New Century College Offers Concentration in Social Justice

By Rashad Mulla

Mason’s New Century College (NCC) rigorously prepares students to take on the world’s challenges. This fall, the college began a new concentration to help further this mission.

The new concentration is in social justice, and it’s offered under NCC’s BA in Integrative Studies program. This concentration gives students the opportunity to study large social issues and problems around the world, including poverty, environmental injustice, and disenfranchised populations. The program was originally the idea of faculty members Paul Gorski and Al Fuertes, and NCC assistant dean of academic affairs Kelly Dunne.

Mason professor Paul Gorski regularly teaches a class on animal rights. Photo by Creative Services.

“Our program helps students analyze these issues and develop a deeper understanding of why they exist,” says Gorski, the head of the concentration. “We want to use this understanding to change the world to be more equitable and more just. We want our students to be these agents of change.”

After a core course in poverty, wealth, and inequality (NCLC 336), students concentrating in social justice take courses on race, ethnicity, gender, animal rights, environmental rights, conflict resolution, social movements, engagement, art, and a variety of other topics. Experiential learning, a staple of NCC programs, is prominent in this concentration. For example, students can work with the National Coalition for the Homeless for one course or Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary for the animal rights course.

“We simply believe that you cannot learn about social justice work and being engaged in a community simply by sitting in a classroom,” Gorski says. “Theoretical learning is a part of it, but the experiential piece will be out in the community.”

After studying factory farming in Professor Paul Gorski’s Environmental Justice class, his students visited the Poplar Spring Farm Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, Maryland. The farm shelters abused, neglected, and abandoned farm animals and other wildlife. Photo courtesy of New Century College.

As it turns out, the social justice program fits well with NCC. Historically, NCC has offered many courses that deal with social justice themes, and as Gorski points out, those classes have been very popular among students. With a little tweaking, NCC found it had a unique model designed for the concentration, as well as numerous courses that could apply to such a program. Combined with student interest, Gorski says, this motivated NCC to finally put the program together.

“I am absolutely thrilled that the university could get behind a program like this, because it’s the kind of program that fits what Mason says and supports,” Gorski says. “It is such a great service to students who are already interested in this field and might not feel like they have an academic home or might not have felt that until this program made it through the curriculum review process.”

For the next generation of social activists, training began this fall.

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This article originally appeared on the College of Humanities and Social Sciences website.

To read more stories about Mason, check out the university’s News site.

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