Student Stories of Social Justice

Talking about Teaching is York St John’s annual learning and teaching . This year, to perfectly tie in the first year of the Institute for Social Justice, the conference focused on the discussion of social justice in York St John’s curricula. As an annual academic conference, we were keen to involve students as much as possible, to reverse the relationship between academic events and the majority attendance of staff or professionals and truly incorporate the student voice. The plan was to put together a student panel, and by deciding to have student-led presentation from each academic school, I hoped to portray how YSJ has integrated social justice through a vast range of courses and extra-curricular activities across the whole university.

As the conference was being held after a student’s academic year had ended, I admit that I was initially worried that enough students were going to respond to our call for proposals. However, in true student form, once I had received one interest then many more filled my outlook inbox, and I was thrilled. By asking for a title and brief abstract of what participants wished to present, I was able to decide which was the best fit for the panel I had in mind. My aim was to have presentations discussing a range of social justice work from both undergraduate and postgraduate level – including placements, volunteering and academic work.

As the conference got closer, my nerves heightened. However, it was the meeting I had with the student presenters that made me feel at ease. Their excitement and enthusiasm reassured me that the panel was going to be a great session. One of the main things that I wanted to remind the presenters of was that I am a student myself. I recalled how at a preliminary meeting of the conference organisers in the early months of 2021, Rebecca Padgett pointed out the importance of making sure that students involved in the event held just as much standing as staff or professional hosts – and that was what I repeatedly ensured my student presenters felt and understood.

The Talking About Teaching for Social Justice Conference was hosted over a period of three days in July 2021, with the Student Stories in Social Justice panel on the very first day. I was there, ready with my laptop, at least an hour before it was due to start! As I admitted audience members from the virtual Teams waiting room, I was delighted to see the number of participants rise. I had written and re-written my introductory speech for session, but I found that when I was reading it aloud I became aware of how far I had come during the course of my internship. Prior to this opportunity, I would not class myself as an activist and had limited knowledge about  social justice. However, when I read my speech aloud, I realised I had developed a great understanding of social justice that I now recognise in my day-to-day life.

From the five different groups of students presenting, I found that each and every one of those students had also developed this conscience at least in part through the work York St John University. Whether it was the Shpresa Organisation that helps Albanian refugees that have fled to the UK, a dissertation discussing the use of discursive psychology within politics or the joint partnership with the Halo Project to support women in need, each student had learnt about social justice to a great extent during their time at York St John; and as a result, have created a community of student activists.

Below is the list of student presenters that were involved in the Student Stores of Social Justice panel. I would like to thank each and every one of you.

Bethan Waddington and Callan Gendall from the School of Arts presenting their work with Shpresa

Lauren Kelly from York Business School presenting the York St John Law clinic and access to justice.

Charlotte Corn, Amelia Noake and Gemma O’Hagan from the School of Humanities presenting their partnership project with the Halo Hub.

Penny Matthews from the School of Education, Language and Psychology presenting parts of her undergraduate dissertation into discursive psychology in politics

Olivia Bullock, Olivia Coldwell and Chelsea Stanhope from the School of Science, Technology and Health presenting examples of how social justice has impacted their understanding of existing power inequalities.


By Student Intern, Katy Harris