Bringing Social Justice to the Classroom at MSJC

by Cindy Lopez-Ordonez

September 18,2020

Photo of protestors marching over bridge.
Protestors Marching / Photo from

Mt. San Jacinto College has a new Social Justice Degree for Transfer

Mt. San Jacinto College has unveiled a new degree in Social Justice (Associate’s Degree for Transfer). Beginning this fall, students can formally declare for this major. The degree’s purpose is to empower students with an awareness of social injustice by analyzing systems perpetuating injustice and fostering skills to dismantle these systems. This degree is also transferable to the CSU and the CU systems. The coursework for this program includes classes from the following disciplines: Anthropology, Communications, Geography, History, Literature, Psychology, and Sociology.

The degree began with several faculty from the Menifee campus and their passion for social justice. As a result, a social justice coalition was created which featuring an event on gender. This coalition ignited a conversation about establishing a social justice degree and ethnic studies courses.

Drawing of Social Justice protest signs surrounded by the words, "challenge," "equality," "human rights," "advocacy," "struggle," "freedom," and "equity." The posters say, "Women's rights are human rights," "Farmworkers say BOYCOTT SAFEWAY," "Protect the environment," and "Black Lives Matter."
Social Justice Drawing by Cindy Lopez-Ordonez

The faculty involved (with degree planning) were: Anjeanette Oberg, Erik Ozolins, Carla Maroudas, Morgan Hoodenpyle, Tamera Smith, and, with consultation from Michelle Stewart. This group expanded to include Ryan Sullivan, who assisted in finalizing the curriculum approval process along with Oberg. Others who were involved included Arafiena Bhuiyan, Jeremy Rogers, and Jess Whalen, who also supported social justice events on campus.

Photo of Black Lives Matter member holding their fist up.
Black Lives Matter photo provided by

The social justice coalition began research which informed the following options for the degree: a generalist option, or an emphasis in either gender or Ethnic Studies. The decision was made for a generalist degree to provide flexibility for students with the hopes of an ethnic studies program, including Black Studies and Chicano Studies, in the future, which would collaborate with the social justice degree.

“With education comes responsibility,” Oberg said. An important component of this degree will, therefore, be for students to utilize knowledge and skills obtained to improve their communities. Oberg’s participation stemmed from her experiences as a high school dropout, teen mom, first generation college student, sexual assault survivor, and community college alumna, in which she did not have the confidence to self-advocate. Oberg said, “It was my trauma and own lived experiences that inspired my heart of advocacy, but it was my education that empowered me to become an advocate.” With recent events highlighting social injustice, Oberg said, “This degree is important now more than ever!”

Photo of protestors marching
Protest photo provided by

The social justice degree seeks to create social justice advocates in every sector of the country to tackle injustices in those sectors.  These sectors include; healthcare, education, entertainment industry, social services, criminal justice system, etc. Oberg explains that the most rewarding aspect will be witnessing students transform into empowered individuals who advocate for themselves and others.

For Oberg, the next steps include the course development of a Black Studies in collaboration with SANKOFA, UMOJA, A2MEND, and the newly formed Black Alliance; a Chicano Studies course development in collaboration with the LatinX Indigenous Alliance and The DACA Taskforce; and an ADT in Social Work.