New Book by Pitzer Professor Tessa Hicks Peterson Explores Connections Between Student Development, Social Justice and Wellness

Book cover, Student Development and Social JusticeClaremont, Calif. (January 8, 2018)—Pitzer College Assistant Vice President of Community Engagement Tessa Hicks Peterson’s new book, Student Development and Social Justice: Critical Learning, Radical Healing, and Community Engagement, weaves together critical components of student development and community building for social justice to prepare students to engage effectively in community-campus partnerships for social change.

Published by Palgrave Macmillan, Student Development and Social Justice brings scholarly theories to life with lessons learned from more than a decade of working with community-based programs at Pitzer. In the book, Hicks Peterson shares tangible examples of Pitzer’s community-engagement practices, including program designs, syllabi and policies.

“This book shows how we can put theory into practice,” said Hicks Peterson, who is the faculty director of Pitzer’s Community Engagement Center and an associate professor of urban studies. “It’s written to be a useful guide for a variety of practitioners.”

Those practitioners include students who are engaging in community and activist work; faculty whose courses incorporate community engagement, social justice or personal wellbeing; administrators interested in creating and evaluating community-engagement programs; and community organizations who want to partner with colleges in their pursuit of social justice.

Donald W. Harward, the director of the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Bringing Theory to Practice project, says that Hicks Peterson thoroughly explores the connections among action research, community engagement, and individual and community wellbeing.

“She builds upon the work of Paulo Freire and John Dewey—connecting those theoretical foundations to community-based actions and strategies—making a significant new contribution,” says Harward, who is president emeritus of Bates College.

One of the unique features of this contribution is its focus on the relationship between activism and wellness. Hicks Peterson says community-engagement literature traditionally keeps personal healing and wellness at arm’s length—and vice versa.

“This book brings these worlds together,” she says.

Both those worlds can play a significant role in student development. During their college years, students are exploring their sense of self and their own positionality—their power, privileges, disadvantages, biases—in relation to others, Hicks Peterson says. This work is crucial to being able to “enter with honesty and integrity into complicated conversations” with each other and the wider community. And it demands compassion, for ourselves and others.

Ultimately, she hopes this book will contribute to the creation of Martin Luther King’s vision of “a beloved community.”

“Martin Luther King talks about agape, or the love ethic—love for another and love for where we could be together as a society,” Hicks Peterson said.

Tessa Hicks PetersonTessa Hicks Peterson is assistant vice president of community engagement, faculty director of the Community Engagement Center and assistant professor of urban studies at Pitzer College. She teaches courses in Social Change and Community-based Research with the Pitzer in Ontario program. Peterson earned her MA and PhD in cultural studies from Claremont Graduate University and her BA in psychology, sociology and Spanish from University of California, Santa Cruz. For more information about her work and Student Development and Social Justice, please visit

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit

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