Justice and Urban Studies Team

Incoming Honors College Freshmen at ACU have the opportunity to experience a new style of hands-on learning while helping build relationships and a sense of community in the southeast Dallas area. 

The Justice and Urban Studies Team (J.U.S.T.) program is a degree plan that brings together ACU students and the CitySquare program in Dallas. The program enhances learning as apply their knowledge and talents to the problem of urban poverty. ACU is committed to programs like J.U.S.T. that demonstrate innovation and provide real world experiences to develop leaders who can make real change in the world.

Recruited from the ACU Honors College population, fifteen first-year students will engage in this pioneer program each school year and will continue their participation over the course of their three-year degrees. Each successive year will incorporate a greater degree of interaction with CitySquare than the preceding year and will allow students to integrate theories learned in the classroom with practice in the real world. This novel approach to learning will develop leadership abilities in the students and help prepare them more effectively for the rigors of the real world.

Year One

During the first year in the program, students will take 15 credits per semester, along with four day trips to the CitySquare location in the fall semester and four overnight trips to the location in the spring semester. These trips will increase the students’ awareness of CitySquare’s mission and strategies to alleviate poverty in southeast Dallas. After their first year of studies at ACU’s Abilene campus, the students will spend ten weeks of their summer interning for AmeriCorps through CitySquare. These internships will provide valuable experience and help students apply their skills and knowledge to meeting critical needs in the community and helping foster community strength and unity. These AmeriCorps/CitySquare internships will give students the understanding they need to make a large impact on poverty in southeast Dallas and beyond.

After the first year, students have the option to discontinue the program and continue on at ACU in a traditional track. However, students who continue on with the team will spend their second year living in Dallas.

Year Two

In their second year, students will take their courses at the ACU at CitySquare Learning Center on the second floor of CitySquare’s location in downtown Dallas. ACU will provide housing and a meal plan. Each semester, students will again earn fifteen credit hours. For some of their courses, professors will give them research guides in their chosen fields of study at the beginning of the semester. Students will then pursue independent learning via various resources found in Dallas and online and will apply their learning to their situation in Dallas, thereby helping to further CitySquare’s mission as well as their own education. They will be required to return to ACU’s main campus four times each semester to communicate with professors. During those visits, they will discuss their research progress and share experiences with students who are in their first year of the J.U.S.T. program. During the summer, students will spend six weeks studying in England, Spain, and Ghana in a program called “Poverty Along the Meridian,” which will allow them to gain a global perspective on poverty and earn six credit hours.

Year Three

Third-year students will find themselves back in Abilene. They will be encouraged to collaborate with new first-year students who have just entered the program, fostering growth and development and giving the third-year students a chance to exemplify the leadership qualities they have developed over their college career. These third-year students will receive coaching from the Honors College, helping them prepare for various graduate programs at some of the world’s top academic institutions or starting their careers.

Students completing this program will be highly prepared to exemplify Christ-centered leadership and to foster love and build unity among their neighbors, no matter where their careers take them. These highly motivated students will be agents for change in the world; their acquired skills and knowledge will empower them to find solutions for complex issues that the world faces, among them the issue of urban poverty.

1 Comment

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