Department of Social Justice & Community Studies

SJCS Banner Image 2019

Saint Mary's University is in K’jipuktuk, Mi’kma’ki, the Ancestral and Unceded Territory of the Mi’kmaq People*

The Department of Social Justice & Community Studies (SJCS) at Saint Mary's University offers students and professionals a strong interdisciplinary training to promote social responsibility and the development of active citizens. It does this by fostering intersectional knowledge and community engagement around issues such as gender and sexuality; Indigenous-settler relations, and settler colonialism; race and critical whiteness; citizenship and migration status; urban politics and histories; material conditions and resource distribution; and social organizing and organizational theory, in order to build stronger institutional and community relationships with and between diverse Indigenous peoples, African Nova Scotians, immigrant peoples, and historically settled white Nova Scotians and Canadians. Among the key ways in which SJCS at SMU builds intersectional knowledge and relationships is by fostering mutual engagement between community members, the university, and the city, and mobilizing social justice and community work on and off campus. 

The Social Justice & Community Studies Major Program is the first of its kind in the region offering this dual focus, through training in interdisciplinary and intersectional scholarship, informed access to community, and skills for public engagement on key local and global discussions, policy debates, and social movements, particularly involving unequal power relations. SJCS graduates develop critical skills in problem identification and definition, research, developing frameworks for analysis, information literacy and effective communication, and strengthening social relationships and networks. SJCS faculty are interdisciplinary scholars. The program also includes courses in English, Religious Studies, History, and Atlantic Canada Studies, and students can pair their degree with a range of other majors in the Arts, and minors in Science and Commerce.

Those interested in the SJCS Honours Program should contact the SJCS Chair for further information, and consult page 291 of the 2019-2020 Academic Calendar

The Social Justice & Community Studies Minor Program offers university students in all faculties, and social justice and community engaged professionals, the intersectional knowledge necessary to engage in problem solving, organizational work, and public deliberation in a range of complex social issues.

See Social Justice & Community Studies course options here. See also pages 291-293 of the 2019-2020 Academic Calendar

SJCS positions Students and Professionals for Future Opportunities through:

o   Social justice-informed and community-engaged training for further study in undergraduate, professional and graduate programs;

o   Training for social justice-informed and grassroots community-engaged employment in the civil service and government; politics and social policy; non-profit/non-governmental organizations; unions and labour relations; social advocacy and research; international organizations and relations; social work; education; law; journalism; medicine and nursing; socially responsible business; university and college administration. 

Meet our Social Justice & Community Studies faculty and staff here.

SJCS Department Release: March 27, 2019

We are thrilled to announce that, as of July 2019, Dr. Rachel Zellars will begin her post as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Justice & Community Studies (SJCS) at Saint Mary’s University. Dr. Zellars has a Ph.D. from the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University, a Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School, and an MA (magna cum laude) in Africana Studies from Cornell University. She is currently completing a 2 year postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of History at the University of Vermont. Dr. Zellars will enrich SJCS, the University and the region, with her interdisciplinary Black feminist work on the living history of slavery, the education of Black children in Canada, gendered and sexual violence, and disability and race, as well as her extensive grassroots and leadership experience in related community work.

For More Information on SJCS Contact Us:

Val Marie Johnson
Associate Professor, Department Chair
McNally South 203
Profile page

For general SJCS inquiries, contact


*What is now called the Maritimes are governed by the Peace and Friendship Treaties between the Mi'kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet)Nations, and the British Crown. For more information on these treaties, see the Resources provided by Cape Breton University at