Social Justice Studies BA

Signature Courses
Coalition Building and Alliance Politics
Chicano Studies
Community and Social Change

Social Justice Studies offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that spans the social sciences and humanities including History, Geography, Ethnic Studies, Cultural Studies, and Political-Economy. The curriculum places particular emphasis on the study of social change—the theories, knowledge, and skills necessary to critically analyze, research, collaborate, and participate directly in environmental and social justice work. Students learn in the classroom and through field studies, local and international, and through internships, research projects, and campaigns. A competence in Social Justice Studies equips students with an experiential understanding of global systems, of historical contexts, and the skills to intervene and contribute to solutions. A student’s course of study in SJS is designed to support each one’s individual intellectual interests and career goals which may include the pursuit of a Masters or Ph.D. in the social sciences and humanities, law school or other professional pursuits, work in non-profit organizations, international work, work in popular education and community activism. SJS curriculum encourages interdisciplinarity and student’s development of their own cross-department competence foci, for example in Social Justice Education, Critical Psychology, Feminist Studies, and Justice and Outdoor Education. Students graduating with a competence in SJS are well prepared for success in several Prescott College accelerated Master’s programs and in particular the Social Justice and Community Organizing program.



Each fall and spring, new Prescott College students find themselves in “the classroom,” the breathtaking, sometimes raw, always diverse terrains and environments of the Southwest.  New Prescott students are introduced to the natural environment of the Southwest, learn about themselves and each other, and experience the educational philosophies of Prescott College during Orientation, thus beginning the journey of developing relationships with their new home, community, and academic career.

For most students, Orientation will mean a three-week Desert, Mountain and Canyon Expedition (aka Wilderness Orientation). Students, as a small community of engaged learners, will be backpacking throughout ecologically diverse locations in Arizona. Studying - Connecting - Growing.  Other students will participate in a Base Camp Orientation, or Community-Based Orientation.

Follow this link for detailed information on these Orientation options: Orientation Details 

First Year Experience

In their first semester, freshmen will enroll in courses addressing the concerns and challenges of being a college student.  First Year Students will choose from an array of immersive semester courses - like Water in the West, Art and Ecology, Foundations of Leadership, and Introduction to Psychology and Yoga - which continue to build community, forge relationships with faculty advisors, and develop academic inquiry.

In their first semester at Prescott College, transfer students participate in Crises of the 21st Century: Research Methods & Theories.   Students from environmental and social disciplines, the arts, and humanities will be introduced to theoretical and research approaches that foster ways of integrating their questions through class discussions and personal research.  Students enrolled in this course will be given individual support in creating a degree plan organizing courses they are transferring with into a pathway for graduation in their chosen fields.

Degree Plan

During the first semester of their junior year, students create a degree plan, with the assistance of their faculty adviser, which sketches the academic map of their journey.  It includes an overview of courses and credits earned; brief descriptions of competence, breadth, and liberal arts areas; lists of courses completed and those to be completed; a tentative Senior Project plan and description; and additional honors or experience that contribute to competence or breadth.  The Degree Plan is a living document that continues to evolve throughout the student's final three terms.

Senior Project

Prescott College requires every student, not just designated "honors" students, to design and carry out an ambitious Senior Project.  This Project functions as both a demonstration of competence and a culmination of the undergraduate experience.  It may take the form of an ambitious research project, a collection of original creative writing, a curriculum plan and implementation, a studio art exhibition, a performance, a case or field study, or a challenging internship.  Another way of thinking about the Senior Project is as a bridge between a student's undergraduate career and work after graduation. The Senior Project stands as a calling card that proclaims to graduate schools, prospective employers, and the world, "Look, this is what I'm capable of doing."


Areas of Emphasis

Environmental Justice is a social movement, a legal framework, and a set of values grounded in the principle that all people, communities, and living beings have the right to equal environmental protection under the law and the right to live, work, learn, and play in communities that are safe, healthy, and supportive of healthy ecosystems. This track combines the study of relationships between communities and ecosystems with the study of theories and practices of sustainable community development and environmental and social justice movements, enabling students to understand and participate directly in environmental justice movements, policy engagement, planning, and development.

History, Ethnicity, and Culture: Ethnic Studies explores the complex ways various communities and groups of people define and represent their own cultural practices and histories, contest and collaborate with representations that erase or distort their experiences for the purposes of domination and exploitation, and produce and influence interpretations of the world. Social and Cultural Analysis combines the study of culture and power; it investigates roles played by cultural production, meanings, politics, relationships, and practices in shaping history, geography, and movements for social change and the ways that cultural identities, meanings, and politics are shaped by social systems. This emphasis area enables students to learn and apply interdisciplinary historical knowledge, methods, and frameworks to the study of ethnicity, communities, places, and politics.

