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Pacific Oaks’ past, present, and future in social justice

October 25, 2018

Categories: Blog, Power of Community

Published: October 25, 2018

From the development of anti-bias curriculum to the Social Justice Night Awards, explore Pacific Oaks’ long-held commitment to the values of social justice.

Social justice challenges the roots of oppression and inequality. It emboldens people to exercise self-determination and to realize their full potential. Most importantly, social justice builds solidarity and community capacity for collaborative action.

Our country’s need for skilled social justice advocates and change agents today is great. Since our founding, the fabric of Pacific Oaks College has included the tenets of equity and inclusion. With our current social and political climate, the very meaning of social justice is reason for reflection. Below, we reflect and celebrate some specific examples of how Pacific Oaks has not only spoken about, but demonstrated its continued commitment to social justice through the years.


1. Head Start

The Head Start program was created in response to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 declaration of the War on Poverty. The program’s ambition was to combat poverty by making early childhood education more accessible to children from low-income families and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Known for our progressive approach to education, Pacific Oaks College was tasked with pioneering one of the nation’s first Head Start training programs by the U.S. government.


2. Anti-Bias curriculum

In 1989, Louise Derman-Sparks, alumna and faculty at Pacific Oaks, along with the Anti-Bias Curriculum Task Force, published the book Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children.

The first of its kind, Professor Sparks’ work changed the landscape of early childhood education—introducing curriculum that empowers children and promotes critical thinking about bias. By teaching children to be accepting of and celebrate individual differences, they learn to live a life free of prejudice and thrive both in and out of the classroom.

Today, Pacific Oaks College and Pacific Oaks Children’s School teach this philosophy, ensuring that all children develop to their fullest potential.


3. Recognizing local advocates

Pasadena is home to countless nonprofits and leaders who are loud and passionate about the issues that affect them and others. So, during a time full of national movements for change, we chose to celebrate those who were leading the charge locally.

The five local leaders we recognized are each working toward positive change in different ways—from cultivating local leadership, community organizing, and connecting uninsured children with doctors, to working with vulnerable youth and mentoring at-risk teenagers.


4. Support for the #MeToo movement

President Pat Breen, moved by the Time’s Up organization’s commendable actions in addressing systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace, wrote a letter pledging the support of Pacific Oaks to their cause.

We were moved by your pledge of support to combating sexual harassment for women everywhere, from show business to the working class, from boardrooms to academia. As a college, Pacific Oaks believes in uplifting all voices. We empower our students and community members in their commitment to enhancing human well-being and promoting economic and social justice.

Within the letter, Breen offered assistance from Pacific Oaks faculty, students, and alumni to help organize additional members for the organization. She also highlighted Pacific Oaks’ experience and expertise in the areas of advocacy and social justice, education, cultural and family psychology, human development, and organizational leadership & change and offered to provide the Times Up with expert knowledge of how to address cultural issues around these subjects.


5. Expanded degree programs

Recently, we have expanded our degree programs to include organizational leadership & change, advocacy & social justice, and community psychology in an effort to provide education that will empower those seeking to affect positive social change in their local community and around the world.

Advocacy & Social Justice: To affect positive social change, contemporary advocates must engage skillfully at the complex intersection of culture, environment, and education, which all contribute to how we define ourselves, our communities, and our institutions. This program immerses students in a multidisciplinary curriculum that develops their skills to critically evaluate the motivations and implications of injustice, disparity, inequity, and systems of dominance.

Organizational Leadership & Change: This program was specifically designed to help students develop into authentic leaders who can effectively align their organizational goals with the public good. Through the development of management and leadership skills, graduates prepare to transcend cultural, political, and national barriers—navigating the complexity and unpredictability of for-profit or nonprofit organizations.

Community Psychology: This program aims to enhance protective factors and prevent the development of problems in communities, groups, and families. It is designed to teach students how to identify the needs of a community and design interventions that lead to positive and sustainable results.


6. The Social Justice Night Awards

In celebration of Pacific Oaks’ ongoing commitment to the causes of social justice and inclusion, we will be hosting our inaugural Social Justice Night on November 2, 2018, from 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at our Pasadena campus. We will be honoring Lesford Duncan, our first-ever Social Justice Hero, for his work on policies against child abuse and sexual exploitation of children. Duncan has also worked to improve communities in Southern California through partnerships, coalitions, and systems that better health, both mental and physical, and increase resiliency among children and families.

For more information or to RSVP for this event, click here.

While we have made progress over the past 60 years, there is still much work to be done. But together, through the power of our community, we will continue striving to create a more diverse, equal, and inclusive world.


If you are interested in learning more about undergraduate and graduate degree programs at Pacific Oaks College, request more information by filling out the form below. Or you can apply today through our application portal.

Categories: Blog, Power of Community

For questions or comments on our news stories or releases, or if you are a reporter who would like to speak with an expert in education, human development, or marriage and family therapy, please contact Johanna Atienza at [email protected] or 626.529.8092.