With over 80 majors and 100 minors dispersed across 12 colleges, Drexel University has a wide variety of fields to indulge in. However, with these pressing times filled with division, Cyndi Rickards, an associate professor in the Department of Criminology and Justice Studies, thought it was not enough to cover the events plaguing our society today. Now, an eligible undergraduate can receive a minor in Justice Studies, a 26-credit minor packed with co-curricular classes.
Rickards got the inspiration from students in her Places of Justice class; there was an obvious interest in a collegiate experience that allows a student to see their major through a lens tainted with justice.
“It’s for students who want to learn outside of the classroom with community partners and to develop tools for justice to address complex issues by developing skills to make positive social change,” Rickards said.
As mentioned, the minor will require interested students to complete 26 credits, with 17 of them being fulfilled within the Department of Criminology and Justice Studies at the College of Arts and Sciences. The other nine credits can be completed in psychology, environmental science, anthropology and business.
“Really, to problem solve, you need an introduction to an array of disciplines so you know who to include in the conversation. So that was the motivation for our pretty extensive elective course options,” Rickards said.
Nonetheless, the interest of such a major really peaks when one learns that the minor includes engaging with members of the Drexel and Philadelphia community, such as prisoners. Rickards makes it clear that prisoners should not be marginalized in the community and that there is much to learn from their experiences.
“To suggest that you can explore issues of justice without the partnership of those who are affected by issues of injustice, it just seems hypocritical to me and not academically solid and certainly not engaged with any amount of integrity,” the professor said. “If we want to make social change, we need lots of perspectives and experiences, so we need different disciplines and we need different people, which is why we’re so very intentionally connecting with the community.”
The minor also offers the uniqueness that is so ubiquitous to the Drexel experience, with the ability to join a justice-related nonprofit during their co-op cycle in addition to being a teaching assistant.
Unfortunately, as most people have realized by now, COVID-19 has derailed the plans of individuals and institutions alike, and the Justice Studies minor is no exception. “Applications of Justice,” a core class in the minor, usually involves having students learning side-by-side with returning citizens and four students within prison walls at the Bucks Community Jail. However, the first class will have to be done through Zoom. Nonetheless, it truly is a unique experience.
“While these required courses are unable to be based in the community, they remain community engaged (sic) with students who bring a lived (sic) experience to the courses.”
Despite the setbacks, the Justice Studies minor is extremely notable in its own right; Professor Rickards meticulously planned it to encompass all disciplines into the minor, providing students with an ability to practice justice with anything they do. Any students interested in the minor are encouraged to speak to Professor Rickards about their intentions and what a Justice Studies minor could bring to your own Drexel experience.