Local to Global Justice: Roles of Student Activism in Higher Education, Leadership Development, and Community Engagement

Authors

  • Flora Farago Stephen F. Austin State University
  • Beth Blue Swadener Arizona State University
  • Jennifer Richter Arizona State Uni
  • Kimberly Eversman Rochester Public Schools
  • Denisse Roca-Servat Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.11575/ajer.v64i2.56382

Keywords:

Keywords, student activism, student leadership, critical consciousness, praxis, community engagement

Abstract

This study examined how organizing an annual social justice forum and festival through involvement in a multi-issue, progressive, activist student organization called Local to Global Justice (LTGJ; www.localtoglobal.org) impacted students’ academic experiences and professional development (e.g., scholar-activism, critical thinking, applied learning), leadership development, and community engagement and activism. Current and alumni student leaders (n = 33; 90% graduate students), faculty mentors (n = 3), and community members (n = 4) of LTGJ (N = 40) completed a close- and open-ended question online survey about their educational experiences and related activism, and shared their perceptions about the value of student activism to higher education. The study is grounded in Paulo Freire’s notions of critical consciousness and praxis, and illustrates how activism, regarding local and global justice struggles, enriches students’ educational experiences within and beyond the university. Findings indicate that student activism and organizing the LTGJ Forum and Festival benefited students academically, professionally, and personally in intersecting and intertwining ways. Themes emerged around the roles that activism played in the development of scholar-activism, critical thinking, applied learning, career and professional development, leadership development, and community engagement and activism. Findings also revealed that involvement with LTGJ was an avenue for engaging with communities outside of academia. The article concludes with implications for multi-issue activist groups on college campuses.

Cette étude porte sur l’impact qu’a eu l’organisation d’un forum et festival annuel sur la justice sociale, par l’implication dans une organisation étudiante progressiste, activiste et axée sur la défense de causes multiples : Local to Global Justice (LTGJ; www.localtoglobal.org), sur les expériences académiques, le développement professionnel (par ex., l’activisme, la pensée critique, l’apprentissage appliqué), le développement en leadership, et l’implication et l’activisme communautaires des étudiants. Des leaders étudiants, anciens et actuels (n = 33; 90% étudiants diplômés), mentors du corps professoral (n = 3) et des membres de la communauté (n = 4) LTGJ (N = 40) ont complété un questionnaire en ligne. Les questions, ouvertes ou fermées, portaient sur les expériences éducatives et l’activisme connexe des étudiants et leur donnaient l’occasion de partager leurs perceptions de la valeur de l’activisme étudiant dans le contexte des études supérieures. Cette étude repose sur les notions de Paulo Freire sur la conscience critique et la pratique, et elle illustre dans quelle mesure l’activisme portant sur les luttes locales et globales pour la justice enrichit les expériences éducatives des étudiants, pendant et après l’université. Les résultats indiquent que l’activisme et l’organisation du forum et festival LTGJ avaient procuré aux étudiants une gamme d’avantages entrelacés sur les plans académique, professionnel et personnel. Des thèmes sont ressortis autour des rôles que joue l’activisme dans le développement de la pensée critique, l’apprentissage appliqué, le développement professionnel, le développement du leadership et l’implication et l’activisme communautaires. Les résultats ont également révélé que l’implication auprès de LTGJ était une piste vers l’implication dans d’autres communautés en dehors du monde académique. La présentation d’implications pour les groupes activistes œuvrant sur les campus universitaires et axés sur la défense de causes multiples vient terminer l’article.

Mots clés : activisme étudiant, leadership étudiant, conscience critique, pratique, implication communautaire

Author Biographies

Flora Farago, Stephen F. Austin State University

Dr. Flora Farago is an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies in the School of Human Sciences at Stephen F. Austin State University. Flora's research examines children’s prejudice and stereotype development, anti-bias curricula, and inclusive early childhood education surrounding race and gender. Flora is particularly interested in the link between research and community activism.  E-mail: florafarago300@gmail.com.

Beth Blue Swadener, Arizona State University

Dr. Beth Blue Swadener is Professor of Justice Studies and Associate Director of the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. Her work spans childhood studies in cross-national contexts, particularly in East Africa, and she is a co-founder and active member of Local to Global Justice.

Jennifer Richter, Arizona State Uni

Dr. Jennifer Richter is an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, with a  joint appointment in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, and the School of Social Transformation.  Her research interests include environmental justice, energy policy, and community activism.

Kimberly Eversman, Rochester Public Schools

Dr. Kimberly A. Eversman is an Instructional Coach for Rochester Public Schools. Her research interests include the development and support of critically conscious teachers, teacher activism, and democratic schooling policies.

Denisse Roca-Servat, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana

Dr. Denisse Roca-Servat is an Associate Professor and Researcher of the Territory Studies Group of the School of Social Sciences at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Medellin, Colombia.  Her research interests include political ecology, water justice and cultural studies.

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Published

2018-06-22