“It’s Not a Classroom, It’s a Community”: LSJ 322 and Its Far-Reaching Effects

Submitted by Devon Pimentelli on

Every winter, Professor Angelina Godoy teaches LSJ 322: Human Rights in Latin America. While the course name describes the topics covered, the course does so much more than provide an overview of the academic literature on the topic.

Motivated by the diversity of student experiences, interests, and learning styles, Professor Godoy offers students the option of a more traditional classroom experience as well as the practicum, a “hands-on experience where students work closely with an immigrant-led organization, ‘La Resistencia.’” The practicum offers a chance to learn from those who are directly leading the movement for migrant justice.

Motivated by the belief that struggles for human rights are best taught by those directly engaged in human rights work, Godoy first implemented the practicum in 2019. As Alex, a student and peer facilitator for the course explained, grassroots organizers and leaders have more firsthand experiences within the work than do many academics. As a result, learning from them in addition to academic writers lends itself to a more holistic learning experience.

Many things have changed since the first iteration of the practicum. Today, more than one-third of Godoy’s class participates in the practicum option. This growing involvement allows for a tailored practicum experience – both for the students and the partner organization. As Alex explained, practicum tracks are created by needs identified by La Resistencia and by student interest. This year, this culminated in six different groups: aiding with policy (notably HB 1047), investigating environmental conditions, planning solidarity days, curating social media, fundraising, and working on the “free them all” campaign.

For Keira, a student assigned to the “free them all” committee, practicum work meant meeting with La Resistencia, working with her committee peers, visiting the capitol to explain the importance of improving conditions at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) to her legislators, and attending Solidarity Days outside the NWDC. Keira explained how, in doing this work, she “didn’t feel like a student just sitting in a classroom, but someone who was actually taking charge in what [she] believed in and had the tools and support to enact change.” LSJ 322 was Keira’s first foray into social justice activism, but after the practicum, will not be her last.

Similarly, Alex explained that "… it’s really powerful to go out into the field and see what we are learning about.” Alex’s sentiments are informed by his two-time enrollment in the course – both as a student and a TA. In the past two years, he has come to recognize that LSJ 322 is “not a class, but a community,” one that continues to persist long after the course has ended: “Each time the class concludes, folks continue to organize and participate in activism, like creating the RSO, Liberated Voices, or staying active on our discord community.”

Last week, Keira and her peers launched an RSO meant to liaison between the University of Washington and Human Rights’ Organization, La Resistencia. If you are interested in getting involved in the RSO you can join the Discord channel here. If you are interested in exploring other relevant RSOs, please see the list below. And if you would like to be part of this incredible class (and community) experience, keep an eye out of LSJ 322 – offered every Winter Quarter by Professor Godoy.


Related Registered Student Organizations

    • La Resistencia UW: Student-led organization working towards defending immigrant rights.
    • Liberated Voices Washington: Student organization committed to upholding the rights of all individuals within Washington State, regardless of documentation status.
      • Instagram: @liberatedvoiceswa
    • Never Again Action: Jewish student and ally group fighting for migrant justice (“We are Jews taking direct action with immigrations and allies against ICE and their enablers).
      • Instagram: @never_again_action
    • Nikkei Student Union at UW: Japanese American student group who often collaborates with and are allied with migrant justice organizations (“Fostering a sense of community and cultural unity for Japanese American students at the University of Washington”).
      • Instagram: @nsu_uw