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Bachelor of Arts in Social Justice

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Students who  major in social justice expand their knowledge integrating theory and engagement with "real world" field experiences. They approach social justice through the arts, history, literature, comparative religious studies, political science, philosophy, health education, and gender, women's & sexuality studies.

Social justice students:

  • explore how the intersections of geography, race, class, gender, sexuality, health, economics, and history create networks of privilege and oppression across the globe through coursework and reflect on situations they encounter in the field;
  • read, write, listen, and act through course work and fieldwork in order to understand how conditions are created for change on the local, regional, and national level historically, ethically, politically, and personally;
  • learn about selected history of social movements, how those movements emerged, and the impacts those movements had on policy, populations, the environment, and culture through engagement in a core course;
  • develop a deeper understanding of issues, practice, research, and theory related to social justice in one or more areas of study within the traditional disciplines of the liberal arts through 9 s.h. of coursework in an area of specialization; and
  • prepare for employment and/or for graduate study in various fields through high quality internships and educational experiences including anthropology, political science, law, criminology, health, the cultural sector, social services, business, non-profit management, or public history projects

Please contact Prof. Leslie Schwalm (GWSS chair) or Prof. Pat Dolan (SJUS advisor) for more information. Our email address is CLAS-Social-justice@uiowa.edu


The BA in social justice (SJUS) requires a minimum of 39 semester hours (s.h.) and completion of the the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) general education Program, for a total of at least 120 s.h.. All majors are required to complete a capstone experience. Students earning more than one major may count a maximum of 6 s.h. completed for another major toward the social justice major.

Work for the major consists of the undergraduate foundation, core courses, emphasis area, and capstone.

Advising Worksheet

Foundation (12 s.h.)

The foundation consists of four courses (minimum of 12 s.h.). Two introductory courses, SJUS:1001 Introduction to Social Justice and GWSS:1002 Diversity and Power in the U.S., orient students to the major conceptual areas that constitute social justice as an interdisciplinary field; SJUS:2250 The History of Social Justice Movements explores past and present social justice movements in the U.S. and their impact on policy and culture; and GWSS:3138 Writing to Change the World provides students with opportunities to enhance their writing skills to effect change.

SJUS:1001 Introduction to Social Justice 3
SJUS:2250 The History of Social Justice Movements 3
GWSS:1002 Diversity and Power in the United States 3
GWSS:3138 Writing to Change the World 3


Human Rights, Diversity, Activism

Two of these:  
SJUS:2200 The Racial and Gender Construction of Identify, Citizenship, and Rights in America 3
SJUS:2500 Love, War, Activism: Stories About Women from Across the World 3
SJUS:2571 Visualizing Human Rights 3
SJUS:3130 Blacks and Jews: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in America 3
SJUS:3133 Anthropology of Race 3
GWSS:2045 Working for Social Justice 3
GWSS:2080 The Cultural Politics of HIV-AIDS 3
GWSS:2172 The History of African American Women from Slavery to Freedom 3
GWSS:2800 African American Women, Health, Hair, and Sexuality 3
GWSS:3326 The Politics of Progress: NGOs, Development, and Sexuality 3
GWSS:4140 Feminist Activism and Global Health 3
HIST:3274 History of Slavery in the U.S.A. 3-4
HIST:4101 History of Human Rights 3
HRTS:3906 Global Crises and Human Rights 3
HRTS:3910 Human Rights Advocacy 3
LATS:3104 Immigration Politics 3
PHIL:3430 Philosophy of Human Rights 3
RELS:3855 Human Rights and Islam 3
SSW:3847 Discrimination, Oppression, and Diversity 3



Social Justice Movements: Politics, History, Culture, Art

Two of these:
SJUS:3250 Literature and Social Justice 3
SJUS:3459 Making Change, Making History: Iowa's Black Activists and Digital History 3
SJUS:3550 Social Justice, Religion, and Spirituality: Faith and Belief Ignited 3
GWSS:2650 Global Reproduction 3
GWSS:3280 Women and Power in U.S. History Through the Civil War 3
GWSS:3282 Women and Power in U.S. History Since the Civil War 3
GWSS:3600 Art, Feminist Practice, and Social Justice 3
AFAM:3053 The Civil Rights Movement 3
COMM:2054 Movements, Protest, Resistance 3
HIST:3232 History of American Inequality 3
HIST:4260 The Sixties in America 3

Emphasis Areas

Students choose one emphasis area and complete three or more courses for 9 s.h.; two courses must be numbered 3000 and above. A course used to satisfy the core requirement cannot be taken to satisfy an emphasis area. You may substitute courses with approval of the social justice advisor. Students may also include one course from International Programs related to studying abroad and social justice including the India Winterim Program. Students may also create their own emphasis area with help from the social justice advisor. Courses satisfying each area may be found here.

  • The Arts and Social Change
  • The Environment and Ecological Justice
  • Gender, Women's & Sexuality Studies
  • Global and Transnational Studies
  • Health
  • Race and Ethnicity in the U.S.


Social Justice majors complete all of the requirements for one of the major's two program Capstones, for a total of 6 s.h.. Program capstone requirements are not interchangeable.

Program option A: Students complete a senior project and the following two courses. Students prepare for the capstone by completing GWSS:3900 Creative and Critical Practice: Applying Theories, Methods, and Skills during the fall semester which focuses on developing advanced research, reading, and writing skills and choosing their capstone topics. Senior Research Seminar (GWSS:4090), taken during the spring semester of their final year, provides a platform for students to share their capstone research and writing. Students create either extended essays that document their research using the style manual of their choice or produce creative work alongside an annotated research bibliography. At the end of the semester, students make posters that represent the subject, content, and significance of their research and present them at the Senior Research Seminar Poster Show. This option is ideal for students planning to attend graduate school.

Course number Course title Semester
GWSS:3900 Creative and Critical Practice: Applying Theories, Methods, and Skills Fall 3
GWSS:4090 Senior Research Seminar Spring 3

Program option B: In the fall semester of their final year, students complete SJUS:3400 Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies Advocacy and Engagement Colloquium which requires community service work at a social justice-related organization. In the spring, students complete SJUS:4080 Advocacy and Engagement Capstone, in which they develop an individual creative or scholarly project that pulls together their lived and community experiences, their academic learning, and significant research. The project culminates with a poster shown at the Senior Research Poster Show.

Course number Course title Semester
SJUS:3400 GWSS Advocacy and Engagement Seminar                  Fall 3
SJUS:4080 Advocacy and Engagement Capstone Spring 3