racism...and so on.”

Marygrove College has been struggling to cope with financial uncertainty in recent months, and was forced to end its undergraduate program last year as a result of budget deficits and high debt, Inside Higher Ed reported.

The Social Justice degree survived the cut, despite subsequent downsizing and faculty and staff layoffs, as part of the school’s shift to offering only master’s degree programs starting in January 2018.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @matt_noyes_