Master of Arts in Social Justice

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The Master of Arts in Social Justice (MASJ) is Union’s first fully online master’s degree option. Designed for working professionals, this 36-credit degree can be completed in two to three years, at your own pace. The MASJ equips students to think critically, intersectionally, and creatively about human and planetary flourishing and the ongoing pursuit of a more just society and equitable world. The program emphasizes social justice’s religious, spiritual, and theological roots. In keeping with Union’s unique approach to theological education, it underlines the importance of interreligious engagement and engaging with diverse religious traditions.

You Will Learn To:

  • Build theological, theoretical, historical, ethical, critical, practical and contextually accountable foundations for the work of pursuing a more just and equitable world
  • Integrate knowledge and critical awareness of existing power dynamics and structures in terms of gender, sexuality, race, class, and identities targeted for oppression, and how they shape, and are shaped by, religion, spirituality, and theology
  • Effectively and constructively engage the world’s serious issues such as racial and sexual/gender injustice, mass incarceration, and the climate crisis, in ways informed by deep theological, historical, and critical study

Social Justice at Union:

Union is a unique and exceptional place to pursue a graduate degree in social justice. In fact, it was established in 1836 as a special type of educational institution; one intentionally designed in an urban context so that academic excellence and personal faith might respond to the needs of the community. Over its nearly 200 year history, Union faculty have been leading scholars and public intellectuals exploring the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and theology as well as critical issues facing our society and planet like the climate crisis, poverty, and criminal justice. Union students, coming from a diverse array of faith traditions and identity backgrounds, have been active in a variety of social causes and engaged with ethical issues through student caucuses and other initiatives.

Union is currently the home of three centers focused on social justice issues; Center for Earth Ethics; Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice (co-organizer of the Poor People’s Campaign); and Center for Community Engagement and Social Justice. Union hosts a wide variety of social justice programming, including Just Conversations and online and in-person webinars, lectures, and special events throughout the year.

 

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The MASJ Program of Study

The MASJ can be completed in as little as 21 months, but many students will complete the program in 36 months (or anything in between). The design of the program makes it possible for a student to go at a pace that best fits their needs, interests, and realities. A total of 36 credits are required. Coursework is available in fall, January, spring, and summer terms. Students looking to graduate in under two years will, generally, complete 2 courses each fall and spring term and 1 course each summer and January term.

  • Introductory 1.5-credit colloquium (first term)
  • Three credits in each of the following five required areas:
    • Three credits in a foundations of social justice course
    • Three credits in Ecojustice
    • Three credits in Gender & Sexuality Justice
    • Three credits in Racial & Ethnic Justice
    • Three credits in Interreligious Engagement
  • Eighteen elective credits in courses relevant to the student’s goals
    • Can be additional courses from distributional areas or other courses from across the Union curriculum
    • Up to three elective credits can be in supplemental (“SU”) coursework – intensive courses that focus on special topics that go beyond the traditional Union curriculum 
    • Concluding 1.5-credit Colloquium (final term), which includes the completion of a final applied integrative paper

Social Justice Coursework Areas

Courses in the Foundations of social justice area generally cover a variety of historical and contemporary frameworks that a range of philosophical and religious traditions have used in working toward a more just and equitable world. Some courses focus more heavily on methods, categories, and concepts used in social-ethical analysis and moral decision-making. Other courses primarily emphasize particular social movements, justice issues, and or influential protest traditions. All courses in this area will help you better understand what social justice is, why it matters, and how people of all faiths can join in its pursuit.

 

Courses in the Ecojustice area broadly address the pursuit of more ethical relationships with the earth, its various environments and ecosystems, and all of its interconnected inhabitants. Some courses consider a variety of pressing issues of planetary survival—from climate change to environmental destruction—with the help of a diverse set of political, anthropological, philosophical, and indigenous perspectives. Other courses explore what a range of spiritual traditions, religious texts, and disciplinary approaches can teach us about non-human life and the natural world.

Every course in this area will give you a better grasp of the pivotal importance of environmental justice for the future of life on earth.

Courses in the Gender & Sexuality Justice area generally focus on navigating the complex relationships between societal standards, cultural norms, and religious understandings of sex and gender in more ethical ways. Some courses include intersectional analysis of the marginalization of women, women of color, and LGBTQ communities. Other courses emphasize the historical and contemporary contributions of feminist, womanist, and queer philosophical and religious traditions.

Every course in this area will help you develop a more robust understanding of the ongoing struggle for a world in which people of every gender expression and sexual orientation can thrive.

Courses in the Racial & Ethnic Justice area broadly emphasize the historical and contemporary lived experiences of Black, indigenous, and minoritized peoples of color in the United States and beyond. Some courses include a focus on one or more of the particular varieties of Black North American or African-based philosophical, religious, or spiritual traditions. Other courses interrogate the historical evolution of ideological, political, and religious understandings of race, racism, and systemic racial and ethnic oppression. 

Every course in this area will help you begin developing a more nuanced understanding of race and/or ethnicity and their inescapable importance in any effort to transform the structures of society toward justice. 

Courses in the Interreligious Engagement area generally address the main questions, concerns, and implications of religious diversity and the task of engaging with people of faith from within and across different religious traditions. Some courses focus on one main tradition, a specific concept, idea, or school of thought associated with a particular religion, or a historical movement that emerged from within an individual tradition. Other courses emphasize various aspects of the relationship between particular traditions, including historical and contemporary challenges and ongoing opportunities for cooperation. 

Every course in this area will help you begin developing the tools necessary for navigating the realities of religious diversity.

 

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