Graduate students in the School of Education who founded the Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis include (front, l-r) Cameron Beatty, Lisette Torres, (back, l-r) Aja Holmes, Jessica Soulis, Kathleen Gillon, Susana Hernandez, and Joyce Lui. Contributed photo.
Graduate students in the School of Education who founded the Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis include (front, l-r) Cameron Beatty, Lisette Torres, (back, l-r) Aja Holmes, Jessica Soulis, Kathleen Gillon, Susana Hernandez, and Joyce Lui. Contributed photo.

Iowa State social justice journal to receive national award

An online journal focused on issues of social justice and published by a group of graduate students in the School of Education is barely into its second year of publication, and it’s already being recognized nationally.

Iowa State University students who founded the Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis will on March 30 receive the Exemplary Social Justice Contribution by a Graduate Student award from the Commission for Social Justice Educators at the Downtown Indianapolis Marriott.

The honor will come as part of a larger reception by the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), also known as College Student Educators International. It’s one of the largest conferences for student affairs in higher education, with about 3,000 people in attendance each year.  

“It gives us credibility,” said Cameron Beatty, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Education who is one of the journal’s founders and was editor last year. “It gives us a voice within the conversation.”  

The award honors a full-time graduate student who has demonstrated leadership and activism in the area of social justice on campus, and has been a role model for the qualities of a positive change agent in their community.

“Your nomination made very clear your commitment to social justice education on your campus and after review, we feel you are more than deserving of this acknowledgement,” award co-chairs Liesel Winchester and Jordan “JT” Turner wrote in a letter to Iowa State students.

Unique interdisciplinary journal

The Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis launched it first issue in October 2012 with a goal of providing a space for critical and progressive scholarship, practice, and activism. It provides graduate students with an alternative to getting published by more well-known journals.

“We were doing social justice work and some of the journals we wanted to get published in weren’t necessarily interested in the work that we were doing,” Beatty said. “So we were like, ‘What does this mean for us as graduate students? We need to get a job; we need to get published. Where is there a space for us that want to do critical social justice work? Why don’t we create our own?’”

Founders set out with a vision of becoming a nationally recognized journal. In a year’s time, authors have tackled issues ranging from racism in educational policy to Latino dropouts, education reform and first-generation college students. The journal is in the midst of publishing its fourth issue.

“What’s really unique about some of the things that have already been published: It’s more interdisciplinary,” Beatty said. “So it’s not just education, but we really want to look at what does social justice look like across the academy. What are people writing? What can we learn from each other?”

Beatty said journals sometimes only speak to people in their own discipline. But the Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis has an interdisciplinary editorial board and is venturing into areas such as history, English, sustainable agriculture, and sociology.

Goals for the journal include publishing more frequently, becoming more interdisciplinary, and tackling more targeted issues such as feminism.

Creating a legacy

The journal was the brainchild of former Iowa State graduate student Chad Kee, who graduated with a Ph.D. in higher education in May 2013. The vision was carried out by seven current and former graduate students — Beatty, Lisette Torres, Susana Hernandez, Aja Holmes, Kathleen Gillon, Joyce Lui, and Jessica Soulis.

All seven students have their social justice certificate, a 12-credit certificate offered by the School of Education to graduate students in all fields and disciplines. Beatty, Holmes, and Gillon will go to Indianapolis in March to receive the award.

The students started small, creating the journal from spreadsheets and an email account. The journal got a boost last fall, when it became the first student-led journal to become part of Iowa State University’s digital repository.

Some of the founders have graduated from Iowa State, but Beatty said he’s confident that the journal will continue after he and the other founders are gone.

“We were nervous about that. But none of us are on the new editorial board and we have graduate students who have bought into the vision and the purpose of the journal,” Beatty said. “We all felt like it was our baby. Now we have people who believe in it and we can pass it to them. I feel more comfortable and confident in graduating, knowing that this is probably going to last beyond me.”

KEY CONTACTS:

Cameron Beatty, graduate student, School of Education, Iowa State University, 515-294-3181, ccbeatty@iastate.edu

Lynn Campbell, communications specialist, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-3689, lynnc@iastate.edu

 

  • Quick Look

    The Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis, published by graduate students in the ISU School of Education, will in March receive a national award from the Commission for Social Justice Educators.


  • “Your nomination made very clear your commitment to social justice education on your campus.”

    Liesel Winchester and Jordan “JT” Turner