Social Justice

Our College community takes to heart the University's call to be a private university dedicated to the public good. From elevating incarcerated people's voices to supporting underrepresented creators in the digital-art landscape, our faculty are active in promoting social-justice causes. Faculty, staff and alumni in a variety of areas do research and invite students along for the journey through critically-engaged and service learning opportunities. Labs, centers, institutes and organizations in the College do this work on an ongoing basis and bring this work out into the Denver community.

DU PAI participants after performing A Christmas Carol

Faculty, students and alumni throughout the College address social justice issues through their research and creative works.

Students participate in a cook in for Casa de Paz using recipes from immigrants they met at the detention center.


Students study immigration issues firsthand through an interterm travel course that takes them to the U.S.-Mexico border. The issues are examined closer to home through the Casa de Paz Learning Community. This partnership with local nonprofit Casa de Paz — which provides services for immigrants in detention in Aurora and those that are newly released — allows students to explore and research immigration from multiple angles through a series of courses in different disciplines. Community and student journalists, designers and programmers participated in the migrahack, a two-day meeting of the minds where small groups collaborated and used public data to create stories about the impacts of immigration in Colorado. 

Migrahack event

"So many people from different backgrounds were able to come together and learn from on another while also producing cohesive projects." — Student Migrahack Coordinator Isaac Vargas

DU PAI participants and leaders work together to produce the With(in) podcast.

Prison Reform and Bringing Art to Incarcerated People

College faculty members Jeffrey Lin (Sociology and Criminology) and Ashley Hamilton (Theatre) have partnered with the Graduate School of Social Work's Shannon Sliva on a community-engaged research project to listen to the voices of people in prison and work to improve their well-being. This work is being undertaken with the support of a grant from the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center. 

Their research comes alongside work being done by the DU Prison Arts Initiative (DU PAI), directed by Hamilton. DU PAI develops ways for incarcerated people to express themselves and transform their communities through programs such as arts workshops, family events, media outlets and public performances.

Artists participate in the COSA Symposium.

Social Justice in the Arts

Along with research projects and organizations, faculty and staff lean into the overlap between the arts and social justice work. Many programs in the College illustrate this overlap.

  • The Spirituals Project preserves and revitalizes the music and teachings of the sacred folk songs called “spirituals,” created and first sung by African Americans in slavery. 
  • The Center for Art Collection Ethics raises awareness of legal and ethical dimensions of art collection stewardship.
  • The Clinic for Open-Source Arts explores, supports and celebrates local and global efforts to make free and open-source tools with a focus on accessibility for underrepresented communities. 

Scroll down for more information on these efforts, and additional ways that our faculty, staff and students engage in social justice research and practice.

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Social Justice Research News

Featured Social Justice Events

Sturm Hall

Critical Race and Ethnic Studies

The College's new multidisciplinary minor

The minor in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies provides students an opportunity to examine race and ethnicity as categories of social, political, historical and cultural analysis. Varied courses offer multiple perspectives and examine these topics both in United States and globally. Students are encouraged to think critically across disciplines and can gain important skills necessary for ethical and engaged citizenship in today's diverse, global society.

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DU Prison Arts Initiative participants perform A Christmas Carol.

Help support the Keystone Plan by giving to faculty and students working on social justice issues.

Support Social Justice Efforts

Research Projects

Economic impact

Paid Family Leave

Through a collaboration between the Graduate School of Social Work, Colorado Women's College and the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, DU faculty researched the economic impact of a proposed family leave plan. 

state law

Researching Capital Punishment

Scott Phillips, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology, researches capital punishment and testified before the Colorado Senate Judicial Committee on this issue. 


Gender and Sexuality

Amie Levesque, a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology, examines privilege and inequality as they relate to gender and sexuality. Her work has focused on the effects of straight allies in LGBTQ+ spaces, particularly in youth spaces.


Race and Class Inequalities

Casey Stockstill, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology, researches how micro-level factors shape race and class inequalities. Stockstill is currently transforming her dissertation research on implications of segregated preschool classrooms into a book, work that is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation.


Equal Access to the Law

Laurel Eckhouse, an assistant professor in the Political Science Department, studies the politics of criminal justice, racial and ethnic politics, political methodology and public law in the United States. Her current book project, Democratic Institutions and Equal Access to the Law: Race, Representation, and Local Control in Police Governance, investigates the origins of inequalities in the application of state power.

Programs, Labs, Centers and Institutes

In the Community

Screenshot of the Witness to History Website
Holocaust Remembrance Day: Local Survivors Share Stories on New Educational Website

Witness to History, a project of the Holocaust Awareness Institute in the Center for Judaic Studies, supports the recently passed education mandate for Holocaust and genocide studies in Colorado public schools (HB20-1336). 

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Photo of a tent with the text "Poverty is not a crime"
New MFJS Class Explores Homelessness and Access to Water in Denver

When the coronavirus pandemic put a halt on international travel, an MFJS professor decided to bring her water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) research from Africa to DU’s backyard. 

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Historical photo of women at the Amache gardens
DU Archaeologist Examines the Gardens of Amache

Anthropology Professor Bonnie Clark’s latest book, “Finding Solace in the Soil: An Archaeology of Gardens and Gardeners at Amache” (University Press of Colorado, 2020), describes how gardeners cultivated community in confinement.

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