Distinguished teacher Michele Rountree inspires social work students and students across campus to be curious and to use their voices for social change.

Midway through the fall 2020 semester, a group of social work graduate students logged in to their Foundations of Social Justice online classroom. Small, uniquely decorated boxes could be seen in each student’s video frame. Professor Michele Rountree had asked them to create “culture chests,” an assignment created by her former colleague at Arizona State University. Inside of the box, students were instructed to place five items – art, jewelry, pieces of clothing, etc. – that represent how their social identities (in regards to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, social class, nationality, age or size) influence how they perceive the world. Students adorned the outside of the box with words, pictures and drawings that represented how others view and treat them based on these social identities. The box is meant to symbolize how our humanity is often restricted to a box, Rountree says.

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