Social and Environmental Justice (BA)

Want to change the world? This unique program will prepare you for a career in social and environmental justice by providing you with the knowledge, inspiration and career skills to directly contribute to the world. Our graduates are socially aware citizens and inspirational leaders in their communities who are contributing to a more positive, collective future for all.

This program is designed for students who have already completed a two-year college diploma.

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Apply Your Learning

Make the most out of your university career by taking advantage of all that Laurier has to offer you. Volunteer work, campus clubs, leadership programs, studying abroad, work experience – there are so many ways you can extend your classroom experience into the real world.

Here are just a few examples of the experiences you’ll have access to in the Social and Environmental Justice program:

  • Support faculty in groundbreaking research about social and environmental justice on a local to global scale.
  • Complete the Intercultural Certificate with Laurier International and broaden your horizons.
  • Participate in a Community Internship and specialized courses in social innovation that have earned Laurier the status of Ashoka Changemaker Campus. 
  • Explore your interests by volunteering on campus with the Accessible Learning Centre, Wellness Education, the Sustainability Office and more.

Check out the Social and Environmental Justice Experience Guide.

 

2020 graduates who secured employment or went on to postgraduate studies

 

Laurier ranks in the top 6 percent of universities worldwide*

 

students who gained hands-on learning experiences at Laurier in 2019/20

*Center for World University Rankings (CWUR)

Admissions

Format: full time or part time      Duration: four years     Start: September (fall term) or May (spring term)     OUAC code: UCS

Students who have successfully completed George Brown College's two-year Community Worker program with a 75% average or better will be eligible for admission into Laurier's Bachelor of Arts in Social and Environmental Justice program.

This articulation is a 2+2 agreement, meaning successful participants will transfer in with two years of college education and complete their university degree in only two additional years of study at Laurier. In addition to the 10.0 transfer credits qualifying applicants will carry over from their college experience, 2+2 agreement participants will earn 10.0 credits over two years, as follows:

Brantford Foundations
  • BF190: Modernity and the Contemporary World
  • BF199: Academic Literacy: Humanities
  • BF290: Modernity: Critique and Resistance
  • BF299: Academic Literacy: Social Sciences
Social and Environmental Justice Courses
  • SOJE100: The Engaged Citizen: Social and Environmental Justice in the 21st Century
  • SOJE215: Environmental Concerns: From the Grand to the Globe
  • SOJE222: Digital and Social Media: Critical Approaches
  • SOJE250: Understanding Global Capitalism
  • SOJE255: The Democratic Imagination
  • SOJE312: Sustainability and Global Society
  • SOJE370: Gender, Sexuality, and Social Justice
  • SOJE425: Social and Environmental Capstone: Another World is Possible
Additional Related Discipline Courses

2.5 senior SOJE credits including a maximum of 0.5 credit from the following related discipline courses:

  • DMJN327/MX327: Social Documentary
  • EN210: Literature and Social Change
  • EN250: Literature, Nature, Ecocriticism
  • GG231: Risks and Disasters: A Geographical Introduction
  • GG270: Cultural Geographies
  • HI240: The Active Historian
  • HI349: History of International Relations, 1890-1991
  • HR223/DMJN223: Understanding Public Policy for Issue Advocacy
  • HR231: Human Rights and the Environment
  • ID201: Indigenous Perspectives on Globalization
  • ID207: Gender and Indigenous Communities
  • LY300: Perspectives on Justice
  • PP224: Philosophy and the Environment
  • WORK320: Global Labour Issues
  • WS204: Women, Gender and Work
Elective Courses

1.5 senior-level credits in any discipline.

Awarding of Transfer Credits

The 10.0 transfer credits qualifying applicants will receive upon admission are:
Transfer Credits Awarded
  • HR305: Fundraising
  • HR 307: Program Development & Grant Writing
  • HR322: Non-Profits and NGOs
  • OL233: Introduction to Social Science Research Methods
  • SOJE120: Introduction to Indigenous Studies
  • SOJE204: Social and Environmental Justice in Practice
  • SOJE355: Advancing Racial and Ethnic Equality
  • SOJE403: Community Internship (1.0 credits)
  • 0.5 credit Community Health (200 level)
  • 0.5 credit Social & Environmental Justice (200 level)
  • 1.5 credits Interdisciplinary (100 level)
  • 3.0 credits Interdisciplinary (200 level)
  • Total: 10.0 credits

Your Next Steps

If you have additional questions about your transition to Laurier, financial aid for transfer students or transfer credit evaluation, visit our transfer students website. If you are interested in transferring into this program with an academic history different than what is outlined above, apply using the 105 application form and your transfer credits will be assessed on an individual basis and reported to you, along with your offer letter, upon admission to Laurier.

