​UCSB unveils new 'social justice' & 'inequality' focused history minor

The University of California, Santa Barbara history department has introduced a new minor in  “Poverty, Inequality, and Social Justice,” with the stated goal of providing students with “the tools to understand the structural and political roots, dynamics and consequences of poverty and intersectional inequality; conduct original research; and engage meaningfully in efforts to address poverty through policy, practice and social action.”

The minor is a function of the UCSB Blum Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy, which “promotes democratic responses” to “poverty and inequality.” The center is part of the larger Blum Network, which spans the entire University of California system. The network features several online courses available across the system, including one titled “Cultures of Sustainability and Social Justice.”

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Professor Alice O’Connor, director of the Blum Center and a history professor at UCSB, has been working on creating this minor since 2016. “I really feel that there’s a lot of energy on this campus for dealing with a whole range of issues that deal with inequality and social justice, not just from the lens of economic need and poverty, but other standpoints as well,” O’Connor said.

UCSB History already offers a multitude of social justice-themed courses including History 74: Poverty, Inequality, and Social Justice in Historical and Global Context, which now serves as a prerequisite for the minor.

Students are required to complete an internship “working in organizations or initiatives engaged in addressing poverty and inequality through policy analysis, advocacy, direct social provision, community action, and/or political organizing” in “anti-poverty and social justice fields.”

History 174Q: Capstone Seminar in Poverty, Inequality, and Social Justice is the final course required for the minor. It’s designed for students to “improve their understanding of how poverty and inequality can be addressed through purposive social research and action.”

According to a student in the minor, those who participate in marches or other social justice-related events or strikes are granted extra credit.

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Social justice majors and minors are becoming more and more prevalent on college campuses. UCLA offers the Community Engagement and Social Change minor, which “integrates community engagement and social justice with an academic context.”

The director of the program was not available for comment in time for publication.

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