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Social Justice Policy Initiative

The Social Justice Policy Initiative (SJPI) is a faculty-student collaborative project to engage in policy-oriented and community-based research and advocacy. The SJPI aims to bring sociological and inter-disciplinary research to community-based and advocacy organizations and policy-makers at local, state, national, and global levels. The SJPI is housed in the Sociology Department but also hosts innovative, interdisciplinary collaborations with faculty in Africana Studies, Government, Theatre, and Modern Languages.

Within the Social Justice Policy Initiative, students work with faculty members and external partners, such as community organizations or policymakers, to research pressing social issues and support their programming and policy advocacy. Students and faculty have the opportunity to engage with community organizations, policymakers, schools, and other groups across a wide range of issue-areas, including education, labor markets, housing, immigration, and food justice. The SJPI seeks to break down silos both within and beyond the university to inform pressing social issues.

How to Get Involved

The SJPI engages students in community and policy-engaged research through four streams:

How to get involved
Be a Research Fellow

SJPI Research Fellows are selected through a competitive application process in March/April for the following fall semester. Fellows apply to specific research teams and have the opportunity to renew their fellowship in the spring semester depending on project needs and performance.

Be a Research Affiliate

SJPI Research Affiliates can participate in a research team in various ways. Students interested in becoming a Research Affiliate should contact the Project PI to indicate interest. Research Affiliate applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year depending on project needs.

Be an Intern

Internships allow students to support and learn from community-based organizations. Interns spend 8-10 hours a week working with a non-profit organization. In addition, internships include an academic component as students conduct research on topics related to the non-profit’s mission and goals. Students receive academic credit for internships. Interns that support our ongoing community partners are chosen through a competitive application process in March/April for the following fall semester. Other internship opportunities are advertised as they become available.

Social Justice Policy Research Courses

These courses engage students in hands-on research related to one of the research teams. Students gain a range of experiences associated with social justice policy-making, which may include collecting and analyzing data, working with community partners, developing policy papers, and presenting research findings. These courses include:

  • SOCL 340 Educational Justice and Marginalized Communities. Instructor: Jennifer Bickham-Mendez
  • SOCL 440 Walk Together, Children: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Addressing Educational Inequities. Instructors: Amy Quark and Omiyemi (Artisia Green) (Theatre and Africana Studies)
  • SOCL100: Economic Insecurity: The Virginia Eviction Crisis

We are now accepting applications for Fellows, Affiliates, and Interns for the Summer and Fall 2021 terms.



SJPI Projects
Meaghan Stiman

Affordable Housing Project
Primary Investigator: [[mlstiman, Meaghan Stiman]]
Summary: Researching how low-income individuals and families make housing choices in a post-public housing era

Monika Gosin

Educational Equity Project
Primary Investigators: [[jbmend, Jennifer Bickham-Mendez]], [[mngosin, Monika Gosin]], and [[aaquark, Amy Quark]]
Summary: A project focused on educational equity in the Williamsburg-James City County (WJCC) School District


Eviction Crisis Project
Primary Investigator: [[cehanl, Professor Caroline Hanley]]
Summary: Research to address the eviction crisis in Virginia

The Food Justice Project
Primary Investigators: [[aaquark, Amy Quark]] and Travis Harris
Summary: A set of community-engaged research collaborations and internships focused on food justice.


The Local Black Histories Project
Primary Investigator: [[aaquark, Amy Quark]] and [[avgreen, Omiyemi Artisia Green]]
Summary: The Local Black Histories Project is a community-engaged research partnership involving W&M.