Note: Not all program requirements are reflected in this pathway description. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that all academic program and course requirements have been met. Refer to regulations in the academic calendar and connect with an academic advisor once you have accepted your offer.

Program Options and Courses

Options and Minors

These are a few of the many popular academic opportunities which allow you to dive deeper into your major area of study or broaden your knowledge:

  • Indigenous Studies Minor
  • International Development Option
  • Issue Advocacy Option
  • Law Option
  • Leadership Option or Minor
  • Social Innovation Specialization

Check out other options to enhance your degree.

First-Year Courses

  • The Engaged Citizen: Social and Environmental Justice in the 21st Century
  • Introduction to Indigenous Studies
  • Modernity and the Contemporary World
  • Modernity: Critique and Resistance

Sample First-Year Electives

  • Indigenous Peoples and Media
  • Reporting and Writing for News
  • Studying Youth and Children: An Introduction

Sample Upper-Year Courses

  • Digital and Social Media: Critical Approaches
  • Sustainability and Global Society
  • Understanding Global Capitalism

Research and Practice

Our faculty investigate social and environmental justice issues from the local to the global scale. We engage with community partners to find innovative, creative solutions. In our classes, we passionately share our analyses of social inequality and environmental degradation, along with developing the knowledge and skills students need to become leaders and changemakers.

Meet some of our faculty making a difference academically and in the real world.

Rob Kristofferson: Workers, Unions and Public History

I study workers and unions. I am interested in how the development of economic systems relates to social experience. My core academic work has centred on trying to understand how the rise of industrial capitalism in Canada was experienced by skilled workers who worked in new, urban factories. I found that, for a limited time, the newly forming capitalist system offered new opportunities and optimism for working people. However, by the late nineteenth century, a more advanced form of capitalism had begun marginalizing working people, creating serious social divisions, and laying the basis for a labour movement.

But I don’t just exist in the past. Alongside my academic work, I have always engaged in social justice work in the field of "public history," the many forms that history can be presented to the public in order to effect change. Over the past two decades, I have mounted several museum exhibits, put together walking and driving tours of workers’ history, authored union histories, and much more.

Most recently, I have completed a multi-stage project, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, called The Workers’ City. In one phase of this project, I produced a smartphone app and a website (workerscity.ca) that contains over 100 sites related to the labour and industrial history of Hamilton, Ontario. For example, app users can stand in front of an old factory and listen to an audio recording of folks working there in the 1930s and 1940s, recounting their experiences. It is also full of photos and site descriptions.

Showdown! Making Modern Unions: Book coverThe project’s second phase resulted in the publication of a graphic history (comic book) entitled Showdown! Making Modern Unions. This 140-page book tells the story of the major strike wave that gripped Hamilton in 1946 and resulted in an important series of victories that set the groundwork for the establishment of the system of legal collective bargaining in Canada that we still enjoy today. That book was based around interviews I did with folks involved in the strike combined with all sorts of historical documents. My co-author and illustrator Simon Orpana brought their stories to life in vivid graphic form.

Hassan Yussaff, the president of the Canadian Labour Congress, has declared: “This book is a gem. Kristofferson and Orpana uncover the courage and solidarity of the everyday working people who took on a steel giant and won. Told through their voices, Showdown! jolts labour history to life, inspiring a new generation of workers.”

I have also done extensive work inside the labour movement. I have been president of the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association, an executive member of our unions’ provincial organization and a council member of its national organization and served on many committees and in many capacities. As part of this, I have been involved in many campaigns that unions have undertaken to preserve the quality of university education in Canada.

Brenda Murphy: Reducing Risks to Indigenous and Rural Communities

Brenda MurphyProfessor Brenda Murphy's interests focus on studying and teaching about risk, emergency management and environmental justice issues that impact rural and Indigenous communities, locally and worldwide. She is a longstanding Indigenous ally and rural supporter involved in developing online tools, guidebooks and other materials. Her work revolves around community-based approaches and bridging the gaps between Western and Indigenous ways of knowing. She brings her research experiences into her classes and frequently has research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate-level researchers.

