Thursday, July 28, 2016

Professor Highlight 001: Jessica Ritter

Professor Highlight 001
Jessica Ritter, PhD, MSSW, BSW
How is Jessica Ritter changing the world?
Social Work.

She is a professor of Social Work on our Undergraduate campus who has been dedicated to children’s rights in the U.S., and around the world. She’s passionate about Social Work because it’s a profession committed to social justice, helping marginalized populations better function in their environment, and helping to change the environment that makes them marginalized in the first place.

When did you first realize you wanted to use your academics/career to change the world?
I was in high school when I first discovered that I wanted to help "make the world a better place." This is when I also realized that part of doing this is to become active politically, and I volunteered for my first presidential campaign. This was the beginning of my involvement in the political arena where I started making it a part of my life to follow what was happening politically, volunteering to elect people who shared my values and vision of the world, and even going down to state legislatures to testify on behalf of legislation that I support because it would be helpful to people who struggle in our country.

And then, of course, I majored in social work and became a social worker, and we are known for our drive to make the world a better place. But that is a whole other story!

How do you use your classes at Pacific to teach students to change the world in ways they’re passionate about?
When I decided to get my PhD and become a professor of social work, part of my job has been to help students become knowledgable and skilled in effecting change at both the micro and macro level, and the courses I teach focus on teaching students how to effect change at the community level and also in the political arena. This is my passion in life! I cannot tell you how gratifying it is to help students, who have no interest in this, or who find this kind of work incredibly daunting, find that they have a passion for doing social justice work at the macro level. This is what a good class can do, in my opinion. It can give students the knowledge and confidence to do something that they previously did not think they could do.

In my Social Policy & Social Justice class, students study a piece of legislation all semester and then learn to write testimony, create a one page advocacy fact sheet, and then participate in a mock committee hearing where they provide oral testimony to a panel of state legislators (this is a role play). It is great fun. Then in my Macro Social Work class, students work together on a social justice project all semester. Projects in the past have involved supporting a piece of legislation in the Oregon State Legislature by creating advocacy tools, using social media and lobbying legislators. One class worked on a bill that was successful in enabling undocumented college students in Oregon to pay in-state tuition at public universities. 

How about your personal life? What do you do outside of Pacific for social change?
In my personal life, I continue to be active politically and in my community. I am most passionate about child well-being and children's rights. I am a board member of Children First for Oregon, an advocacy organization that advocates for children at the Oregon State Legislature, particularly for children in poverty and foster youth. 

Contact Admissions to learn how you can apply for free or schedule a visit with Pacific; a University that has professors who are passionate about change.

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