University of Southern Indiana

Introduction to Social Justice

The Introduction to Social Work (SOCW 224) course is an introduction to diverse theories and practical applications of social justice. Students explore meanings of oppression and discrimination and the role of citizens and public policies in addressing the needs of vulnerable populations. The course examines various social movements, such as the civil rights movement, as efforts to remedy social and economic injustice.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Define social and economic justice.
  2. Explain various forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination.
  3. Describe the history of social movements and protest.
  4. Analyze the interplay of economic, ideological, and political forces in sustaining or addressing social and economic justice.
  5. Analyze the impact of public policies on various diverse groups related to age, culture, class, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, race and religion.
  6. Analyze the impact of various social protest movements on social and economic justice.
  7. Evaluate the various role citizens in a democratic society play in addressing social justice.


Because of the University's designation as a Carnegie Engaged University, it is important for all students to understand the role citizens in a democracy play in overseeing the equitable and fair allocation of resources, especially for the most vulnerable individuals and groups in our society. As we look to implementing the USI strategic plan, adding social justice content to the curriculum advances the goal to "Increase the diversity of faculty, staff and student body."

Social justice means the equal and fair allocation of rights, privileges, resources, information, service, decision-making and opportunities for all people. Because there is no agreement on what constitutes equality and fairness, it is vital that students be prepared to critically analyze the role of government, social activists and citizens in addressing discrimination and oppression. All USI students need the opportunity to take a course on social justice that focuses on exploratory readings, guest speakers, guided discussions and reflective writing assignments—a course designed to aid in critical thinking about this important topic.

The Social Work Department is taking the lead in an interdisciplinary team of scholars and community leaders who teach this course. Social justice is a key concept in social work education. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) directs all social work educators to prepare all students to 1) understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination, 2) advocate for human rights and social and economic justice, and 3) engage in practice that advances social and economic justice. 

Contact Dr. Elissa Mitchell


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