The UIC Social Justice Initiative
The Social Justice Initiative (SJI) at UIC is a campus-wide project that grew out of several streams of activity and discussion. Begun as a collective effort in 2010 by UIC faculty, staff, students, administrators and community partners, SJI seeks to build upon and foreground a critically important part of our mission as a diverse public research university in a global but often contested city. SJI embraces an important part of the university’s mission “to create knowledge that transforms our views of the world and, through sharing and application, transforms the world.” SJI embraces this concept as critically important to an institution whose identity is defined by a student body composed of a large number of immigrant and first generation students, Black, Latino, Asian-American, and working class whites whose families and home communities are confronted with an amalgam of problems and challenges. Many of our students, even those who come from more privileged backgrounds, are motivated and passionate about using their skills and talents to address social problems, give back to struggling communities, and in essence, “change and improve the world.” SJI respects that idealism and wants to help young people add to it a set of critical thinking and research skills that will make them more effective social change agents and ethical and socially conscious professionals. We often talk of a pipeline for students and SJI looks at not only how students succeed while they are at UIC but what they do with the training they receive after they leave our institution.
It is UIC’s socially conscious mission, sometimes explicit and sometimes reflected in our actions more than our words, that has attracted like-minded scholars and students to our west loop campus. From those working to reduce health disparities and realize greater health equity, to those seeking to combat street violence, state violence and mass incarceration, to those working to revitalize public schools, UIC researchers have wrestled with the meaning and practice of social justice over the course of long and accomplished careers. In the arts and humanities scholars have written, created and analyzed work that provokes, inspires, complicates and enlivens our thinking about what is ‘justice,’ whether there is a universal standard of justice, and what does justice look, sound and feel like from different social locations and expressed through diverse media?
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