AN EXPLORATION OF SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMITMENT: A GROUNDED THEORY INVESTIGATION OF STUDENT AFFAIRS PROFESSIONALS
Pepin, Sean C
Drezner, Noah D
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As part of the project to create a more democratic society, social justice work is a critical component, especially within higher education. Social justice work comes with a wide array of deeply challenging issues and obstacles to remaining engaged. The purpose of this study was to expose those challenges and understand how individuals traversed those challenges. By looking at what the challenges were and how individuals navigated them, this study also dove into the personal reasons why social justice work can be incredibly challenging. Through this grounded theory investigation, a model for social justice commitment emerged, which illustrates the iterative nature of social justice commitment. The result is that one’s commitment is a cycle of growth, beginning with one’s internal and external engagement. As individuals engage in social justice work, nine distinct challenges emerged from the data. These challenges interrupt a person’s engagement, and can either be resolved through the use of three identified motivating forces or can cause a person to retreat to a time of pause. Finally, one of the unique findings within this study was the relationship commitment has with the concept of hope. As challenges increase, individuals have a decreased sense of hope. Hope is a fundamental component of long-term engagement, and individuals appeared to move to towards the edge of hope throughout their long-term engagement; however, they did not appear to ever fully leave hope or commitment behind. Finally, this research moved from the discovery of a social justice commitment model towards the practical implications for such a model. By weaving the identified challenges and the emergent commitment model together, applications were created for individuals, institutions, and future research. The resulting implications focused primarily on critical self-reflection for individuals, an increase in robust content and reflection for institutions, and a new direction for social justice research to explore the affective domain of development.