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The Race and Social Justice FYE Living Learning Community

The Race and Social Justice FYE FRINQ at Portland State University connects students to a higher level in their social position and cultural understanding while engaging them in their development to be well rounded citizens in society. To participate in this community students will enroll in a special section of Freshman Inquiry, Race and Social Justice taught by Alma Trinidad. Students will be housed on the same floor in the Ondine building, participate in various activities outside the classroom to engage in culturally diverse issues, and develop leadership skills through a variety of experiential learning programs.

The specific goals of this learning community include:

  • civic engagement and leadership focus on social justice work 
  • in depth participation and engagement in community based service learning activities, some of which will be student-led 
  • yearlong examination of racism and other forms of oppression from multiple perspectives 
  • local and global citizenship exploration through community based service learning, deep reflexivity, and class discussion around race and other identities 
  • strong commitment to applying what is learned in the course in the local community 
  •  constant deep reflection on one’s role and social responsibility in promoting social justice 
  • bridging of learning to residence hall living through the additional themed programming around diversity, inclusion, and social change

About the Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ) Race and Social Justice Course

Most people in the United States value equality of opportunity. In reality, however, our social and economic system perpetuates various inequalities, including inequalities between socially defined racial groups Gunnar Myrdal, an architect of the Swedish social welfare system, wrote in 1955 that this "American Dilemma" would ultimately prevent the United States from building a society that would successfully put its values into action. He warned that if existing racial inequalities were not addressed, it would undermine our sense of shared identity and our moral purpose as a nation. This course will seek to address Myrdal's "American Dilemma."

In the fall term, we will create a structure for talking about race, looking at human biology, social analysis, racial identity, and the history of racial domination. In the winter term, we will look more closely at issues of social justice and consider whether law, policy, public opinion, and other systemic or institutional dynamics are influenced by the conceptualization of race. In the spring term, we will look at anti-racist and anti-oppression social movements and professional practices throughout the world and engage locally with work that promotes racial equality, social justice, and open dialogue about race and its intersections with other identities. Throughout the year, an internal, reflexive parallel learning process will occur. We will learn how race and its intersections to other identities are shaped in our lives. We will do so by exploring our own values, beliefs, and behaviors, and how they might affect future work with people of difference. We will also focus on our social roles and interactions of power and privilege, and returning constantly to the questions: What does this mean for me as an informed citizen of our community? What does this mean for those I work with?

About the Freshman Inquiry Professor

Alma M.O. Trinidad, MSW, PhD is a social worker by training, and brings an array of work and scholarship in community organizing, mental health, health, and education among diverse communities. She earned her PhD in social welfare from the University of Washington, Seattle in 2010 and her MSW from the University of Michigan in 1999 with a concentration in community organization and social policy. She also earned her BSW from the University of Hawai'i, Manoa. Alma's research interests involve the examination of positionalities, health/mental health promotion, and community development among Asian Pacific Islander (API) youth and emerging adults. More specifically, her recent dissertation work examined how community youth participation, critical Indigenous pedagogy of place, and community epistemology serve as venues for empowerment, sociopolitical development, collective consciousness, and promotion of health and wellness.

Other research and teaching interests include community youth organizing and development that promote social justice and address disparities among marginalized communities, and culturally responsible research and evaluation methods. Alma's current appointment is a shared position with Portland State University's University Studies and the School of Social Work, Child and Family Studies. Alma is a former Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) fellow, and a former National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Prevention Research Trainee.

In her spare time, Alma enjoys spending quality time with her family, especially her two small children, scrapbooking and crafts, photography, sightseeing, and learning hula (through her daughter's participation in her hula halau) and other Indigenous dance.

If you have additional questions feel free to contact Courtney Sandler (sandler@pdx.edu) or Alma M.O. Trinidad (alma2@pdx.edu). You may also contact residence life at 503.725.2450.