Published: June 7, 2017

Students entering their second year in INVST are preparing to embark on our Economic Justice Summer

We have made a significant change to the INVST curriculum!

In the wake of recent political events and in line with our longstanding commitment to inclusion, we realized we would need to change our second summer curriculum in order to authentically include everyone. Specifically, we realized that international travel would exclude undocumented CU students from being able to participate in INVST. So, in Directors' Committee we decided to change our International Summer Service-Learning Experience to a new offering that would focus on some of the same topics, but would do so INSIDE the United States, so as to include all learners. Our Curriculum Committee then took up the task of re-designing the second summer curriculum. We launched it in July 2017.

We were thrilled to have two INVST alumni, Shannon Cleary and Somer Stapleton, who accompanied our second-year INVST students on the first-ever Economic Justice Summer.

Listen to our PODCAST to hear how it went.

Here is a summary of what it included: the Economic Justice Summer began in Garden City, Kansas where immigrant workers contribute to the agricultural sector and the meatpacking industry. INVST students learned first-hand about employment opportunities and the economy in a rural setting. Then INVST traveled to Chicago, Illinois to partner with the Mexico Solidarity Network. Students stayed with host families in the North Chicago neighborhood of Albany Park, which is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the entire country, with a high percentage of foreign-born residents. The Mexico Solidarity Network exposed students to grassroots organizing on issues related to fair wages, access to affordable housing, healthcare and immigration reform.

In Detroit, Michigan, we learned from the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership about education alternatives in a post-industrial city. The Boggs Center's aim is to "help develop visionary leaders and critical thinkers who can devise proactive strategies for re-building and re-spiriting our cities from the ground up." INVST students examined economic alternatives in times of change, hosted by Rich Feldman of the Boggs Center board. Then in Omaha, Nebraska, we learned about Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids on meatpacking plants, as well as the Heartland Workers Center's efforts to defend immigrant workers in court.

Finally, in Denver, Colorado, while learning about the sanctuary movement to protect undocumented families from deportation, INVST worked with American Friends Service Committee, Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, DeLaney Farm and the Colorado Immigrant Resource Center. The learning experience concluded with students meeting elected officials at the Colorado State Capitol who shared their differing political approaches to leadership on these matters. INVST students et former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm, for example, who opposes chain migration, as well as Rep. Joseph Salazar of the State House who advocates for keeping families together.

We are thrilled to partner with some of the most innovative community organizations in order to expose INVST students to these timely topics. In the process, INVST prepares learners to be effective & responsible community leaders.

Also each summer, as always, our Climate Justice Summer helps students develop knowledge around justice, community, and leadership; and explore theories of power, privilege, oppression, democracy, and participatory engagement. They also examine historical and cultural contexts of environmental problems. 

We hope these first-hand learning opportunities that occur in community will help INVSTers develop democratic dispositions. INVST stresses collaborative & cooperative, compassionate, reflective, critical & analytical ways of being and doing. We also examine the structural causes of social and environmental problems, strive to help students develop empathy with those who are oppressed (both human and non-human), and focus on working WITH people, not FOR people, in reciprocal relationships.

Highlights of our timely Climate Justice Summer include learning about organic farming, permaculture, coal mining, extraction, rural economies, water scarcity, oil & gas, & hydraulic fracturing (fracking). We have the opportunity to camp at Delicious Orchards annually, with INVST graduate Jeff Schwartz, owner of Big B’s Organic Apple Cider.

In addition, we study the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline and learn industry perspectives on energy independence.

INVST also travels annually to Piñon, Arizona to visit the Navajo Reservation and learn about the legacy of coal mining’s impact on indigenous people. Black Mesa Water Coalition (BMWC) is dedicated to preserving and protecting Mother Earth and the integrity of Indigenous Peoples' cultures, with the vision of building sustainable and healthy communities. By working alongside BMWC on permaculture projects, INVST students are inspired by leaders who are building a green economy.

In Taos, New Mexico, our students see INVST co-founder Gaia Mika and stay with Daniel Escalante, who has created Casa Taos, an activist retreat center, with his partner Betty Artes. INVSTers study community and culture in Northern New Mexico, Native American sustainability, diversity of leadership approaches, water, and land stewardship.

Finally, INVST ends our Climate Justice Summer by meeting with lobbyists and Colorado lawmakers at the State Capitol.