Georgetown students have long engaged in summer service projects across the globe, but until 2015, there was no formalized forum for them to reflect on and learn skills from their experiences. That’s why the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service (CSJ) created Intersections of Social Justice, an eight-week online summer course that provides educational structure to students pursuing social justice work.
The Intersections course creates a digital, mentored community for 11-15 students each summer as they immerse themselves in community-based work. The online environment encourages a more equitable educational experience for different types of learners and cultivates deep reflection. Through the course, students learn skills and work training that they can immediately put into action at their project sites, such as conflict mapping and analysis, cross-cultural communication and cultural humility, and social justice research methods.
The course stimulates peer education by requiring students to discuss their observations and challenges in real time at sites around the world. This format also encourages self-care and builds a support system across sites. In 2017 these sites spanned from Atlanta, Georgia, and Washington, D.C., to Peru, Colombia, Rwanda, and Uganda.
“Five hundred years ago, Jesuits wrote letters to each other about their work setting up schools in China and Peru. This class is the 21st century version of what St. Ignatius would have done.”
Helena Vaughan (C’18) participated in Intersections in 2017 while interning in Raleigh, N.C. at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). She aims to take new tools into community-based work after graduation.
“Intersections pushed me to ask questions about my positionality within USCRI, while also offering a space for personal reflection and support. It allowed me to consider my day-to- day work with greater critical engagement and intentionality,” shares Vaughan.
The Intersections course is possible thanks to a gift from an anonymous donor to promote novel curricular models that enable students to engage in transformational educational acts that help the world’s most marginalized populations. The course is part of the Designing the Future(s) of the University Initiative, a new platform for radical innovation in teaching and learning at Georgetown that is driving the university’s unique response to pressures and opportunities in the changing landscape of higher education.
CSJ Executive Director Andria Wisler explains that the Intersections course blends Ignatian pedagogy, critical reflection, and peace education in groundbreaking ways online.
“Five hundred years ago, Jesuits wrote letters to each other about their work setting up schools in China and Peru. This class is the 21st century version of what St.Ignatius would have done.”