Social Responsibility at SCSU: 'The Master's Program That Changed My Life'
By Heather Ebnet
St. Cloud Unabridged, February 2002
People choose to pursue a master's degree for various reasons. Money, status and job security are only a few of the many potential benefits and advanced degree offers. Those benefits certainly played a role for me, but I also wanted a degree that would be meaningful and dynamic.
The Social Responsibility Program at St. Cloud State University is just that. When I began the program, I had no idea how the professors, coursework and research would influence and ultimately transform my life.
I came to the Social Responsibility program with a vague sense of what it means to be an active and socially responsible citizen. As an elementary teacher, I felt I had a good understanding of oppression and multicultural education. I quickly learned that my prior education did not prepare me to be and active global citizen, nor did it prepare me to teach in a diverse world.
I felt cheated that I had not been taught about imperialism, white racism, globalization, and how all these issues are connected to each other and the world around me. I knew little about human and animal rights and even less about how to be an activist.
Through courses such as Women of Color, Heterosexism, and Advanced Issues in Human Relations, I learned about all of these topics for the first time and took the steps needed in order to become an active global citizen. The coursework has challenged me to understand issues such as white privilege and my role in human and animal rights abuses that occur at the global level.
It has not been easy to accept, but I am proud of the changes I have made in my life because of my new understanding of the world. Those changes occurred not only through the coursework, but also because of so many professors who have supported me since I began the program. My professors have taken the time to teach and to mentor as I struggled to understand each new concept. They have made themselves available to me on both a personal and professional level. I believe that these professors have truly aided my success and added to the diverse nature of the program.
I would recommend the Social Responsibility Master's Program to anyone interested in social justice, environmental issues, equality, diversity education, or simply anyone who wishes to become a more active global citizen.
Dr. John Alessio from the Department of Sociology and Dr. Julie Andrzejewski from the Department of Human Relations and Multicultural Education developed this program at SCSU. It began in 1995 and gained official recognition by the Minnesota State University System in 1997.
Currently, there are approximately 30 students in the program and 20 graduates. The coursework draws from several departments, including Human Relations, Sociology and Women's Studies. It is also a program that can be completed with evening courses only. For me, the program has meant meeting people concerned about social justice for all people, learning how to be a more active global citizen, and understanding the global system. It could mean the same thing for you.
(Editors note: Heather Ebnet is in her second year of the Social Responsibility Master's Program and works as a graduate assistant for the program. She holds a B.S. degree from the College of St. Benedict in elementary education and lives in Avon with her son. She plans to graduate this fall and use her degree to teach others about social justice issues and work toward equality for all people.)