ASU According To You: A justice studies student

Each week reporter Noelle Lilley will tackle a different major, tour its school and talk to its students in the hopes of highlighting the uniqueness and diversity of our beloved university. This is "ASU According To You."

Ever wanted to make a change in your society? Do something that will help shape the world we live in today? Well, students of the justice studies program at ASU are doing just that everyday. 

The word "justice" tends to conjure up images of superheroes flying through the air, fighting crime in brightly colored capes and tights. Or maybe Olivia Pope from "Scandal" storming into a room, fierce and indomitable, and announcing, "It's handled." However, at the School of Social Transformation (SST), justice studies students learn how to examine, address and solve current social issues in the U.S. and beyond. This degree, which offers two tracks, a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science, is offered through the Justice and Social Inquiry academic program within the SST. 

Witty and vibrant, Justice studies junior Caitlan Rocha acknowledges that there can be an air of mystery around the definition of justice. 

via GIPHY

"Justice is a term that people will fight over until the end of the earth," she said. "It’s not like math or science … It's really fluid." 

The careers available through this major are seemingly endless. Graduates pursue everything from advocacy and social work to law enforcement and the legal system. With a passion for humanitarianism, like many of her peers, Rocha said she plans to attend law school.

"It’s one of those (majors) that you can use it to do anything," she said.

Rocha said that she originally planned to study criminal justice, but her desire to live on the Tempe campus led her to choose justice studies instead. Now coming into her third year in the program, Rocha confirms that this decision was for the best because her experience has been life changing.

"I really just feel that the justice program is really just a hidden gem in the University," Rocha said. 

Through this program, Rocha said she has gotten the opportunity to volunteer with organizations like The Clothesline Project (its goal is to spread awareness of violence against women), intern at legal services like the AZ Justice Project (its goal is to overturn and prevent wrongful convictions) and work as a tutor at the SST's Writing Center in Tempe. 

Rocha said what sets justice studies apart from other majors is how crucial the field is to society as a whole.

"Having a program like this shows how far we've come, but we certainly have a long way to go," she said.

Justice studies students take an entry level course called Introduction to Justice Studies (JUS 105), which Rocha says she wishes all ASU students were required to take. She said the course is just one remarkable snippet of a program that works to equip students to tackle tough issues. 

Rocha said justice studies can be a difficult major because students are forced to recognize some of the injustice and oppression that others face.

She said it was initially difficult for her to acknowledge the privilege she has as a white female. Many courses also focus on controversial topics like domestic violence, patriarchy and the death penalty, which can be uncomfortable to discuss. 

Nevertheless, Rocha maintains that the knowledge and tools students gain make it all worthwhile. 

While their lives may not be as glamorous as Olivia Pope or as dangerous as Batman, justice studies students work hard to fight injustice, and better the world around them.

Related links:

ASU According To You: An Exercise and Wellness student

ASU According To You: A Parks and Recreation student


Reach the reporter at nlilley@asu.edu or follow her @noelledl on Twitter.

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