With input from a team of Indigenous consultants, she helped develop the Aboriginal Disaster Resilience Planning (ADRP) website and the Traditional Knowledge Toolkit. As well as identifying resilience factors, the ADRP allows communities to identify the potential risk of disaster based on an all-hazards approach and then develop a tailored plan to increase capacities.

Additionally, she the co-chairs the Indigenous Resilience Working Group (IRWG). This group is helping Canada meet its international commitments to the Sendai framework and works to reduce disaster risks within Indigenous communities. The IRWG, part of Canada’s Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, believes that the ongoing resilience in Indigenous communities is one of Canada’s biggest assets. At the same time, capacities in Indigenous communities are often constrained by a lack of resources, historical legacies and access to user-friendly risk mitigation planning tools and processes.

In thinking about the impact of climate change in rural and Indigenous spaces, as well as holistic understandings of sustainability and well-being, she has completed two projects using maple syrup production to tap into local and Indigenous knowledge. In conjunction with a large team of researchers, including undergraduates, the project has developed multiple reports and guides. See resilientresearch.ca for many examples.

Currently, she is also involved in two rural Ontario projects highlighting the impact of climate change on the infrastructure systems that are important to our health and safety, especially during an emergency, such as transportation networks, health services, and telecommunications.

The role of healthy trees, the industrious work of beavers building dams and the importance of trails used for tourism and travel are not something typically considered by urban-based planners, researchers and government agencies. However, following from the recent work of two MA students, the team will be arguing that understandings of what is defined as vital infrastructure in the context of rural and Indigenous communities should be expanded to include these natural features as well as access to remote spaces.

James Cairns: Democracy From Below

James CairnsI'm interested in the big questions of how we organize ourselves in society. Everyday billions of people worldwide produce enormous wealth in their activities at work and their communities. Yet access to this wealth, to resources and political power, is terribly unequal. Only a few people reap the full rewards of our collective labour, while many people are scraping to get by. How did this system come to be, and why do so many people go along with it? What would it look like to live in a truly democratic, socially just, and ecologically sustainable society? How do we get from here to there? My research and teaching focus on the broad question: What can we learn from, and how can we contribute to, social movements, labour unions, community organizations, and other forms of democracy from below?

Since becoming faculty at Laurier, I've co-written two books addressing these kinds of questions. Working with my friend and colleague Alan Sears (a sociologist at Ryerson University), we wrote A Good Book, in Theory: Making Sense Through Inquiry to help students improve their capacity to do rigorous theoretical thinking. The word "theory" is a good one for terrifying people or putting them to sleep. But rather than think about theory as a bunch of stale facts you must learn, I urge students to understand theoretical thinking as a powerful tool for identifying social problems to act upon the world to change it.

The other book that Alan and I wrote together, The Democratic Imagination: Envisioning Popular Power in the Twenty-First Century, opens up questions about what it means to live in a democracy. Many of us take for granted that we live in a system based on the principle of "rule by the people." But who are the people and how do they govern? What sort of control over decision-making do you have at your job, in your classroom, in your community? Comparing and contrasting different models of democracy helps develop a clearer sense of how we might want to transform our ways of living together in the future. These are issues I love talking about in my Social and Environmental Justice (SEJ) class, "The Democratic Imagination."

I started the book I’m currently writing in the wake of the 2012 Quebec student strike. In the spring of that year, hundreds of thousands of students in Quebec organized a months-long strike against a 75% tuition hike. Their collective strike brought down the government, which effectively cancelled the hike. Brantford is less than a day's drive from Quebec, yet in Ontario, non-rebellion remains the norm on campus. Why? I began interviewing students at Laurier about their hopes and fears.

The students I interviewed at Laurier felt frustrated about high tuition and the debt they've taken on. They worried about a bleak job market and cuts to government services. They were angry, but rarely did they express the sense that they were entitled to something better. Most students were resigned to using their individual talents and willingness to be flexible in order to navigate today's harsh socio-economic waters.

At the same time as I was conducting these interviews, I was reading a lot about the so-called "entitlement epidemic" among today's youth. You hear it all the time from employers and journalists, and in all sorts of popular culture: Millennials are so entitled! There seemed to me to be a contradiction between the supposed entitled millennial so often depicted on TV, and the actual millennials I was talking to in my interviews on campus. I've been investigating this contradiction for the past three years, drawing on interviews with millennials in various places in North America to write a book that debunks the myth of the age of entitlement.

My book argues that a new era of social justice and environmental sustainability depends on millennials demanding more, not settling for less. I'm excited to teach a new SEJ seminar this year, entitled "Millennials: Overly Entitled?" on the question of entitlement and the millennial generation.

