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Minor in Social Justice

Minor in Social Justice

The interdisciplinary minor in social justice is for students interested in "activism." Through an integration of academic study and community-based learning, students gain theoretical, historical, and practical backgrounds that will assist them in advancing progressive social change. The minor thus offers students an academic complement to social justice activist work, enabling them to explore and debate the meaning of "social justice," to grapple with the moral and ethical issues involved in undertaking social justice work, to engage in extensive community-based learning in urban communities of color, to understand and evaluate alternative perspectives and strategies pertaining to political and organizational social change, and to develop an informed action plan for furthering social change in a particular area of concern.

The minor consists of five courses, including three required core courses and two electives. The core incorporates service learning in all of the courses and is designed to provide a common foundation that offers students depth and progression in the level of analysis and engagement. The interdisciplinary approach complements a wide range of majors across the social sciences, sciences, and humanities and is designed to accommodate a wide array of areas for social justice work.


To complete the minor, a student must take three required courses and two electives.

Three required core courses:

  • SJ 220, Working for Social Justice (M6)
  • SJ 222, Organizing for Social Change (M5)
  • SJ 380, Integrative Capstone Project

Two electives from a list of courses in Africana Studies, Economics, History, Management, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, and Women's and Gender Studies.

Note: Women's and Gender Studies majors, Sociology majors, and Africana Studies majors who choose to complete a minor in social justice may only count one of the required social justice core courses as an elective.

SJ 220, Working for Social Justice (M6)
Offered every fall.
Prerequisite: Sophomore standing
Instructor: Becky Thompson, Professor of Sociology 

This course combines study of the psycho-social, moral and ethical issues of social justice and social activism with community-based learning. It explores what it takes to become citizens who are committed to rectifying the myriad political, economic and social problems we face. The course aims to have students better understand their own values and motivations, to grapple with the complexity of understanding the needs of others, to assess and clarify their ethical and political beliefs, to develop skills in recognizing and negotiating across social differences, and to cultivate strong participatory democratic instincts toward structural social change.  Download SJ 220 Syllabus 

SJ 222, Organizing for Social Change (M5)
Offered every spring.
Prerequisite: Sophomore standing
Instructors: Carole Biewener, Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Economics

This course provides students with a theoretical and practical foundation for understanding and evaluating social change strategies. Students look at different collective actions, citizen movements and community-based organizations with an eye toward understanding the history of community organizing and assessing the ways in which community leaders have mobilized resources to effect change. Conversation with community-based practitioners is incorporated throughout. Dowload SJ 222 Syllabus

SJ 249, Race and Ethnicity Dialogue
Offered as needed.
Instructors: Carole Biewener, Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Economics
Desirae Simmons, Associate Director of Service Learning at the Scott/Ross Center for Community Service

The course builds skills in dialoguing across racial and ethnic differences and about controversial social issues. It encourages self-reflective conversation and inquiry that develops personal and social identity awareness, along with social system knowledge. This course fosters intergroup relationships by developing ways of building bridges across social differences via experiential excercises and intergroup collaboration projects.

SJ 380, Integrative Capstone Project
Offered as needed.
Prerequisite: SJ 220 and SJ 222, and Junior or Senior standing

This course is designed for students to address a particular social justice issue, research past and current organizing efforts and strategies, and develop a community action plan that culminates in a term paper. This project allows the minor to offer a culminating course experience for all students, with different kinds of community-based work during the semester and with the possibility of further student-initiated, community-based learning via a subsequent internship or fieldwork experience (which could mesh with a student's major).  Download a detailed description of the Capstone Project

Two Electives Chosen from the Following Courses:
* It is strongly recommended that you take electives from two different disciplines.

  • AST 210 Sisters of the African Diaspora
  • AST 240 African American Intellectual and Political History
  • AST 313 The Black Struggle for Schooling in the United States
  • ECON 214 Women in the World Economy
  • ECON 216 Economic Development
  • ECON 225 Political Economy of U.S. Capitalism
  • HIST 213 Race and Ethnicity in U.S. History
  • HIST 216 Women and Gender in U.S. Since1890
  • MGMT 224 Socially-Minded Leadership
  • PHIL/POLS 232 Theories of Justice
  • POLS 212 Politics Unplugged: How Things Work in Massachusetts
  • POLS 215 The Politics of Race and Ethnicity
  • POLS 219 Gender and Politics
  • POLS 242 African Politics
  • SJ 249 Race and Ethnicity Dialogue
  • SOCI 225 Social Movements
  • SOCI/AST 249 Inequality: Race, Class, and Gender in Comparative Settings
  • SOCI 261 Urban Sociology
  • SOCI 262 Criminology
  • SOCI 263 Sociology of Education
  • SOCI 267 Globalization
  • SOCI 270 South Asia: People and Power
  • SOCI 277 Introduction to Latin American Studies
  • SOCI 347 Antiracism and Justice Work
  • WGST/ECON 125 Women and Work
  • WGST 204 Roots of Feminism
  • WGST/AST/SOCI 340 Intimate Family Violence

Electives for the Minor in Social Justice devote a preponderance of the course material to developing an analysis of social inequities; studying different strategies, activist experiences and social movements in the 20th and/or 21st centuries; developing an historical understanding of social movements in the 20th and 21st centuries; and/or studying different theories of social justice.


Service Learning

Service learning is a teaching and learning method which combines community service with academic instruction to achieve specific learning objectives. The Scott/Ross Center for Community Service facilitates service learning placements for classes in many different fields of study, including SJ 220 Working for Social Justice and SJ 222 Organizing for Social Change.

Previous service learning placements include:

Social Justice Steering Committee

The Minor in Social Justice is administered by an interdisciplinary Social Justice Steering Committee currently comprised of faculty from the Departments of Africana Studies, Economics, Sociology, and Women's and Gender Studies; staff from the Scott/Ross Center for Community Service and the Simmons Institute for Leadership and Change; and students pursing the Minor in Social Justice. In the future we hope to include participation by community partners.

Currently the minor is housed in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies (C205) with Professor Dawna Thomas serving as the faculty coordinator (C319E, x2539).

Social Justice Steering Committee Members

Contact Us

Associate Professor Dawna Thomas
Faculty Coordinator
Phone: 617-521-2539
Office: C-319E

The Scott/Ross Center for Community Service
Phone: 617-521-2700
Office: E103