The Justice and Urban Studies Team is approaching its third year with new recruiting strategies and a fortified curriculum.
JUST, a program of the Honors College, is a collaboration between ACU and CitySquare that operates on-campus and on-ground in Dallas. Over the past two years, ACU students have partnered with CitySquare to fight urban poverty in south Dallas through classwork and hands-on projects.
In its third year of the partnership, the Honors College has changed its approach for recruiting students to be a part of this work.
Dr. Michael Harbour, director of operations and finance for ACU at CitySquare, said the first two teams, JUST 1 and JUST 2, were recruited out of high school.
“Previously, we identified high-caliber, exceptional students who showed interest in social justice,” Harbour said. “This year, we decided it would be smart to recruit freshman during the first semester.”
In Honors Cornerstone classes this year, freshmen will learn about what previous JUST teams have done and will be invited to join in this social justice initiative. The Honors College will offer a recruiting trip later this fall for any students interested.
This new approach could lead to an increase in student participants, but the Honors College plans to keep the number around 20 to 25 students on the team.
“That’s a good number for us and it’s the max that we can do right now,” said Alison Spencer, academic coordinator for the Honors College. “We still can only manage a certain amount of people in each class but we are open to growth.”
After the fall semester, students will be invited to participate in the program. The program will consist of two trips to Dallas in the spring with opportunities for summer-long and yearlong service in Dallas.
Dr. Jason Morris, interim dean of the Honors College, said the program is designed to offer students a yearlong experience in Dallas during their sophomore year. Morris has worked to establish a set curriculum for the year in Dallas, so students will be able to plan more in advance.
The coursework and projects that students engage in as part of the program will now allow students to earn a minor in Sociology at the end of their time in Dallas.
Feedback from students on the first two teams has helped craft these changes to make the experience impactful to everyone involved.
“We have learned a lot,” Morris said. “The continual goal is to make this a transformational experience for students, one in which they can use their own gifts and abilities to make a difference in the world.”