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San José State students won their demand for a 12-bed emergency program for homeless students.

Our Mission

The United States is at a crossroads, as its democratic institutions are under attack. Scholars and think tanks are calling for a massive investment in social studies and civics education to respond to the breakdown of trust in our democratic institutions. What will be the response of higher education? The Teaching Social Action Initiative argues that we need to develop social action courses by giving undergraduate students the opportunity “to do democracy” and provide first-hand experiences in enacting social change, challenging power, and building inclusive communities.

Social action occurs when everyday people band together to develop their power in order to change policy (i.e., a rule, regulation, norm, or practice of an institution). When using social action in a college course, students develop and launch social action campaigns of their choosing on campus or in the community during the semester the course is taught. If in the community, students create a student-wing, and work collaboratively with a community-based organization. Over the past 17 years, student campaigns have focused on such issues as student homelessness, climate justice, sexual assault and harassment, minimum wage, food security, immigration justice, facilitating peaceful community change, and more.

The mission of the Teaching Social Action Initiative is to have on every U.S. campus, every semester, a course where students learn social action by doing it. As part of this Initiative, faculty and staff can join our community of practice, including Summer & Winter Institutes, monthly meetups, a National College Summit on Social Action where students present their campaigns at the end of each semester, and a bulletin board where the faculty teaching social action post updates about the student campaigns.

Words from the Director:        Scott Myers-Lipton, Ph.D.

In 2006, Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton created a course using social action at San José State University. Ever since, he has been refining this transformative pedagogy and curriculum. Scott is a great believer that social action can help revive and breathe new life into our democracy by giving college students the opportunity to launch and work on student-led campaigns.

Elisha - Social Action Student
Lana - Social Action Student
Elizabeth - Social Action Student
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