The Justice Urban Studies Team, a subset of the Honors College focused on social justice and poverty, will be discontinued until the program can be rethought for future sustainability. The decision, according to a statement by the Dean of the Honors College, Dr. Jason Morris, was solely due to students’ inability to commit to a year in Dallas for the fall of 2016.
The program is not to be confused with CitySquare as a whole.
“JUST is just one of several experiences that are occurring in the CitySquare space, and our students are only a few of the residents at Ashby,” Morris said. “There are no plans being made to shut down CitySquare as an instructional site for undergrad, grad, or other ACU partnerships.”
Morris said the Provost has indicated that a larger, university-wide conversation is appropriate for re-imaging the JUST program’s concept.
Wes Robbins, senior sociology major from Houston, said he thinks the soul of JUST can be rebirthed in some other way. He said the JUST program does not have to have a monopoly on project based learning, but is an example of something that has worked in the past and can work across all disciplines.
“It’s a very non-traditional, different way to experience college,” Robbins said.
Students spend their entire sophomore year at CitySquare in Dallas and interact with a small group of other JUST students, as opposed to the entire ACU campus.
Robbins said students of different disciplines, not only those in JUST or who are majoring in sociology, should get some sort of hands-on experience. Real-life interactions provide for a better type of learning environment that complements what is being taught in the classroom. Information can become trivial if it cannot be tied in to real interactions, Robbins said.
JUST has been impactful and fundamentally changing to those who have participated, like Courtney Tee, junior sociology major from Houston.
“Being a part of JUST opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking about the world and my place in it,” Tee said. “My time in Dallas taught me to think critically about the most pressing problems of our time and that we really can make a difference in the face of these issues if only we commit to giving ourselves away for others (as Jesus did).”
Tee, like Robbins, said she is hopeful that future students will be able to experience an education in a context similar to what she experienced.
Robbins said he is confident in the Honors College, and ACU as a whole, that they have latched on to the essential elements that created JUST, elements that are in-line with the mission of the university. There is hope these elements will be implemented into other areas on campus where people can have experience connecting learning to real-life experiences.