This Emphasis Area explores interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding of global economic, political, and social systems. It includes the historical and contemporary study of world trade policy, practice, and impacts, the study of urbanization, the formation of nation-states and other systems and scales of governance and development, and the roles of policy, planning, economic production, and social movements in addressing global crises and building collective solutions.



1. Social Theory: Students learn to understand, compare, and use cutting-edge approaches to understanding and working to solve social, political, and ecological problems. Working side-by-side with communities, organizers, and researchers working for social change, the social theory skills and experience Social Justice Studies students master prepare them for leadership roles in careers such as community organizing, sustainable development, urban planning, law and policy, and government and politics. A strong background is Social Theory also prepares Social Justice Studies students to pursue graduate studies in fields including environmental, public interest, and immigration law; sustainable and international development; policy studies; communications and investigative journalism; global food systems; urban planning, and the social sciences and humanities, such as History, Anthropology, Geography, Sociology, Political Science, Ethnic Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Social and Cultural Analysis.

2. Critical Social research Methods and Ethics: Social Justice Studies students engage in hands-on social research, working side-by-side with scholars and other researchers to pose timely and relevant questions, use rigorous research methods, and produce the new knowledge that is needed to solve the pressing social and environmental crises of the 21st century. Hands on experience conducting social research prepares Social Justice Studies students to pursue careers in a wide variety of fields seeking qualified social researchers such as union organizing, social advocacy, legal mitigation, marketing and communications, grant writing, social media research, journalism, policy studies, campaign research, and many others. The CRS curriculum emphasizes research ethics, equipping students to work ethically and effectively in the field of collaborative research within diverse social and cultural settings.

3. Public Engagement: Social Justice Studies students learn to make change by participating directly in social movements and other forms of civic engagement. In addition to learning the history and theory of social change in the classroom, our curriculum requires and offers myriad opportunities to participate in the hands-on experience of trying to make change. From developing their own campaigns to working directly with community and political organizers, these direct experiences equip students with the strategic and inter-personal skills to implement solutions to social and environmental problems, while simultaneously building strong resumes and professional connections. 

4. Globalization: In today’s intensely globalized world, it is essential to understand diverse experiences and viewpoints, as well as the global-scale economic and political systems, policies, and practices that shape everyday life-chances and opportunities to shape the future. Through a combination of courses focused on global culture, history, geography, and political economy and a vast array of opportunities to understand the dynamics of globalization through direct experience in the field, CRS students develop sophisticated understandings of the ways global processes impact local places, communities, and environments. Social Justice Studies courses include direct community-based learning in our field stations in Tucson, Arizona’s international borderlands, the Maasai Mara in Kenya, Bajia de Kino in Mexico, and locally through the Franz Fanon Community Strategy Center in Prescott, Arizona. In addition to semester-long opportunities to learn in the field, CRS courses take students to Guatemala, the US-Mexico border, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and Costa Rica. Students meet, work with, and develop meaningful relationships with communities and organizations all over the world, learning and practicing diverse approaches to addressing global problems, from mass migration and incarceration to climate impacts, political conflict, and cultural survival. The skills, knowledge, and experience CRS students acquire through the study of globalization equip them to understand, develop self-confidence and empathy, and thrive in our rapidly changing contemporary world.


  • Labor & Community Organizer
  • Social Researcher
  • Sustainable Community Development Worker
  • Regional and Urban Planner
  • Journalist
  • Legal Mitigator
  • International Aid and Development Worker 
  • Equity & Diversity Officer
  • Communications Strategist
  • Media Planner
  • Public Historian
  • Civil Service Worker
  • Public Policy Analyst
  • Campaign Coordinator
  • Community Outreach Director
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Editor
  • Graduate study in Social Sciences and Humanities

Social Justice Studies students choose among a broad array of courses that provide a solid grounding in cross-disciplinary social sciences, research methods, and critical social theory and practice.  Each degree pathway centers the student’s particular area of interest (for example, Indigenous Studies, Migration Studies, Global Political-Economy, Ethnic Studies, Law and Policy) and integrates global perspectives with hands-on civic engagement.  All Social Justice Studies Degree Plans are unique.  The following example shows a possible degree pathway for a student interested in focusing on relationships between social inequality and environmental problems:  

Lower division - the starting points
Culture, Environment, and Community
US-Mexico Border Studies
The Color Line in U.S. History
Food Justice
Xicano History 
Economic and Social History of the U.S.
Environmental Law and Policy
Explorations in Sustainable Community Development

Upper Division - Developing a deeper mastery
Indigenous Culture and Climate Adaptation Planning
Memory, Truth and Transitional Justice in Guatemala
Climate Justice
Social Ecology
Beyond Walls and Cages
Our History is the Future: Global Indigenous Uprisings and Climate Justice
Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and National Security
The Senior Project