LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Office of Multicultural Affairs is accepting applications for the 2018 cohort of the Social Justice Fellows Program.
Now entering its third year, the program provides intensive direction to faculty and staff on issues of social justice, inclusion and systemic oppression. The program is structured like an academic course with scholarly readings, discussions and short reflections.
Social Justice Fellows launched after the November 2015 town hall on race, respect, responsibility and free speech. Leaders at OMA received numerous requests for education and training surrounding cultural competency, inclusion and social justice issues.
“The town hall spurred a lot of conversation, and many people wanted to know how they could become more engaged in these topics as well as in efforts to create a more inclusive environment,” said OMA Director Precious Porras. “Current events demonstrate there is still a strong need for this instruction as well as a demand for it.”
The fellows will meet for two hours, twice a month during the spring semester and complete extensive reading assignments outside of meeting times. The rigorous experience requires fellows to conduct a critical examination of themselves and their role in systems of oppression with the goal of developing skills to advocate and create systemic change. The readings complement self-exploration and create a baseline of social justice knowledge. This year, organizers are asking participants to pay a $50 fee that covers costs associated with programming, guest speakers and materials. No applicants will be turned away because of inability to pay.
“We are working to educate faculty and staff on campus, and social justice fellows allow us to build an army of informed allies who are also committed to creating a more inclusive campus,” Porras said. “I like to quote Annice Fisher, who earned a doctorate in education leadership from Harvard University and was a past White House intern on educational excellence. She said, ‘Social justice is not a single act but a way of life. It is the conscious decision to challenge oneself and others to refrain from participating in systems of oppression that help to maintain inequity and the status quo.’”
About 60 faculty and staff have completed the program to date. The OMA has called upon fellows to assist with the demand for training throughout the institution.
The fellows work in several offices and units at KU and found the program challenging, informative and motivational.
“I appreciate even more that what I thought I knew was in fact very limited,” said Jenny Mehmedovic, a member of the 2016 cohort and executive associate to the vice provost for faculty development. “This is a continual journey of learning and each time my eyes open wider. I constantly engage with the question of why it is easier for me to hear some voices and not others. In my work now, I strive to leverage what I have learned in service of creating a more equitable and inclusive community where all faculty have what they need to succeed.”
Mehmedovic acknowledged that the benefits of the program were also accompanied by the discomfort of self-discovery.
The OMA is selecting applicants for membership in the spring 2018 cohort. About 35 individuals will be chosen to participate. Faculty and staff who are interested in participating should apply online by Dec. 8. Selected participants will be notified before the end of the fall semester.
Faculty and staff who recently completed the 2017 Social Justice Fellows Program:
- Cecile Accilien, Department of African & African American Studies
- Callie Branstiter, KU Libraries
- Anne Dotter, University Honors Program
- Brandy Ernzen, Department of Indigenous Studies
- Merrill Evans, Watkins Health Services
- Rosana Godinez, Undergraduate Advising Center
- Mary Ann Graham, KU Card Center
- Carrah Haley, KU Athletics
- Michelle Heffner Hayes, Department of Dance
- Christie Holland, Institute for Policy & Social Research
- Darius Jones, Student Involvement & Leadership Center
- Laura Kingston, Achievement & Assessment Institute
- Mary Klayder, Department of English
- Sharon Leatherman, KU Unions
- Juliette Loring, Academic Achievement & Access Center
- Angie Loving, Human Resource Management
- Jessica Mattes, Office of First-Year Experience
- Dan McCarthy, School of Journalism & Mass Communications
- Kierstin McMichael, Office of Diversity & Equity
- Casey Mesick Braun, Spencer Museum of Art
- Terri Morris, School of Music
- Eddie Munoz, Office of Student Affairs
- José Muñoz, KU Athletics
- Mulubrhan Negash, School of Education
- Lindsay Orion, Office of Student Affairs
- Katherine Pryor, Department of Theatre
- Aaron Quisenberry, Student Involvement & Leadership Center
- Vicky Reyes, School of Journalism & Mass Communications
- Kathryn Rhine, Department of Anthropology
- Katherine Rose-Mockry, Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity
- Christina Rudolph, Office of Admissions
- Gail Sherron, Financial Aid & Scholarships
- Michael Wade Smith, Office of the Provost
- Katie Treadwell, Office of First-Year Experience
- Anne Wallen, Office of Fellowships
- Aramis Watson, KU Student Housing
- Michelle Wilson, Achievement & Assessment Institute.