Staff as Students of Social Justice

Staff as Students of Social Justice

Program for Staff to audit AC Courses

About the Program

The 'Staff as Students of Social Justice' (SSSJ) Program is an opportunity for up to 25 staff per semester (from the Division of Undergraduate Education and beyond) to audit an American Cultures course and participate in discussions about timely and important topics. Piloted in Fall 2020, the SSSJ Program is a unique opportunity to learn first-hand from leading scholars and American Cultures instructors about the intersections of race, ethnicity, and gender; dig into subjects of personal interests; and build connections with faculty, students, and fellow VCUE colleagues.

Program Overview

  • Staff participants audit a course of their choosing from a curated list of relevant AC courses, which vary each semester.
  • Staff participate in a weekly discussion section led by a GSI specifically for staff.
  • Flexible scheduling: roughly 3-4 hours of class/discussion per week (plus additional time for optional readings)
  • Professional development opportunity: staff work with their supervisors to ensure that they will be able to take full advantage of this learning opportunity 
  • Staff complete a sharable artifact with their classmates instead of assignments/ exams/ finals to showcase what they learned and gained from experience with other members of VCUE.  These artifacts are presented at the end of each term - check out some examples from the Fall 2020 cohort below!
  • Upon completion with at least an 80% attendance rate and participation during meetings, staff receive a certificate of completion signed by the Vice Chancellor of Undergraduate Education, Catherine Koshland, and a letter in their HR file for merit and performance reviews.

Application Process

During Summer 2021, we are offering a shortened (6-week) version of our regular program. Staff will participate in lectures led by our GSI David Maldonado (Graduate School of Education) and guest speakers, as well as weekly discussion sections designed specifically for staff participants. The summer session begins the week of June 7 but exact meeting dates will be determined together with participants to allow for maximum flexibility and engagement. 

Applications for Summer 2021 are now closed.

The Fall 2021 application will likely open in August, due before the start of the academic semester. Please email for any questions.

Through this course, we learned how the devastating fires we experience in California today are a product of climate change and pervasive policies of suppression deeply connected to settler colonialism, white supremacy, and dispossession of Native peoples from their ancestral lands. We also learned from guest speakers about several tribal groups' ongoing efforts to preserve, sustain, revitalize, and share their cultural practices and scientific knowledge.
Jean Cheng, Sarah Pickett, and Alex Tan

Course Offerings

The best thing about the program was that I was able to gain a more firm and nuanced understanding of the harms and inequities of the tech industry while having really thoughtful conversations with our professors, my classmates, and folks from the VCUE Division around existing and imagined interventions into so many different facets of tech in a lot of other spaces from art to journalism to activism.
Sara Assadi-Nik, Program Coordinator, Division of Summer Sessions, Study Abroad & Lifelong Learning

Fall 2020 Final Projects

Spring 2021 Final Presentations: Staff as Students of Social Justice

Fall 2020 Cohort Final Presentations: Staff as Students of Social Justice Program

Spring 2021 Presentation / Presenter Time 

Social Movements, Organizing and Public Policy - Public Policy 192 AC: Louise, John, Joven, Colette


"Common Sense Assumptions: Deconstructing Mass Incarceration and "Illegal Immigration" - Sociology 3AC: Principles of Sociology: Michael, Hannah, Amber, Anna


Civil Rights and Social Movement in US History 139C: Janet, Jason, Dave, Monica and Gigi

The Urban Experience: A West Oakland Atlas - Ross, Hailey, Kelly, Kate, and Katie 49:22
Presentation / Presenter Time 
“Defiant Women: Gender, Power, and Violence in U.S. History,” by Alexandra Calvert, Jessica Bauer, and Michele Rabkin  00:09
“The 2020 Election,” by Brianne Tabios, Judy Stern, Krista Meyer, Setareh Sarrafan, and Susan Hagstrom  04:23​
“Introduction to Ethnic Studies,” by Georgette Estilo, Indu Tandon, and Paris Cotz  06:01​
“Fire: Past, Present, and Future Interactions with the People and Ecosystems of California," by Alex Tan, Jean Cheng, and Sarah Pickett  09:57
“Transforming Tech: Issues and Interventions in STEM and Silicon Valley,” by Betsy Greer and Sara Assadi-Nik 11:21

Fall 2020 Final Projects

Project Title: "Re-learning: New Narratives of Women in American History", AC Course: History 136AC
Project Title: "Fire Management, Indigenous Rights, and Social Justice in California," AC Course: Anthropology C12AC / ESPM C22AC
Project Title: "Ethnic Studies - Key Takeaways", AC Course: Ethnic Studies 11AC
Project Title: "Afro and Indigenous Futurism: Temporality and Identity in the Digital Age", AC Course: New Media 151AC
Project Title: "Election 2020: Staff Perspectives", AC Course: African American Studies C20AC / Public Policy C20AC

Spring 2021 Final Projects

Common Sense Assumptions: Deconstructing Mass Incarceration and "Illegal Immigration"
Civil Rights and Social Justice
The Urban Experience: A West Oakland Atlas
Social Movements, Organizing, and Public Policy