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Social Justice Dialogue tackles socioeconomic barriers at Emory

Emory Report | Sept. 24, 2015

Volunteer Emory presents "Breaking Barriers: Creating a More Inclusive Emory," a Social Justice Dialogue exploring how socioeconomic status affects an individual's experience at Emory.

"Part I: Identifying Barriers: Share your experiences at Emory" is Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 7:30 p.m. in the Math & Science Atrium. This session will start with monologues by a few undergraduates about the impact of socioeconomic status on their experiences at Emory, according to Laila Atalla, chair of the Social Justice Dialogue committee.

Participants will then discuss their personal experiences and thoughts in small groups to identify challenges that low-income students may face in the university and how economic inequality divides students in ways that are often difficult to perceive, she adds. 

"Part II: Breaking Barriers: Develop solutions and communicate them to Emory's administration" will be Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the Math & Science Atrium.

This session will begin with a presentation from Adrienne Slaughter, director of student success in Student Health Services, on what resources are available at Emory for low-income students.  Then, students will form small groups to brainstorm what resources are lacking and what feasible, concrete changes could be made to promote the success of students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

At the end of the event, Atalla says, participants will be invited to work with Volunteer Emory staff members to use these ideas to create a proposal of simple, concrete changes to present to the administration and the Student Government Association.

"The event is designed mainly for undergraduates, but we welcome faculty, staff and graduate students to participate as well," Atalla says.

Encouraging conversations

The Social Justice Dialogue Committee is also communicating with student groups, such as the Emory Quest Scholars Network, and individual students about the role of socioeconomic status in students' experiences at Emory. 

"We have found that there is much interest in discussing this topic on campus, and we are working with other student organizations to enrich the dialogue," she notes.

"Breaking Barriers" seeks to build on "Invisible Barriers" by furthering the discussion of socioeconomic status on campus and generating a plan that will lead to concrete improvements at Emory. 

"Invisible Barriers" was a Social Justice Dialogue held last spring by Volunteer Emory, which also addressed issues of socioeconomic status in the university. 

"From the rich discussion that came out of that event, it was apparent that further dialogue, followed by action, was needed," Atalla says.

Social Justice Dialogue Committee member Caroline Holmes came up with the idea for "Breaking Barriers." Other committee members are Emilia Truluck and Sundus Tameez.

"We at Volunteer Emory are doing this event because it's not something that we as a student body talk about," Holmes says. "There are barriers that so many students face every day because of class and socioeconomic status, and there's a complete lack of general awareness.

"We want to start a conversation. We want students to realize that they aren't alone on campus, that this is a widespread problem, that the isolating experience of coming from a very different background from your peers is shared by so many here. And, then, we're working with administration, and we'll try to do something," she says.

For more information, visit Volunteer Emory.