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University of Michigan

Community Awareness: What is a Socially Just University

University of Michigan via Coursera


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The course assumes that higher education is a gateway to the resources of society and that there is a need for institutions to become more socially just for all groups, with emphasis on low-income and minority populations that are traditionally underrepresented. The course includes sessions with institutional leaders about higher education and American society, diversity and inclusion in learning and teaching, professors and students as change agents, socially-just research, and struggles for equity and justice on campus and in communities. Illustrative modules include: What is a university? What is the role or potential role of universities in making societies more socially just? Do present universities contribute to inequalities and injustices and, if so, how? What changes are needed now? Sessions will draw upon initiatives at the University of Michigan for starters, and we also will draw upon other educational leaders nationwide


  • Introduction to CAC: What is a Socially Just University
    • What is a socially-just university? is a question arising at a time when American society is changing, and challenging many institutions to reconsider some of their most fundamental purposes and practices.
  • Higher Education and American Society
    • American society is changing and, in so doing, challenging higher education to adapt to these changes. As society increases in its people of African, Asian, and Latin American descent, and people of color become the majority, for example, unanswered questions are arising about what universities are for, and who are they for?
  • Reconceiving Our Purpose
    • What is, or should be, the purpose of higher education?
  • Reconceiving Learning and Teaching
    • Learning and teaching are central to the core educational mission of universities, but what happens to these activities when the institutions are changing in their population?
  • Reconceiving Research & Scholarship
    • Research and scholarship produce “knowledge for society,” but knowledge development has various approaches.
  • Institutional Change: Engaging Faculty
    • Faculty members are central to higher education, and nothing lasting happens without them. But, what are some ways to engage faculty members, especially at a time when universities are changing in their composition?
  • Institutional Change: The Role of Administration
    • The University of Michigan is involved in a comprehensive effort to transform the institution for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and this effort requires institutional changes at all levels.
  • Final Notes
    • This module will give you an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve learned throughout this experience and to contemplate what pieces of the conversation are missing.

Taught by

Barry Checkoway, Dilip Das and Rachel


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