One of the best parts of my job is participating in social justice activism on campus. I'm a member of Laurier Brantford's Collective for Feminist Action and Research, and I’m an active participant in the Radical Exchange reading group. I've helped organize campus events on social justice education, human rights in Palestine, free speech, and several issues around work and employment. I try to bring my research to a general audience by writing for non-academic publications such as the New Socialist webzine and Briarpatch magazine.

Teaching and researching in SEJ has helped me better understand social problems such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and wealth inequality. It’s also generated hope that another world is possible.

Peter Farrugia: Practicing Social Justice in the Community

Peter FarrugiaAssociate Professor Peter Farrugia has been active in social justice issues since his arrival at Laurier Brantford in 1999. In 2003, he co-founded the NGO Project Empathy Africa with Associate Professor Lamine Diallo and three Social and Environmental Justice students. Focused on the AIDS pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa, Project Empathy organized biennial trips to Botswana so that students could work alongside frontline workers in the fight against HIV/AIDS and undertook educational activities locally and regionally. The organization’s documentary, Empathy in Action, was screened at the XVI International AIDS conference in Toronto in 2006.

Closer to home, Farrugia has been active in local community initiatives as well. He has used the classroom to raise awareness of social issues and empower students to work for change, most notably in fourth-year seminar courses such as CT407: Humour and CT401: Food. In the humour course, students have twice organized a day of museum-type displays, games, improvisation and silent auctions to raise money for local organizations such as Arts After School Kids (founded by Laurier Brantford alumna Gayle Myke) and the Stedman Hospice, which provides end-of-life care to patients and their families.

In the food course, students have engaged in a summative project that sees them organize a five-course meal and silent auction fundraiser. Beneficiaries to date have included Food for Thought and Child Hunger Brantford.

Outside of the classroom, Farrugia has collaborated with a variety of groups, including the Westglen Cooperative, Winston Court assisted housing project and Why Not Youth Centres (serving at-risk youth). He is currently working with the East Ward and Echo Place Neighbourhood Association on several initiatives, including a plan to offer self-defence training to Laurier students and other community members.

Tuition and Scholarships

Adding a degree to your diploma is an investment in your future.

At Laurier, we take financial health seriously by providing funding opportunities, such as in-course scholarships, to help you to achieve your goals of obtaining a university degree. You will be automatically considered for in-course scholarships based on your Laurier GPA (grade point average). In-course scholarships are valued between $500 and $1,500 annually. They begin at a GPA of 10.0 (approximately 80%) and above.

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"The one thing I absolutely love about my program is the interdisciplinary nature and broad course content. I have been exposed to so many different issues our world is facing today. From my experience, employers value a broad set of skills, which is exactly what this program offers."

Brock Vaughan, Social and Environmental Justice graduate

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"My BA equipped me with the skills I needed to succeed not only in the education field, but in any career I choose; anywhere that you’ll need strong communication, analytical, interpersonal, research or critical thinking skills, an Arts grad has the tools required to excel."

Alison McLaren, Social and Environmental Justice graduate

Your Career Awaits

It’s not only about the journey; it’s about the destination. Let us help you get to where you’re going.

Here are just some examples of our graduates' destinations. What’s yours?

Sample Career Options

Note: Additional training and education may be required.

  • communications coordinator
  • diversity and equity officer
  • grant writer
  • human resources professional
  • humanitarian aid worker
  • insurance underwriter
  • lawyer/paralegal
  • non-profit program manager
  • public policy analyst
  • social worker

Explore more careers.

Support After Graduation

Alumni for life means that you have access to Career and Employment Support offered at Laurier for your entire career.

Brantford Campus

The Brantford campus is woven into the downtown core of the City of Brantford and is home to more than 3,000 students. Close to great walking and biking trails, you get the best of both worlds.

There are many ways to tour our Brantford campus, whether that's on a guided tour with one of our Laurier student ambassadors, on your own using virtual reality, or even on-demand through one of our pre-recorded tours. See our campus spaces and start to picture yourself at Laurier.

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"As a mature student who had been out of school for some time, I received support and encouragement from my professors and classmates and enjoyed all that I was learning. I felt that I mattered. I also liked the diversity in courses and the professors’ various teaching styles."

Kelly Persall, Social and Environmental Justice graduate

Interested in More Info?

Email chooselaurier@wlu.ca, call 519.884.0710 x3385 or see all contact information.