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Winter 2009

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Lisa Albrecht

Lisa Albrecht

Longtime ‘scholar activist’ engages students in social justice issues

Story by Meleah Maynard, with photo by Dawn Villella

Albrecht close-up

UB degrees PhD ’84, MA ’75 & BA ’72; Personal heroes Audre Lorde and Gloria Anzaldúa; Books she has coedited Sing, Whisper, Shout, Pray!: Feminist Visions for a Just World and Bridges of Power: Women’s Multicultural Alliances; Hobbies swimming, gardening and playing percussion in the Klezmer band, the Tsatkelahs

Lisa Albrecht was a senior in high school when she participated in her first protest, a march against the Vietnam War. But it was her experience at UB that really set her on the path to becoming the “scholar activist” she is today as an associate professor and Morse-Minnesota Alumni Association Distinguished Professor of Teaching in the University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work.

“I found my way intellectually and politically by bringing together English education and women’s studies at UB,” she explains. “I began to define myself and all my work. My writing, teaching and service have been connected to social justice ever since.”

It wasn’t just the courses that transformed Albrecht. It was the way they were taught. “Women’s studies professor Liz Kennedy used [Brazilian educator] Paulo Freire’s ideas about teaching in the classroom, which created a transformative learning environment,” Albrecht says. “My classes had always been lectures, but we sat in a circle, did critical analysis and gave each other feedback on our work. It really made sense to me.”

So much sense, that for more than two decades Albrecht, who is currently on leave to work on a book, has been using Freirean teaching philosophy in her own courses. “His work is about being an educator that creates spaces for students to discover critical consciousness,” she says. “I try to set up contexts where students can discover themselves, learn to situate themselves historically and learn to change the world.”

Albrecht isn’t using a figure of speech. She means literally changing the world. After teaching writing, as well as women’s studies, in the University of Minnesota’s General College for 19 years, she was asked in 2004 to join the School of Social Work to launch a social justice minor. In addition to learning social movement theories, students become activists as they provide a minimum of 30 hours each semester with social justice organizations.

For Albrecht, a lifelong activist who continues to work for racial and economic justice while addressing sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism, it is an incredible opportunity. “I think my worldview is very much about the notion of critical consciousness,” she says. “I run a program about the theories and practices of social justice activism. I see students reading about social justice and beginning to question their lives and histories. It’s very inspiring.”

 

UB in the News

How Donald Trump ruined the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum for actual Civil Rights leaders

An article in Newsweek about the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History, and the controversy over plans by President Trump to attend the ceremony, interviews Victoria Wolcott, professor and chair of history, who said Trump?s presence is problematic given his inability to denounce white supremacists in the wake of Charlottesville.

New downtown home for Jacobs School opens

The Buffalo News quoted UB President Satish K. Tripathi on the opening of the new Jacobs School building. "The world-class design was a sight to behold. But to gaze upon the magnificent finished product is to fully appreciate it for the breathtaking building it is."

Gum infections may increase risk for digestive tract sores

A Reuters article about a study that showed that gum infections may increase people?s risk for sores in the digestive tract that can lead to stomach cancer quotes Jean Wactawski-Wende , dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

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