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American Tales of Social Justice Engagement


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Joe Slavens, Doctoral student from Azusa Pacific University and guest of the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, presented "American Tales of Social Justice Engagement" at Curtin University in November 2015. Joe discussed his team's research on White professional staff in faith-based higher education institutions in the United States.

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American Tales of Social Justice Engagement

  1. 1. American Tales of Social Justice Engagement Joe Slavens, Research Assistant, Azusa Pacific University Dr. Alex Jun, Jennifer Akamine, Allison Ash, Sharia Brock, Karen Clark, Angie Hambrick, Kelley Montz, Nate Risdon, and Greg Veltman National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education Perth, WA
  2. 2. Roadmap  Introduction  The Research  Discussion  Implications  Questions
  3. 3. Purpose To explore the experiences of White administrators [professional staff] at Christian institutions of higher education within the United States who have demonstrated a commitment to social justice.
  4. 4. Literature  Whiteness  Christian higher education  Social Justice Alliances  Research Gap
  5. 5. Conceptual Framework Critical White Studies (CWS) Understanding “what it means to be white, how whiteness became established legally, the phenomenon of white power and white supremacy, and the group of privileges that come with membership in the dominant race” (Delgado & Stefancic, 1997, p. 83)
  6. 6. Research Question “What characterizes the experiences of White administrators [professional staff] from Christian institutions of higher education within the United States who choose to engage in social justice programs, activities, and initiatives?”
  7. 7. Social Justice To move “beyond mere appreciation or celebration into active efforts to examine and dismantle oppressive structures and policies and move toward a more equitable vision for the institution and its members” (Thompson, Hardee, & Lane, 2011, p. 112).
  8. 8. Participants and Researchers • Criteria • Six women and 11 men • Eight from the West Coast, one from the South, and eight from the Midwest • Institutions: predominately White and varied in faith orientation (evangelical and Catholic ) • Positionality of Researchers
  9. 9. Methods  Narrative w/ Grounded Theory approaches  Interviews  Transcriptions  Analysis on at least five distinct occasions as a team, refining, coding, “comparing coding with other coders, re-reading” (Maxwell, 2013, p. 130)  Member-checking  Triangulation  Re-storied themes, culminated in two models
  10. 10. Findings: What We Learned 1. Centrality of Theology and Faith to Social Justice  “the idea is how do we make earth like heaven as much as possible?”  “a calling from Scripture to be about this business of making the world reflect more the way that God intended it to function...the values Scripture teaches for what the Kingdom of God looks like that Jesus came to bring.” 2. Aspirations for and Frustrations with Christian Higher Education (faith helps and hurts)  “At [my institution] I think I’m sort of viewed as an anomaly which I took pride in that for a while but…I wish it was just like you know, I wish that more people [were] involved…”  “I feel like oftentimes I’m pegged as the squeaky wheel in things…I feel like the dissenter or the voice of difference and so even my value of caring about that, having difference represented in a place, compels me to stay.” 3. Cycle of Critical Consciousness (Model) 4. Awareness and Engagement Continuum (Model)
  11. 11. Cycle of Critical Consciousness
  12. 12. Limitations and Future Research  Location and gender imbalance of participants  Race focus  Nomination and self-selection  Individual change vs. institutional change  Faith-based institutions
  13. 13. Engagement and Questions  Joe Slavens:   Questions  This study was partially funded by the Azusa Pacific University Faculty Research Council.