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Laura Spelman Rockefeller Residence Hall Mural

Social Justice Fellows Program

Betanya Mahary, C'2018, shares her experience as a Spelman College Social Justice Fellow and  her passion for studying emerging identities in Tunisia. Mahary, who double-majored in sociology and anthropology and comparative women’s studies, is also a 2017 Beinecke Scholar and will receive $34,000 toward her graduate education. more



About the Program

The Spelman College Social Justice Fellows Program, initiated in the fall of 2011, is a living and learning programmatic initiative that creates opportunities for a select group of Spelman women to “make a choice to change the world through social justice advocacy.”  Students representing varied disciplinary areas participate in social justice advocacy internships, monthly colloquia experiences, book discussions and social entrepreneur project design activities. The Program, lead by Cynthia Neal Spence, Ph.D., C', associate professor of sociology and director of the UNCF/Mellon Programs, equips students with an understanding of how to effect change at the social, political, and legal policy levels, nationally and globally.

Program Selection

Ten Social Justice Fellows are selected for the program. Students are selected as rising juniors and continue in the program through their senior year. Fellows receive semester stipends, an international social justice advocacy spring break experience, special curricular enhancements, and faculty and alumna mentoring.  In addition, fellows receive social justice advocacy training and social justice advocacy policy implementation experiences. Funding to support a limited number of faculty curricular development grants are also provided.

While limited funds do not allow for the selection of additional fellows, it was decided to establish an Associates Program. The Social Justice Fellows Associate Program allows broader participation in the programmatic aspects of the Social Justice Fellows Program, including internship placements, colloquia experiences and book discussions and for a limited number of students, residence in the newly renovated Laura Spelman Rockefeller Residence Hall which has been designated as the site of the Social Justice Fellows Program. A total of 34 students representing varied disciplinary areas are Social Justice Fellows Program Associates.  

Social Justice Advocacy

Spelman Social Justice Fellows

We believe that social justice advocacy must be fed by sustained acquisition of knowledge and experiences. The need for theoretical grounding in public and social policy is woven throughout the programmatic initiatives. In support of our goal to support the intellectual development of students participating in the Social Justice Fellows Program, we have created a "Poverty and Social Justice" course to support the Social Justice Fellows Program. Additionally, Social Justice Fellows have been  encouraged to enroll in a number of existing courses to support their interests in social justice advocacy such as "Violence Against Women, Women and Resistance Movements, The Sociology of Health  and Advocacy in Education," to name a few. Additional course offerings are being planned. 

Inaugural Cohort

We are very proud of the accomplishments of the first cohort. In addition to completing social justice advocacy internship experiences, the inaugural cohort of fellows distinguished themselves as community leaders and organizers of a number of campus- wide social justice advocacy entrepreneurship activities. These include sponsoring a letter writing campaign in support of the work of the Children’s Defense Fund Cradle to Prison Project, a Syrian Refugee Relief project focusing on women and girls, a child trafficking awareness campaign, an elder justice advocacy forum, and sexual assault and violence against women and girls forums and speak-outs.

Dalai Lama Fellowship Recipient

In addition, one of our inaugural fellows was selected for the Dalai Lama Fellowship Program which provided funding for her to run a year-long program for teenage mothers. A second incoming fellow has now been selected for the Dalai Lama Fellowship. She will focus on a global public health awareness program for middle school age girls in Atlanta and The Gambia. Also, another incoming fellow has been selected to establish a branch of Globe Med on the Spelman College campus. Globe Med focuses on improving health outcomes around the world. The commitment to social justice advocacy is readily apparent among the graduating and newly initiated fellows.