The science of social justice

Social justice program comes to Ferris in Fall 2021

Ferris students will soon be able to get a Bachelor of Science in social justice.  

This new program will be a collaborative endeavor of the College of Arts and Sciences and Education, College of Business and College of Health. Students will learn a variety of subjects, with a strong focus on history.  

Throughout the degree, students will analyze past and present social injustices with their related movements. 

History professor and program coordinator for social justice Dr. Jana Pisani emphasized the importance of this focus.   

“Our position was that if you don’t know what social injustices have occurred in history, how can you really go about making social justice happen?” Pisani said. 

Along with history and general education courses, students in the program will also choose to study four out of 11 concentrations. These include public health, criminal justice, Spanish, geography and political science.  

In a recent press release, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Bobby Fleischman stated that graduates of the program will carry valuable insights into a variety of career paths such as health advocacy, law, criminal justice and education. 

The Board of Trustees approved the program in Oct. 2020. Pisani and Associate Dean Trinidy Williams explained that collaborative plans for a social justice degree have been in the works for years.  

“We were struggling with having the appropriate support for our political science major and our sociology major,” Williams said. “So, different people were trying to figure out different ways of preserving those very important courses, to make them available to people across the university,”

Fleischman approved of the philosophy behind the social justice program and acknowledged its proximity to founder Woodbridge Ferris’ own mission toward opportunity. 

“We will enter this program with great anticipation of the opportunities that will come for these students and the impact they can have as agents of change in our society,” Fleischman said. 

According to Williams, Ferris’ mission can be summed up in one quote. 

“My plea in Michigan — and it will be my plea to the last breath I draw, and the last word I speak — is education for all children, all men and all women of Michigan, all the people in all our states all the time,” Woodbridge Ferris said.  

Williams described Ferris to be “quite progressive” for his time in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. She also highlighted the efforts of Ferris’ wife and cofounder, Helen. 

“If there were no Helen, I’m not so sure that the university would be here, she’s very much a part of all of this. But because of the time I, you know, at the turn of the century, I don’t think she got the credit that she deserves,” Williams said. 

To Fleischman, Woodbridge Ferris put himself up to the challenge to “make the world a better place.” Williams is certain that students share the same ambition today. 

We’re all taught that to be fair, and to be just is important. I think, as we build societal constructions, we forget that,” Williams said. “We build in impediments that get in the way for a variety of reasons, and some purposeful and some unintentional. It takes all of us, including young people, the whole generation of them, to change the world and to make it a better place,”

The social justice program will begin courses in the 2021-2022 academic year. Pisani stated that a full course list is on its way to the Ferris website.