Social Justice Institute

A15C Crawford Hall
Phone: 216.368.7568
Timothy S. Black, Interim Director

The Social Justice Institute believes that university communities should be educators and leaders in advancing an inclusive and just society that raises awareness of social injustice; enhances moral courage; promotes critical thinking about power, privilege and equity; and encourages action and equitable solutions. 

Our mission impels us to work toward equal access to opportunity for all people through understanding and addressing the root causes of social injustice and developing innovative solutions. Through cooperation, communication and collaboration, we support innovative and synergistic research, scholarship and pedagogy; build and support social justice leaders on and off campus; and forge productive relationships across boundaries within the university and into the community.

Undergraduate students from across the university have the opportunity to pursue a minor in Social Justice that prepares them to address local, national and global inequities. An interdisciplinary and flexible approach allows students majoring in the humanities or in STEM fields to address crucial issues in diverse voices. The curriculum emphasizes the history, theory and practice of social justice work; the distribution of power, resources and opportunities; and appropriate individual and collective remedies for social injustice. 

The Social Justice Institute was founded in 2010 under the direction of Dr. Rhonda Y. Williams.

Academic Program Faculty

Timothy Black, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

John H. Flores, PhD
SJI Academic Coordinator; Associate Professor, Department of History

B. Jessie Hill, JD
Judge Ben C. Green Professor of Law; Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, School of Law

Daniel J. Lacks, PhD
C. Benson Branch Professor, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, School of Engineering

Sana Loue, PhD, JD
Professor, Department of Bioethics; Vice Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity, School of Medicine

Marilyn Sanders Mobley, PhD
Professor, Department of English; Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity & Equal Opportunity

Diana L. Morris, PhD, RN, FAAN, FGSA
Florence Cellar Associate Professor of Gerontological Nursing, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing; Executive Director, University Center on Aging & Health

Camille B. Warner, PhD
Assistant Professor of Nursing, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing

Ruqaiijah A. Yearby, JD, MPH
Associate Dean of Institutional Diversity and Inclusiveness, David L. Brennan Professor, School of Law

Founder/Inaugural Director

Rhonda Y. Williams, PhD

The Social Justice minor is a total of 19 credits, including the required core course (SJUS 100 Introduction to Social Justice), a real-world seminar experience (SJUS 200 Social Justice Engagement Seminar: Experiential, Community Based Learning), and a senior research project (SJUS 398 Social Justice Capstone Project). In addition to the three required courses, students must take one course from each Focus Area below, plus one additional elective from any Focus Area. 

The courses listed below are accepted toward the minor. Approved electives are added every year; students may request that relevant SAGES seminars be applied for elective credit.

Focus Area 1: Ethics, Politics and Economics

Are existing arrangements just? To what extent are current thought systems amenable to change? What are the preferred alternatives and how can they be realized?

HSTY/ETHS 393Advanced Readings in the History of Race3
PHIL 316African Political Thought3
PHIL 325/425Philosophy of Feminism3
PHIL 334/POSC 354/454Political and Social Philosophy3
PHIL 384Ethics and Public Policy3
SOCI 349Social Inequality3

Focus Area 2: Social Inequality, Power and Privilege

What is a fair distribution of resources? How do cultural practices, social relations, social structures and institutions reproduce, reduce or eliminate inequalities? What are the consequences of social inequality for health, development and well-being of individuals and communities? How are distributions and uses of power connected to social inequalities?

ETHS/WGST/FRCH/WLIT 335/435Women in Developing Countries3
ETHS/WGST 352African Feminisms3
HSTY 208Social History of Crime3
HSTY/WGST/ETHS 318History of Black Women in the U.S.3
HSTY 363/463Gender and Sexuality in America3
MPHP 306History and Philosophy of Public Health3
ORBH 370Women and Men as Colleagues in Organizations3
RLGN 338/WGST 339Black Women and Religion3
SOCI 202Race and Ethnic Minorities in The United States3
SOCI/WGST 326Gender, Inequality, and Globalization3
SOCI 349Social Inequality3
SOCI 355/455Special Topics3
SOCI 364Disability and Society3
SPAN 342Latin American Feminist Voices3
WGST/SOCI 201Introduction to Gender Studies3

Focus Area 3: Social Movements and Social Change

What are competing models of social change? What role have social movements played in U.S. and global history? How do social movements form? How have states responded to social movements? What is the relationship between democracy and social movements? How have different technological innovations advanced or impeded social movements? What knowledge and skills are necessary to implement social change?

HSTY/ETHS 280History of Modern Mexico3
HSTY 381City as Classroom3
POSC 322Political Movements and Political Participation3
POSC 346/446Women and Politics3
SASS 369Social Networking and Community Organizing in the 21st Century3
SOCI 380Social Movements and Social Change3
SPAN 315Latin American Cultural Conflicts3


SJUS 100. Introduction to Social Justice. 3 Units.

Concepts of and quests for justice, and struggles against injustice, have shaped human understanding, relationships, and behavior for centuries. Individuals operate within community contexts created through interactions and relationships structured by sociability, belonging, and responsibility. Probing broad questions, this signature core course will encourage students to think critically and expansively about the social world and the conditions of humanity. The course will provide a foundational exploration of social justice concepts, issues, and remedies, thereby developing the necessary analytical tools and information to assess inequality and injustice and address historical and contemporary issues. Following an interdisciplinary, case-study approach, featuring faculty from different schools and departments at CWRU, this course also will provide students with multiple frameworks for understanding the interconnections between what are often perceived as disparate and disconnected fields of study and inquiry. Three primary questions guide the course: What is social justice? Why does social justice matter? What can be done? Counts for CAS Global & Cultural Diversity Requirement.

SJUS 200. Social Justice Engagement Seminar: Experiential, Community Based Learning. 1 Unit.

SJUS Engagement Seminar: Experiential, Community Based Learning. This one-credit seminar is designed to provide real life engagement with the community, and to facilitate student interaction with themes and topics related to Social Justice. Students will attend a set number of out-of-classroom events on campus and in the community to learn from community members, workers and leaders who are actively experiencing, educating about, and addressing social justice issues. Engagement in the community and with diverse stakeholders is necessary to developing awareness and sensitivity to the context and forms of justice and injustice within socio-political constructs. Further direct engagement is necessary to begin to synthesize and integrate the knowledge and skills necessary to develop oneself as an active agent for change and responsible citizen. Therefore, and emphasis will be placed on observing and analyzing the efficacy of strategies for individual resistance and social action. Prereq: SJUS 100.

SJUS 398. Social Justice Capstone Project. 3 Units.

In this course, students will identify and develop a project that addresses a relevant justice issue. Students will apply knowledge from historical and theoretical justice frameworks, and emphasis is placed on critical analysis of the issue. Students will have the opportunity to engage with stakeholders in a community based immersion experience in local, national or international settings. This culmination course is designed to provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate foundational skills facilitating social change from diverse community, academic, and professional perspectives. Finally, students will work to select and perhaps implement remedies such as individual resistance, policy, advocacy and social action, and collective struggle to address the respective injustice. Prereq: SJUS 100.