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New Course Topics Bring Additional Academic Focus to Issues of Inclusion

Two new social psychology courses now in preparation will have a particular focus on diversity. These classes, offered beginning next year, add to a course list that offers students many opportunities to engage with issues of social justice, equity and inclusion, and marginalization and discrimination.

Social justice is an ongoing conversation at St. Norbert that has picked up new impetus as the campus has responded to the tensions of this summer. Immediate statements of commitment to an anti-racist campus culture have been posted on the college website. Over the summer, faculty and staff have benefited from two well-attended opportunities to examine themselves, their college and their society through the lens of current events. With the start of the school year, students – and their parents – now join the conversation.

Bringing academic discipline to societal concerns
The new courses in the works, taught by Danielle Geerling (Psychology), include a class on interpersonal and intergroup relations in which students will learn how differences in people’s backgrounds, identities and experiences can affect the relationships they have with each other. In another course, Stereotypes, Prejudice & Discrimination, students will learn about the impact of beliefs about different groups of people on the ways we feel about and act toward them.

Geerling says: “I am a social psychologist, which means that I study how other people affect the ways we think, feel and act. Because people differ in their backgrounds, identities and experiences, the concept of diversity (or ‘difference’) is of interest to many social psychologists, including myself.

“In both courses, we will discuss how we can foster supportive and positive interactions between people who are both similar to and different from ourselves.”

Campus commitment to an anti-racist culture 
The campus commitment to an anti-racist culture picked up steam even before the start of the new academic year. Over the summer, the Cassandra Voss Center – the college’s center for issues of gender and identity – partnered with Eddie Moore at The Privilege Institute for a six-week virtual anti-racism workshop series.

And the intensive faculty/staff workshop that traditionally opens the semester was this year offered by Braver Angels, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working toward “building a house united.” 

Braver Angels offered an opening keynote on “Being a Depolarizer in a World That’s Coming Apart” by Bill Doherty, a family therapist and a professor in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Doherty, founder of Braver Angels, directs The Citizen Professional Center, which undertakes community engagement projects on health care and on divisive issues such as the relationship between law enforcement and the Black community.

The conversation broadens 
Sept. 21, parents can join their students and members of the public to continue the conversation in a virtual Q&A with Nobel Peace Prize-winner Leymah Gbowee. Resilience as a Community is a Miller Lecture event offered by SNC’s Norman Miller Center for Peace, Justice & Public Understanding.

Gbowee says: In the middle of this heartbreaking pandemic, notice that it is alerting global citizens – regardless of race, status and accomplishments – to rethink life, our interactions, and attitudes toward the other and many more.

This moment in our global history has forcibly reminded us of the inevitable truth – we are more connected than we are divided and our humanity is tied in ways that we have sadly allowed ourselves to forget. As we navigate this moment, let us all use our moments of social distancing to think about acts that bring our societies closer when the dust settles.

Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist, social worker and women’s rights advocate. She is the founder and president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa and is best known for leading a nonviolent movement of Christian and Muslim women, which played a pivotal role in ending the 14-year Liberian civil war. 

Follow this link to register for the event.


Sept. 10, 2020