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University News | 01.16.24

New Social Justice Practicum chair seeks revamp of flagship program

For Lance L.O. Gibbs, Ph.D., the Social Justice Practicum at Adler University is all about equipping students with the tools needed to be socially responsible practitioners in the real world.

“I can’t think of any other graduate program with a social justice component as a core feature,” Dr. Gibbs said. “Some institutions might have a series of classes, but here at Adler, it’s a flagship program that each of the degrees interacts with. It’s what makes this University unique.”

Photo of Lance Gibbs

Dr. Gibbs

It’s certainly what drew Dr. Gibbs to accept the roles of chair and online project manager of the Social Justice Practicum (SJP). He began in September 2023 and is an assistant professor of SJP.

Dr. Gibbs praises the SJP, a unique and proven program designed to give students real-world experience. It’s a required 200-hour internship that spans four courses (or terms for online programs). Students serve in specific and aligned community outreach sites where they will work eight to 10 hours per week.

However, Dr. Gibbs said he has some ideas to revamp and strengthen the program. This includes creating a better alignment of learning objectives between all three campuses, and he hopes to improve the synergy and seamless flow of the core seminar courses.

“I want students to see that what they learned from their first seminar is helping them understand what they’re learning on the second course, and the next, and the next,” he said. “They don’t have to wait until the end of their SJP to understand the purpose of each seminar.”

Born and raised in Jamaica, Dr. Gibbs earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology from the University of West Indies in Mona, Jamaica. He earned another master’s degree in sociology and a doctorate in American culture studies from Bowling Green State University.

Prior to coming to Adler, Dr. Gibbs was a faculty member at the University of Southern Maine, lecturing on race and ethnic studies.

“With my background, you can’t talk about issues pertaining to race and ethnicities, especially with the history of the U.S., without talking about social justice,” he said. “To me, it’s not just a buzzword.”

Dr. Gibbs said he’s hopeful the next iteration of SJP further helps students understand the meaning of social justice. That it continues to challenge students to understand and confront their own biases and opens their eyes that social justice issues can vary in rural and urban areas, state-by-state, and country-by-country.

“If nothing else, what the SJP does is give students a taste of what’s going to be in the real world,” he said. “The SJP gives them the tools to adapt and succeed in their work, no matter where they go after Adler.”

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