Diversity and Social Justice in Higher Education Concentration

My name is Patricia King and I have been
in the field of higher education for over 30 years. My name is Kimberly Reyes
I am a recent graduate of the master’s program in Higher Education at the
University of Michigan. My name is Laurel Draudt and I am the Master’s Program
Activities Coordinator. My name is Kelly Slay and i’m a second year doctoral student
in the Higher Education program. Higher Education just plays such a special role
in the United States’ society and in the development of individuals. It often
helps alleviate lots of life transitions so to be at a place like Michigan that
emphasizes a holistic view of the student, of the curriculum, of the
institutions, of the society, of the broad purposes of higher education has really
been a wonderful opportunity. About a year ago, a group of us started talking
about finding more sustained and focused ways for students who had an interest in
social justice and higher education to have mechanisms for pursuing those
within the context of the higher education program. So from that was born
the Diversity and Social Justice in Higher Dducation Program. We have
organized this initiative into a master’s degree concentration so that
students who who want to be diversity educators and have that as a focus can
select from courses we recommend for this, are linked to an internship site
where they will gain the on-the-ground experiential component for
this, and who will also be guided through a series of reflective activities to
pull together their own learning them in the service of their own goals. A program
like the Social Justice initiative in higher education
is really important because disparities continue to exist in education outcomes
for marginalized groups. The recent social justice initiative has brought a
number of really wonderful speakers to our campus to discuss their work which
speaks directly to these issues and why they’re important and why they deserve a
space in higher education discourse. The master’s program here at the Center for
the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education attracts a wide variety of
students or prospective students. We have students that come both from the state
of Michigan as well as outside of Michigan, so across the country, as well
as international students. Some bring a lot of work experience with them, others
come directly from their undergraduate institution. So there really is a variety
and a diversity within the type of student that we attract. Students can
either decide to just study higher education in general or they can go a
couple different routes. One is our concentration in Diversity and Social
Justice. One of the things that I learned is that some of the issues aren’t just
among the marginalized or traditionally marginalized groups or
groups that we think about in terms of African-American and Latino students or
first-generation, low-income. There are also issues cross-national issues that
are important too. I hope to use what I have learned in the Race and Social
Justice Initiative this year really impact the communities that I
care about and the communities that I came here to research and to serve. Why
is this important at this point in time? Because nationally we are at some
critical junctures relative to who goes to college, who can afford to go to
college, how it is financed, and the experiences of students who make it in
the door and whose goal is not just to get into college but whose goal is to
graduate and to be able to reap the benefits from the college education. The
takeaways that I gained from participating were mostly in
understanding the different ways that communities of color are researched in
higher education and understanding that there are a number of different
disciplines that are important to understand when you’re thinking about
these issues. I would say that other students should participate in this
initiative because it’s important if they are going to be educational
scholars and educational practitioners and the more that we have an opportunity
to understand how to talk about issues of race and social justice, the less
scary they will be to people, the less dividing they will be to people, the
less polarizing they’ll be to our country. If students really do want to be
committed to understanding how to improve the educational system in our
country, it really does behoove them to understand race and social justice as
they apply to education. What we wanted to do was to bring people with this
common interest together, to give them a common base but to highly
individualize what the course of study is and we think we have done that with
the construction of this master’s degree concentration in Diversity in Higher Education. you

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