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Future Shock

Soul Schools in the Windy City: 21st Century Change Agents

University Business, Jan 2010

Chicagoans are disappointed the Windy City was voted out of the 2016 Summer Olympics. That being said, Chicago higher education can take pride in its remarkable commitment to social justice, and as the home of a community organizer who has taken his place as a global leader.

Indeed, Chicago plays host to several world-class professional psychology institutions—schools with a soul and a mission of social equity. Consider the Adler School of Professional Psychology, the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Argosy University, and Roosevelt University.

Founded in 1952, the Adler School of Professional Psychology was originally charted to advance the principals of Alfred Adler within the context of professional psychology practice. To this end, the Adler School continues the pioneering work of Alfred Adler by producing socially responsible practitioners, effecting community engagement, and promoting social justice—producing professional psychologists in pursuit of improving the human condition.

Adler School has developed a high level of connectivity to human service and health and social welfare organizations at the grass roots level by partnering with community based organizations, highlighting a broad spectrum of programs and services for disadvantaged populations. From forming an Adler Institute on Social Exclusion and the Adler Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, to the deployment of art therapy as a contextual solution for violence prevention, Adler has a high level of community programming and commitment.

Founded in 1945 as Chicago's first social justice university, Roosevelt was created to address access for racial and ethnic minorities who live and work in the Midwest's melting pot—the City of Chicago.

With a main campus in Chicago and branch campus in Vancouver, Adler offers its students cross-cultural service learning experiences in Costa Rica and Mexico. President Ray Crossman describes how "these challenges call for a new way of seeing, a willingness to ask difficult questions, an understanding of diversity, difference, and disadvantage, and the skills to generate community-based solutions on multiple levels and from multiple perspectives."

As the nation's largest freestanding professional psychology school, the Chicago School of Professional Psychology can boast about its campus in Chicago and its new campuses in Southern California with programs in international psychology, business psychology, and police psychology. We learned from President Michael Horowitz that the Chicago School's model is rooted in the belief that the professional model of (psychology) education must be grounded in innovation, service, and community.

Paradoxical though it may seem, social justice is big business in American higher education. Enter Argosy University, a fast growing institution of higher learning with its main campus in Chicago and branch campuses in 12 states and 19 locations. What is distinctive if not unique about Argosy is that the university operates a well-respected and well-recognized professional psychology program in its status as a large, national for profit learning organization. With a focus on the scholar-practitioner, Argosy unites the classroom and community and is committed to preparing students in clinical and community settings where they become leaders is everything from marriage and family therapy counseling to forensic psychology.

Founded in 1945 as Chicago's first social justice university, Roosevelt was created to address access for racial and ethnic minorities who live and work in the Midwest's melting pot—the City of Chicago.

Deeply rooted in practical scholarship and principals of social justice and civic engagement, Roosevelt features its own Neuropsychological Society, and importantly is raising awareness for children and families wellbeing through its Child and Family Studies Program. Ingrained in the Roosevelt community is the interdisciplinary Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation. President Chuck Middleton reflects on RU's mission: "It is irrefutable that every member of the community, both those on campus and our alumni and friends elsewhere, desire us to be faithful to our founding commitments to social justice and high academic quality. I know that it is my personal desire in everything I do to ensure that we are."

Uncommonly, these several schools of psychology and social justice have experienced significant increases in student enrollment interest, both within Chicago and beyond. Through graduate programs at the master'ss and doctorate levels, professional schools of psychology are now preparing scholar-practitioner faculty to train the next generation of professional psychologists.

Gone are the days of aspiring psychology students spending their time in classrooms, libraries and traditional clinical practicums. Contemporary psychology programs recognize that achievement of meaningful social justice can no longer rely on private practice to help one client at a time—but must address the systemic problems of urban poverty, social welfare, and community mental health.

James Martin and James E. Samels, Future Shock columnists, are authors of Turnaround: Leading Stressed Colleges and Universities to Excellence (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). Martin is a professor at Mount Ida College (Mass.) and Samels is president and CEO of The Education Alliance.