Sunday, February 3, 2013

Social Justice in the Psychology Major

People who advocate for social justice believe that all members of society should have equal rights and access to opportunities.  This social justice perspective is very relevant for psychology as well, especially at a place like Roosevelt.  For example, psychologists have studied many related topics, such as prejudice, discrimination, and conformity.  Moreover, the ethical principles of the American Psychological Association even require practicing psychologists to ensure that their work benefits and respects the rights of all people, regardless of age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic status.

Many undergraduates come to Roosevelt University because they are excited about our history, mission, and commitment to social justice.  Our general education requirements in the College of Arts and Sciences provide students with an introduction through classes like Writing Social Justice or Grounds for Change.  Some students attend university-wide events on campus sponsored by the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation (MISJT), or participate in service projects as part of New Deal Service Days each Spring, or see related exhibits in the Gage Gallery.

Sometimes students who are majoring in psychology at Roosevelt wonder how social justice can be a more prominent part of their education.  Here are several specific ideas for you to consider.

First, we offer many courses whose topics directly address social justice within psychology.  These all count toward your major. 

PSYC 211: Psychological Study of Racism
PSYC 215: Developmental and Learning Disabilities
PSYC 250: Youth Violence: Intervention and Theory
PSYC 312: Understanding Diversity
PSYC 345: Psychology of Women
PSYC 366: Poverty and the Individual

Second, take advantage of classes that feature service-learning in our department.  These courses give you the opportunity to volunteer and make a difference in the community.  Locations are consistent with the material that you learn in the particular class and assignments make a bridge between your field experiences and the material.  Most service-learning classes connect with social justice because you will meet and assist people who have often experienced inequality or discrimination.  You can figure out which classes at Roosevelt include service-learning in the Course Finder.  Just select the appropriate semester, go to the Attributes box on the left-hand side, scroll down and then select "Transformational Service Learn."  Classes with a service-learning component from all departments will be listed on your screen.  Ones that included this outreach opportunity in psychology have recently included:

PSYC 250: Youth Violence: Intervention and Theory (read more here)
PSYC 254: Childhood and Adolescence
PSYC 350: Human Neuropsychology (read more here)
PSYC 366: Poverty and the Individual
PSYC 368: Child Abuse/Family Violence
PSYC 381: Children and Families
PSYC 396: Psychology of Mentorship
PSYC 398: Field Placement with Children

Third, consider enrolling in our department's internship class (PSYC 393) over the summer semester if you really want to immerse yourself in working with others.  You can read more about this class here.  Psychology students have advanced social justice by working in social service agencies that help children or adults who have experienced many forms of adversity.  This internship class also has a social justice project in which you learn how to produce change at the community level by contacting and advocating to your state and local legislators.

Finally, take advantage of co-curricular opportunities to advance the cause of social justice.  Our psychology clubs (Psi Chi and Psychology in Action) meet on both campuses.  They coordinate charity fundraising, outreach events, and sponsored lectures that focus on many social justice topics.

You can also explore the great volunteer opportunities through the Center for Campus Life and the Enlightenment Project at Schaumburg, as well as through the Center for Student Involvement in Chicago.  

The Mansfield Institute also provides students with the chance to get involved in service, advocacy, and activism.  Recent projects include mentoring and providing tutoring sessions to 4th and 5th grade students from a Chicago Public School who are brought to campus, and the chance to volunteer with partner agencies to help on different campaigns (like reducing the incarceration of youth through restorative justice or providing additional mental health services in schools to reduce violence).  You can contact the Mansfield Institute at 312-341-2150 to learn more.

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