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Alma M. O. Trinidad
Alma M. O. Trinidad

Change Agent

Transforming communities, one student at a time

Young people can change their communities for the better. That’s a lesson Social Work professor Alma M.O. Trinidad strives to teach freshmen in her popular Race & Social Justice course. The first in her family of Filipino immigrants to go to college, Trinidad encourages students to learn about their identities and their role in the world while creating their own social movement.

Growing up in Hawaii, Alma M.O. Trinidad loved school but never thought she would go to college, let alone earn a doctorate.

Her parents were Filipino immigrants who worked in the pineapple fields, and she lived in a community that struggled with poverty and oppression. Teachers and mentors helped her to succeed in school and go on to higher education.

Now a Social Work professor, Trinidad draws on the lessons of her childhood and research to inspire her students to promote social justice in their communities

"My work has been rooted in knowing your own identity and history," she says. "For me, it’s a transformative process of not only learning about yourself but learning how to see yourself in this world and how to serve your community."

In her popular freshman inquiry course, “Race and Social Justice,” Trinidad asks students to connect theory to community-based service projects, such as producing a talent show with a social justice theme or volunteering for a youth outreach program.

Trinidad pushes all her students  — whether they are first in their families to go to college or from privileged backgrounds — to think about the meaning of their education and their role as informed, socially conscious citizens.

"I appreciate and value the baby steps that students can take in recognizing their role in social justice and embracing human diversity," she says.

In doing so, her students create their own social movement.

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