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Women and Gender Studies Department announces new social justice program

Rutgers students have been increasingly involved in social justice movements such as climate activism.  – Photo by Matan Dubnikov

Next fall, the Women and Gender Studies Department will offer a new program designed to educate students on social issues and ways to create social change.

“The new five-year (Bachelor of Arts/Master of Arts) track in Feminist Practices for Social Change, which will begin in Fall 2020, is innovative in that it is designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to assume leadership roles in contemporary social justice activism and human rights. It allows students to graduate in five years with a (Bachelor of Arts) and (Master of Arts) degree in Women's and Gender Studies,” said Dr. Ileana Nachescu, assistant undergraduate director of the program.

The five-year track reflects the strong demand for courses that focus on real ways to become an activist. Rutgers students have been involved in social issues ranging from climate change to equitable pay for our teachers, and this program is designed to give students the tools they need to continue to make their voices heard.

“The new (Bachelor of Arts/Master of Arts) track trains graduates to work in social justice and social change organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international governmental organizations (IGOs) at local, regional, national and transnational levels,” Nachescu said.

The track consists of three core courses, including two new ones tailor-made for the program, five electives and a capstone project, said Dr. Julie Rajan, director of the graduate program. 

The two new core courses are Social Justice Movements and Advocacy: Tactics and Techniques.

Rajan said the first course analyzes different social movements, their goals and how they mobilize. The second course builds skills needed for activism, such as agenda-setting, public speaking, developing publicity campaigns and coalition building. 

Additionally, this specific track gives insight on the evolution of activism.

“Student activism changes with every generation, but old tried and true tactics still survive — Twitter or hashtag activism is a relatively recent phenomenon, but students still go to marches and protests, circulate petitions and raise their consciousness and build communities by speaking from personal experience,” Nachescu said.

She said that activism is still an important part of civic involvement today. 

“There are many issues confronting us today: neoliberalism, climate change, mass incarceration and deportation, violence against women, people of color and transgender and gender-nonconforming people, to name but a few,” Nachescu said. 

Both directors are well-versed in their fields and are personally involved in social justice. 

Rajan is an expert on violence against women, human rights and South Asia. She is currently writing a book and working on initiatives to address human rights violations against women, such as femicide.

“(Femicide is) an urgent human rights crisis that is challenging the immediate and long-term security of females in regions all over the world,” Rajan said. 

Nachescu understands the importance of activism because it has been a part of her life from a young age.

“I grew up in Romania, and I was 18 when socialism ended in my country. I went to the protests, together with my mother and my 13-year-old brother, and I can still remember how elated we felt when (Nicolae Ceaușescu’s) dictatorship ended,” she said.


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