Wright Family Fund for Education, Inquiry, and Justice
Community-based course partners with D.C.-area public schools
Students totaled 600 volunteer hours in public schools during fall 2017
Brings speakers, screenings, education-focused events to campus
Sabrina Wesley-Nero, Ph.D., director of the interdisciplinary program in Education, Inquiry, and Justice (EDIJ), a minor in the College of Arts and Sciences, has heard from many students who say they came to Georgetown because they wanted to engage with education and social justice and see it as integral to Georgetown’s Jesuit and Catholic identity.
“We attract government, sociology, psychology, education, and language majors who are interested in the intersection of education and justice,” Wesley-Nero says.
“We also attract curious first-generation college students who look around and realize they are the exception to the rule in their communities, and want to figure out why they made it to Georgetown while others didn’t.”
Sam Wright (C’99), whose family sup- ports the minor program and other initiatives at Georgetown, was inspired to create the Wright Family Current Use Fund for Education, Inquiry, and Justice after taking education-focused courses at Georgetown and volunteering at local schools.
“Some of my most memorable experiences from my time in D.C. include the one-on-one time reading and teaching kids that didn’t have most, if any, of the opportunities I did growing up. I might have been helping them learn to read or do their homework, but I learned from them too,” Wright says. “We chose to support the Education, Inquiry, and Justice program so current Hoyas can help build the foundation for future Hoyas.”
The mission of this program links directly to the mission of the university: to cultivate women and men for others. Each class—20 starting in fall 2018—looks at education and social justice historically and contemporarily. Students examine educational approaches and social structures and how they interact to facilitate or block educational attainment.
“Education, Inquiry, and Justice is an important program because it not only allows people to study the art of teaching but also examines the role education plays in building a stronger society,” Wright says.
As a core requirement of the program, students are steeped in service; for at least one semester they must volunteer in D.C. public school classrooms weekly to expand their perspectives on education as a tool to advance equity and justice for all citizens. Georgetown’s lasting partnerships with teachers and schools in the D.C. public system benefit grade school scholars as much as Georgetown undergraduates.
“Teachers are often grateful for the models that Georgetown students can be,” Wesley-Nero says. “Having Georgetown students in their classroom makes college a real concrete thing for younger students. It tells students that they are important to people outside their own circle. The relationship bridges social capital and teaches students that they have value.”
Although many students go on to work in or with the education system after graduation, Wesley-Nero says her goal is to educate better citizens and more informed voters. As long as students leave with a nuanced understanding of education’s potential to recreate democracy and to serve social justice in solidarity with people with fewer educational opportunities, she has done her job.