Plattsburgh State will be offering a new program called the Diversity and Social Justice Awareness Project to students.

Students who are interested in having conversations with other students about diversity, race and culture are encouraged to join this group research project. PSUC coordinator of student activities Jacob Avery reached out to chairperson of counselor education faculty Julia Davis last spring to inform her about the project.

“He is the lead researcher on this, which is very exciting for me as a professor because I love to see students finding something they are passionate about, running with it and pursuing their own research project.” Davis said.

The main focus of the project is on the diversity of social justice, according to Avery. He also said it starts with a conversation on racism in culture and other topics on social justice in America.

“And the model behind it is group structure with six sections with an hour or “an hour and a half” group conversations,” Avery said.

He also emphasized on the student leaders for the project, who are in fraternities, sororities, student government, athletic teams, and clubs and organizations. That is the only qualification to join the group session.

“Everyone is required to do an application,” Avery said. “We just ask for names, information and a very brief demographic information.”

Once students are accepted, the groups arrange a time so that everybody could meet up, according to him. Then the groups will be asked to complete a survey beforehand, which is also the survey that other PSUC students do outside the project. The survey is another individual master’s thesis or a Ph.D thesis with 30 questions on diversity and social justice.

“The biggest aspect is engaging in conversation with your peers, how to have a conversation regarding social justice and diversity with your peers,” Avery said. “Another aspect is formulating a working plan to make a change in your community.”

Likewise, Davis said this project is important because it could help increase students’ awareness of diversity of social justice issues. Working as a coordinator, she hopes this purposeful programming would have an impact on the community.

“One of the foundations of higher education throughout the history is to educate the population and to be aware of the society work for the betterment of all,” Davis said. “So that’s my entire goal for higher education.”

And she believes the diversity of a social justice project is a tiny piece of that.

“In the coming forward decades, diversity of social justice will become more important because the world is getting smaller and smaller, and we need to be able to understand each other, work together and be comfortable enough,” Davis said.

The project helps to develop student leaders, according to Center for Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion staff assistant, Lauren Gonyea.

“This is such a critical time right now in our nation in terms of social justice and the importance of people’ speaking out, being informed and advocating for others,” she said.

The 2016 presidential election caused controversy in America, along with the Black Lives Matter movement and equality between men and women. Eighty-eight percent of black voters supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and 71 percent of nonwhite college graduates voted for the Democrats, according to the 2016 election exit polls in the New York Times. Additionally, women supported Clinton over Trump by 54 percent to 42 percent.

With everything that is going on in terms of gender ability, sexual orientation and social class, Gonyea said it is also a critical time for younger people to be notified.

Young voters from ages 18 to 29 voted for Clinton over Trump by 55 percent to 37 percent while older voters from ages 65 and older chose Trump over Clinton by 53 percent to 45 percent. That was how voters from different backgrounds cast their ballots.

“I’m hoping that the project will help students to reflect on themselves and that they bring to leadership because a lot of us, we don’t know until we have this conversation,” Gonyea said. “My hope is that people will be able to reflect on their leadership, to take out into the Plattsburgh community and challenge others on actions, languages and to be more inclusive than they had been before.”

Email Hilly Nguyen at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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