Every year, first-year Adler University students across our campuses choose community organizations to partner with for their Social Justice Practicum. This unique and immersive experience helps prepare students to be socially responsible practitioners by encouraging them to learn from and contribute to organizations that are advancing health, inclusion, and social justice in our communities.
At the end of the year, students present on their experiences to students, faculty and staff. Manal Guirguis-Younger, Ph.D., Director of the Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) program in Vancouver, shares her reflections on the Vancouver Campus Social Justice Practicum Celebration on Friday, July 12 and her thoughts on the practicum experience.
As per our tradition at Adler University, we recently celebrated the end of the Social Justice Practicum component for our first-year students on at the Vancouver campus. As professors and trainers, we don’t always have the privilege of seeing the type of impact our students and graduates have on our society. We hope that by providing an education that leads to increased awareness of social justice issues, we will create a positive ripple effect, and that collectively we can make a difference—but we don’t always get to see this in action.
Friday was not that type of day. We all witnessed firsthand and celebrated the tangible differences our students made to many lives and organizations. The rumor is true. Alder University students are social justice warriors. I once wrote a reflection piece that I wanted to entitle “education is a weapon” and I was asked to modify what might have been indeed a charged qualification. But today, I hold strong the idea of the power of education.
In our celebrations, I saw that our students are not just passionate people; they are passionate people who have been armed with information and with analytical skills, supported by mentoring, awareness, and experience. But all of this would be nothing if they didn’t have compassion.
On Friday, I saw truly compassionate students with a broader vision of the world and expanded understanding of the human narrative. I heard phrases like “people make mistakes,” and “remediation is possible,” “there is always room for healing,” “we need to empower people and treat them with dignity,” and “we need to create a world of equity, respect, and dignity for everyone”; all said in the context of the social justice practica, which were designed to offer those services. Working with diverse groups, including women, men, elderly, children, and disenfranchised and vulnerable people, our students found ways to implement their skills and have the lived experience of helping and enabling others to find their place in our society.
Some students mentioned that they started the social justice practicum with uncertainty about its relevance and value to the rest of their chosen degree, but then they had a powerful change of heart. A change of heart and mind is what education is all about. I was proud to be part of the Adler University educators, as I strongly believe that education must be about the whole person: mind, heart, spirit, and values. It was a good day!