New minor inspires social change

Kelly Hillock
May 5, 2014

In a society stricken with inequalities and apathy, the ability to be culturally aware and empathetic is not only a marketable skill, but also necessary for societal progress. The counseling and social change minor at San Diego State provides students the skills to be knowledgeable, thoughtful agents of change.

The counseling and social change minor is offered through the Department of Counseling and School Psychology and provides students the tools to seek change in diverse social contexts. It is an undergraduate, interdisciplinary 18-unit minor that encompasses social justice and diversity. There are four core classes with additional classes selected from other departments such as Women Studies, Africana Studies or Sociology. The curriculum focuses on human relationships, and pushes students to cause social change in their communities.

The CSC minor was developed with the goal of training students to become superstars in their graduate programs, adviser and CSC Director Dr. Sarah Kahn said. Students aren’t usually exposed to counseling theory and practice until the graduate level, causing the CSC minor to be unique. In fact, the CSC program appears to be the only undergraduate program in the country to combine counseling and socio-cultural issues. The program was developed to embody a social justice perspective, giving students the tools to be respectful and responsive of all individuals. The program teaches students to be multi-cultural agents of change, according to psychology junior and CSC minor Phillip Salas.

This program isn’t limited to students pursuing psychology or counseling; it also teaches students of all fields to think critically and globally about their interpersonal relationships. It poses a curriculum about human relationships.

[quote]“(Someone’s) truth might be different from yours, but they are still equal to you,” psychology junior and CSC peer adviser Deserea Bockness said.[/quote]

The program was founded by graduate-level professors to provide undergraduate students the skills they need to better the field of counseling.

“We’ve found, as a field, is that we have a lot to learn when it comes to our ability to provide treatment to folks who are diverse,” Kahn said. “When we look at statistics, we find that folks who are in some kind of marginalized race or social class or gender, our effectiveness is really low. We have a lot of work to do in terms of raising our ability to be culturally competent and respectful and responsive. That’s at the heart of this minor, is starting that quest.”

Despite its initial focus on the psychology professions, the CSC program has attracted students from all departments. It is a minor open to all majors, and its broad curriculum has evolved to benefit all students, not just those pursuing counseling.

Previously a businessman, Salas noted the difficulties he faced in his international work were simply cultural differences. Whatever one’s future profession may be, being multi-culturally competent enhances interpersonal skills.

“In any business, you’re always dealing with people,” Salas said.

It’s apparent the CSC program has inspired and impacted its students. Both Bockness and Salas said if the minor were to become a major on campus, they would stay an additional year or two to get a degree in CSC.

“I mean, it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever experienced,” Bockness said.

A recently reinstated program, the CSC minor at SDSU has left its mark as an important asset to the university as a whole. Between the passion of the students and faculty and the important awareness it gives its students, the CSC minor offers a unique educational experience.

“It’s such a privilege to work with students who are so driven and so passionate and so engaged. I just feel lucky that this is my job,” Kahn said.

CSC capitalizes on the importance of enacting social change and inspiring its students to seek sensitivity. Perhaps most importantly, its curriculum prepares students to better understand others they come in contact with and how to leave their community a better place.

[quote]“I’ve always been some sort of activist myself, but this program gave me the tools and the guidance to do it correctly,” Salas said.[/quote]

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Editor’s note: The origins and achievements of the program were edited for clarification.

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