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Changing Perspectives and Advancing Social Justice in the Pacific Northwest

Stories | 04.27.22

After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Corey Clay realized there was still much work to be done around anti-racism and trauma. As a veteran, doctoral student, and experienced professional, he had a unique perspective on how to move from dialogue about racism to action. Taking action of his own, what started as a vision has come to light, earning Clay one of Adler University’s most coveted honors, the Alfred Adler Social Justice Award.

A Texas native, Clay currently lives in Seattle, Washington, where he is completing his Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology through Adler’s Online Campus and works as a diversity, equity, and inclusion coordinator for the University of Washington Department of Mechanical Engineering.

“I always knew that social justice mission was in place. I’m a Black man from the south, and I had the opportunity to work on a practicum focusing on Indigenous populations in Vancouver,” said Clay, who was initially enrolled at the Vancouver Campus in 2009 but relocated back to the U.S. and became an Online student. “That was an amazing experience and I think it opened my eyes to different facets of social justice.”

For Clay, social justice is something he lives and breathes throughout his personal and professional life. It’s also the catalyst for the Pacific Northwest Institute for Racial Trauma, or PNIRT, the company he founded in 2020. As a mentor to youth, adults, and organizations, he challenges the status quo through conversations about Black identity and racial trauma and provides training on anti-racism, internalized hate, allyship, and creating inclusivity.

In addition to Clay’s educational background, having completed three master’s degrees before his doctoral pursuit, he’s also worked as a corrections and probation officer, providing him firsthand knowledge of the criminal justice system, which is often incorporated in his sessions.

“I felt like there need to be more people like me who have a background in law enforcement and criminal justice that need to speak out. Having a background in academia as well, PNIRT has allowed me to merge these into something that can drive change. There’s a lot of people out there doing anti-racism work who have room to learn and these backgrounds allow me to present these topics in an informed way,” said Clay

His efforts to educate others on social justice and make essential systemic change doesn’t end with his company –– it’s also central to his full-time job. As the first diversity, inclusion, and equity coordinator in the University of Washington Department of Mechanical Engineering, he is establishing a cohesive long-term DEI plan and creating tangible practices in place to reduce harm.

Clay credits Adler’s social justice practicum for building his knowledge around different populations and best practices while solidifying his social justice values.

“I could have gone to a different school, but I wanted to get my Ph.D. from a university that has a social justice focus and that’s really hard to come by, especially when it comes to industrial and organizational psychology,” he said. “The autonomy and flexibility of the online program has provided the needed flexibility given my schedule.”


About the Alfred Adler Social Justice Award:
Every year, the Adler University Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice awards members of the community who exemplify the values of world-renowned community psychologist Alfred Adler.

The Alfred Adler Social Justice Awards recognize those who act as advocates and role models to impact social justice in the world while inspiring others to do the same.

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