The counseling psychology doctoral program’s social justice brownbag series
This lunch is tasty AND it's good for you! Several times a semester, students, faculty and staff in the counseling psychology doctoral program gather together for a lunch discussion of different social justice-related topics. Discussions might focus on sizeism, class, gun violence, sexism, anti-Semitism, race, or other topics—as suggested and voted for by students in the program.
Thomas Le, a third-year counseling psychology doctoral student and the diversity chair of the student executive board, says the brown bag series has been going strong since the 2014-15 school year when then-students Marisa Franco and Skyler Jackson noticed a lack of space within the program to discuss issues pertaining to social justice. "That can be a weakness of the field of psychology overall, since it's so individually focused," Thomas says. Marisa and Skyler's brown bag lunch solution has been giving Terps a chance to dig deeper ever since, through different leaders and facilitators each year. The social justice brown bag committee, in addition to Thomas, currently consists of fellow doctoral students Jose Lima Rosas, Shereen Ashai, Michael Burrows, as well as faculty advisor Kelly Lee.
Some secrets to the series' success: clear guidelines around behavior (respect confidentiality, no personal attacks), and use of facilitator pairs—all of whom have some level of facilitation-readiness and awareness of the potential emotional impact, thanks to their training in counseling—who spend time preparing materials for the discussions, which can also include videos, quotes, and other material to respond to.
Feeling inspired? Thomas' advice to anyone hoping to start their own grassroots social justice initiative: First, lean into the discomfort of talking about sensitive topics. "It can be uncomfortable because as a society we don't train kids to talk about these things," he says, "There might be struggles, but it's still worthwhile to persist." Secondly, just go for it! In Thomas' words, "Make your own table." And finally, he says, take advantage of the institutional support and funding that's available around campus. Along with many other departments around campus, ODI is here to help, so don't hesitate to apply for program cosponsorship on our website and bring your own Promising Practice to life!