The Justice Fellowship: Learning To Be the Change
Jonathan Nicolai-deKoning, Program Director of the Micah Centre at the King’s University, asks students to consider vocation by asking, “What is my role in building a better world for all? What could this mean for my career as a counselor, a teacher, a home-builder, a lawyer?”
‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.
We come across these words, attributed to Mahatma Ghandi, everywhere: in university recruitment ads, on motivational posters in grade school classrooms, on protesters’ signs. And why not? Who doesn’t want to be the change they want to see in the world?
At The King’s University, we often say something similar: that we’re equipping students to help build a more just, humane, and sustainable world, inspired by the life and spirit of Jesus Christ the servant-king. We want students to be the change we long for in a broken world longing for reconciliation.
But before we can be the change, we should pause and ask ourselves some questions: what in the world really needs to change, and what within me needs to change? What are some ways to work toward change – in me, and in the world? Are there people, at home and around the world, who are doing great things to make the world a more livable place for all, and how can I join them?
At the Micah Centre, we support students in asking those questions and putting their answers into action. The Micah Centre is King’s on-campus initiative to foster greater awareness and action among students, faculty, and the wider community around issues of global poverty, peacemaking, and social justice. The ancient biblical prophet Micah summed up the human response to God’s call in this way: ‘do justice, practice loving-kindness, and walk humbly with God’. We try to help students figure out just what it means for them to ‘do justice and practice loving-kindness’ in a world marked by hunger, poverty, and human and ecological suffering.
One way we do that is through the Justice Fellowship.
Every other year, a cohort of students focus their learning for the academic year on the practice and principles of justice-seeking. Justice Fellowship students take 5 classes, 2 in the fall semester and 3 in the winter. In the fall, they take THEO 374: Micah’s Challenge and SSCI 314: Issues in Environmental, Social, and Political Justice (which involves a weekend in Edmonton’s innercity). Then, in the winter, students take HIST 399: Histories of Racial Justice and Disability in Canada, SSCI 330: Quest Mexico (which takes place for 10 days over reading week in south-central Mexico), and a directed study (499) on a topic of their choice.
All these courses are woven together by two things: a focus on how to make the world a more just place, and an emphasis on experiential, out-of-the-classroom learning. Students spend time learning from homelessness advocates in Edmonton, a squatters’ settlement in Mexico, Indigenous activists from northern Alberta, former inmates, racial justice educators, and more, all the while asking: what does this mean for me, and for my vocation? What is my role in building a better world for all? What could this mean for my career as a counselor, a teacher, a home-builder, a lawyer?
It is one thing to ask those questions in a classroom or as you read a book. It’s quite another to ask those questions as you encounter the world outside your door, brimming as it is with heartbreak and hope, suffering and inspiration.
As part of the Justice Fellowship, students meet regularly as a group with the Micah Centre program director for a shared meal, where we talk about what we’re learning, the questions we’re asking, and what it might mean for our lives. It’s a great opportunity to build friendships with others who share your passion for addressing poverty and injustice, and to build a community of people who can help you shape your future of justice and loving-kindness, in whatever you end up doing with your life.
As former Justice Fellowship student Kaleigh put it:
“No matter what degree you are in, what career you want to pursue, or what experiences you’ve had prior to this point, the Justice Fellowship will be challenging, eye-opening, and beneficial to your life going forward. There’s something for everyone in this program, no matter what your interests and passions are. And to someone who is already passionate about social justice: this is what solidarity feels like. It’s been so amazing having a group of like-minded people to share this experience with, and to learn and grow alongside each other. This program has allowed me to grow in so many ways I would’ve never expected, and I think anyone who participates in the Justice Fellowship will be amazed by the growth they will experience in a matter of 8 months.”
Interested in the Justice Fellowship? The next cohort begins in September 2021. Contact Jonathan (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions or if you’d like to apply.
Find out more about the work of the Micah Centre on their website.