Social Justice Summit gives all students volunteer opportunities

Elaine Godfrey

Students will make a commitment to social change at the annual Social Justice Summit Feb. 21-22, hosted by the Student Activities Center.

The summit is a 10-hour training, which will give participants the opportunity to learn from other students, as well as reflect on their own personal experiences with diversity, multicultural and social justice issues.

Kevin Merrill, leadership and service coordinator at SAC, says the retreat will be useful for anyone interested in understanding the way society treats individuals differently.

“It’s really important for students interested in leadership to be thinking about all members of their organization,” Merrill said. “The summit is a good place to put all of that into practice.”

Students will participate in activities to understand one another’s varying backgrounds and discuss ways to address key social justice issues like sexual orientation, socioeconomic class and gender issues.  

“Every perspective is valued,” Merrill said. “It has everything to do with what we can do to set up a more socially just, more equitable set of circumstances.”

Guest presenter Vijay Pendakur, director of the Office of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University, will lead the summit for the second year in a row.

“The summit is an opportunity to build and deepen a community of people committed to social justice work.” Pendakur said. “This is really a retreat to build capacity in new and interesting ways, to add skills and to add relevant language.”

The first part of the summit will involve introspection, and students will observe the types of diversity in their communities. Then, the group will examine systems of societal oppression through a series of exercises and learn the skills necessary to overcome it.

“If we don’t use our time in higher education to do things like the social justice summit, then we are missing the state of emergency that actually exists in our world.” He explained. “The need for these skills has never been greater in the world we live in.”

The summit is important for all college-aged students, Pendakur said, because it will provide them with critical thinking skills in a modern, globalized society.

“College students want the world to become a better place. I hear those sentiments on every campus I visit,” Pendakur said. “The social justice summit is a way to take our hopes for our society and make them real in the plans we build at the summit.”

Each student, Pendakur hopes, will leave with the tools necessary to address social justice issues and create positive change through continuing action.

“If the learning stops when I leave,” Pendakur said, “the summit is a failure.”

Students of all majors and areas of interest are encouraged to apply, and registration forms will be accepted through Feb. 21.

 “I want any student even slightly considering it to just register and come,” Merrill said. “You’ll get something out of it.”

The Social Justice Summit will be held from 6-9 p.m. Feb. 21 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m Feb. 22 in the North Lobby of Hach Hall.