Culture and justice lecture series brings the world to helping profession majors

For six years now, California Baptist University has hosted a Culture and Justice lecture series for its College of Behavioral and Social Sciences students. The series was originally intended for faculty but was opened to students due to the vision of Dr. Jacqueline Gustafson, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, who focuses on giving students in the helping profession real world testimony  from professionals.

The lecture series went to a virtual format in 2021 due to COVID-19 regulations. As for 2022, the lectures have resumed an in-person format. Each academic year offers four to six speakers, but 2022 will have four speakers. The series has had an average attendance of 300, consisting of behavioral and social science students, faculty and community affiliates.

Dr. Antonio Mejico, speaker recruiter and professor of social work, said that this series allows for students to “interact with local, global and national experts who are serving in the field of the helping professions.”

“We’re very deliberate about who we invite to campus because we also want professionals that are living their purpose and are ideal role-models for professional service delivery, as well as humble and inspiring individuals that are also connected with our Christian values,” Mejico said.

With this careful deliberation comes speakers with a slew of accomplishments on their resume. The next speaker on Feb. 24 is Keri Lyn Coleman, who previously served as acting administrator for the Drug-Free Communities Support Program (DFCSP) at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). In addition to her time in the White House, Coleman started her business on consultations for data analysis to advise on issues such as substance abuse.

“It could be a little scary (for students) to meet someone who’s worked in the White House and set national policy and wonder what they might say with their impressive bio,” Mejico said. “Our speakers come in very humble and say, ‘But we started as undergraduate sociology, social work or psychology majors’— that they were you. It gives students an opportunity to see really successful examples of professionals and realize that is them in the future.”

Kaylee Porter, junior psychology major, said that the lectures applied to all different aspects of the “helping professions” to help prevent future societal issues and give insight as to ways to solve present ones.

“From my experience, the Culture and Justice lectures are very informative and insightful with regards to certain real-world issues I never knew existed,” Porter said. “The lectures are led by passionate and ambitious individuals in search of a change to better our world. As a psychology major, it’s interesting to see the things we learn every day in class applied to the real world.”

Selah Kelley, junior sociology major, said that the lectures are an important extension of her classwork. She cited one of the lectures by previous speaker Damien O’ Farrell, CEO of the Parkview Legacy Foundation and CBU alumnus, on the sociological impact of the pandemic as an example. She said that hearing about how the pandemic affected things such as income and healthcare, and looking at it through the sociological lens of gender, race and ethnicity was important.

“It gives us a chance to learn from different people in the field that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn from otherwise,” Kelley said. “The professors here at CBU are wonderful, educated and great, but it’s an awesome chance to learn from people active in the community and professors from other universities all over the country.”

The last two lectures for the 2021-22 academic school year are taking place on Feb. 24 and March 31. The final speaker is Dr. Stephanie Baugh, a specialist in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion, who will be speaking about how this role is growing nationally as well as its importance in the current climate. Students outside of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences can attend by emailing Mejico at amejico@calbaptist.edu.

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