Developing a real community spirit and connection to campus is a challenge for online learners. Just getting together to discuss issues or physically work together in a group on civic engagement projects may not be seem to be possible for many online students. Yet, creating a community of socially-engaged learners is essential to the college experience. Fortunately, we live in a time where the internet can take us beyond the limits of geography.
Online Justice Studies students at UMA, and those studying at UC sites and centers, are participating in nation-wide social justice programs sponsored by the American Bar Association. The ABA's Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice is an organization of lawyers from across the country who volunteer to work on justice and human rights issues.
This academic year, our UMA Justice Studies students are working on critical legal research to support lawyers who work to prevent and prosecute human trafficking across the USA. Last year's UMA Research Team worked on tracking emerging government policies in the Trump Administration. The end result was a spreadsheet linking Obama-era legislation to proposed Trump legislation. This document in its final form was shared with the active membership of the American Bar Association at the annual meeting in New York City last August.
Each month, our UMA Research Team is invited to call in to participate on the Committee conference call. Our students are encouraged to offer their opinions on new projects, discuss their legal research with the Committee, and collaborate with lawyers in other parts of the country. We are collaborating with a group at the University of California, Irvine, Law School on this year's human trafficking project. This volunteer opportunity gives our students a chance to work closely with lawyers and law students who create national policy on pressing social justice issues. Our students build professional competence and references, contribute to important national social justice work, and never have to leave home to do it. With some creative thinking, all students can participate in civic engagement, no matter where they are.