Social Justice Research Academy

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July 7 - July 27, 2019

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The Social Justice Research Academy brings students from around the world together for three weeks to dive deep into the past, present and future of social justice. Designed to encourage discussion and critical thinking about the political, historical and cultural context of inequality and resistance, the program welcomes students with a variety of academic interests across the social sciences, humanities and arts. Topics vary from year to year, but include a selection of significant historical struggles (such as the American Revolution, slavery and abolition, suffrage, civil rights and affirmative action) as well as those that define our present (for example: environmentalism, affordable housing, immigration, LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter, and #MeToo). As they explore the characteristics of effective community leadership and successful movement-building, students develop leadership skills as well as research and analytical skills.

If you attend a School District of Philadelphia public or charter high school, you may be eligible to attend a Penn Summer Academy free of charge with a Penn Summer Scholarship.

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Lectures and workshops: Attend classes and conversations led by Penn faculty and Teaching Fellows as well as community leaders, political representatives and experts from a range of subjects. Ask questions, debate issues and participate in lively class discussions as you develop specialized knowledge and leadership skills.

Site visits: Tour historical and cultural landmarks in Philadelphia such as the National Constitution Center and Independence Hall, and visit living organizations and enterprises that serve Philadelphia communities. Past examples include museums, places of worship, socially responsible businesses, and philanthropies. 

Capstone project: Drawing from coursework and your own interests, develop a research question around themes such as justice, freedom, and peace. Explore the answer to your research question using the University’s world-class resources and guidance from Teaching Fellows. Capstone projects can take the form of a traditional academic paper or a creative project in the medium of your choosing. Previous capstone projects have included: a paper on Hollywood’s portrayal of Asians in film and subsequent stereotypes, a spoken word performance surrounding gun deaths among Black men in Philadelphia, a video on redlining, a slide show about the reception of American Muslim women who wear a hijab or not, a statistical comparison of international human rights laws and violations, a graphic novel comparing sex education in China to that in the US, an immersive art installation depicting sweatshop conditions, and a restaurant business plan offering job training for the homeless.

Read an article from Penn News Today about the 2017 Social Justice Academy class experience.

See this program’s 2018 syllabus (PDF).


Scott Hanson

Program Director: R. Scott Hanson
R. Scott Hanson is a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches courses in American history on a range of topics. He earned his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2002 and has been at Penn since 2012. Dr. Hanson is also an affiliate of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University and the author of City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens (New York: Fordham University Press, 2016).

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