social justice

Community Psychology Capstone - Dancis

This two-term capstone will explore a core community psychology framework--Participatory Action Research (PAR). In the spirit of learning by doing, students will partner with groups on campus to design action research projects around the course theme: Disrupting Systemic Racism at PSU. These projects will involve collecting data and using those data to inform social action. The course will culminate with group reflections on the projects and on Participatory Action Research as a Community Psychology competency.

This Capstone will partner with the Learning Gardens Laboratory (LGL), a 12-acre garden education site on Portland’s southeast side. Students work collaboratively to gather stories of community gardeners, teachers, and community partners who regularly gather at LGL to learn and farm. Capstone students will gain skills in interviewing, storytelling, and using narrative as a means for social change, in addition to learning about sustainable food systems and the impact of learning gardens. 

Meditation and Service

We will practice and grow in our understanding of mindful meditation and awareness as a foundation for personal and global healing. Meditation is a practice that encompasses a philosophy of living with a quiet mind, open heart, and in service to others. Learners will cultivate their own mindful meditation practice 6 days a week for 15-20 minutes a day. Together we will explore the connections between ancient Eastern philosophy, personal healing, and social responsibility. Service-learning with our non-profit community partners gives context to the course materials and our mindfulness practice. Equally important, it provides an opportunity to experience present moment awareness while deepening learners’ experiential understanding about the social determinants of health and their influence on individuals, communities, and society as a whole. 

Artwork featuring fat people of various races wearing diverse style of clothing, holding hands

Leadership and Mentoring 

The mentoring of young people takes many forms. Some young people grow up with a sibling, relative or another adult ally who serves as a mentor to them. Some benefit from formal mentoring programs in schools or from community organizations. Not everyone enjoys access to regular mentoring, yet research shows that mentoring has tremendous benefits for both the mentor and the mentee. These benefits include the development of leadership skills, increased interpersonal communication, improved relationship-building skills, and increased self-awareness. Armed with these skills, a young person has greater potential for success in many settings.

This capstone is designed to provide an opportunity to learn about Spanish culture and society by means of synchronous and asynchronous discussion group forums between American and Spanish middle and high school students.  The communities of students will be from: Portland, Oregon, various schools in Washington state and Zamora, Spain.  These forums will be between paired classes (one USA and one Spanish) of similar grade and language level and will be facilitated and monitored by both teachers of each class.  Each grouping of classes will be assigned 2 capstone students. 

Social Justice In K-12 ED Capstone

Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, the “achievement gap” has been at the forefront of discussions about school equity.  The public has been tuned into this so-called “achievement gap” alongside shocking high school dropout rates, lack of access to equitable early childhood education, public disinvestment in the education system, disparities in access to higher education, and more.   According to the Children’s Defense Fund’s 2012 State of America’s Children Report, the gaps (more accurately and truthfully described as opportunity, wealth, or access gaps) between high and low income students is 30-40% greater now than a generation ago.  This same report details that a lack of access to early childhood education can lead to 25% of at-risk youth dropping out and 60% never accessing higher education.  This study goes on to state that while 76% of high school students graduate within four years, only 2/3 of black and Latino students graduate within this same time frame (Children’s Defense Fund). 

Mentoring & Empowerment at NAYA

This class is an opportunity to explore hands-on the complexity surrounding education, equity, and empowerment, with a specific focus on collaborative peer mentoring, which often includes academic tutoring. Our community partner is the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA). At NAYA, students will have the opportunity to interact with bright youth from diverse cultures and work with them on improving their academics and future prospects.