Justice studies class leads ASU grad down new career and life path
Entering college, Rebecca Kittridge thought her path forward was clear: become a counselor or therapist. Raised on the values of empathy and service by a nurse and social worker, Kittridge was comfortable with her choice as a psychology major.
But then her “aha” moment happened her freshman year and Kittridge found herself adding a second major to her class load: Justice studies. It was the immediate connection and spark from the course “Sex, Drugs, Health and Justice” that cemented her need to do more with her college career.
“One semester freshman year, in need of some extra credits, I took a Justice Studies class called “Sex, Drugs, Health and Justice” and felt overwhelmed with an immediate shift in how I looked at my role in the world and what I wanted to pursue,” Kittridge said. “How could I be satisfied with what I can offer to struggling clients when there are so many external social conditions out of my control? How can I possibly begin to address mental health when a client is crumbling under the stress of living day-to-day life in fear, in poverty, or facing prejudice that is fundamentally linked to their position in society? What if the person that needs help can’t afford therapy? What if they are incarcerated? I added a second major of justice studies to try to answer these questions.”
Add to the mix her responsibilities as a Program Coordinator within the Sexual Relationship and Violence Program (SRVP) at ASU, where Kittridge planned many signature events for the unit, including Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the Consent and Beyond tabling fair in 2022. Additionally, Kittridge began coordinating student engagement efforts, meeting with individuals interested in working with the SRVP and developing a more comprehensive structure and procedures for incorporating interested students within the program. She also has been working closely with the Victim-Survivor Services office within SRVP, manning the phones and front desk and connecting survivors with the resources they need following traumatic incidents like sexual or physical assault.
“Being able to work more closely with survivors has been fulfilling for me and really ultimately inspired me to decide to go for law school,” Kittridge said. “I have also been assisting with facilitating a book club and have been learning and facilitating the rigorous and exciting Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA) Sexual Assault Resistance Program, which is probably one of the accomplishments I am most proud of at SRVP. It is an intense, time-consuming and emotionally taxing program to facilitate and I think I did a great job with it.”
Furthering her commitment to social justice causes, Kittridge found herself immersed in advocacy and community organizing by volunteering with organizations like the Arizona Democratic Party and Planned Parenthood. She also expanded her awareness of what social justice and psychology mean and how their intersection should be taken into consideration when crafting plans to make society a better place for all.
“After choosing my double major, I had an immense shift in perspective in terms of what I wanted to do with my life and how I viewed justice,” Kittridge said. “I began exploring the crossover of Psychology and Justice Studies by expanding my definition of justice to encompass the interlocking notions of mental health, empathy, community, and advocacy. I learned to assess the needs of communities while integrating an understanding of how personal identities and positions in society greatly affect their circumstances. I truly learned that the personal is political and there is no separating the personal and the intimate from justice and healing. This holistic conception of justice was something I developed in my time engaging in community organizing.”
With graduation near, Kittridge expounds on her time at ASU and the impact being a Sun Devil has made on her life.
Question: Why did you choose ASU?
Answer: I chose ASU because it is in the family. My father (who is a social worker) and my older sister (who is a high school English teacher) both attended and loved ASU and I followed in their footsteps. I loved that ASU is known for their inclusivity. I also was intrigued by ASU’s lively political climate and all of the opportunities nearby for community organizing.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: Dr. David Boyles, who I had for English my freshman year, is an individual I credit for so much of my inspiration and personal growth. His class had a focus on youth activism and David introduced me to joyful spaces of social justice and empowerment that allowed me to flourish throughout my college career. He opened my mind up to the true power that young activists and organizers can hold and has been an unconditional supporter of mine throughout these four years. The biggest lesson I learned from him is that we cannot hesitate to go out and make our voices heard when we see suffering and issues in our communities and in society. He helped me see that I was finally done doubting myself as someone who was capable of doing so.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: I would tell anyone still in school to be gentle with themselves and try to embrace the joy of learning and connecting with others while they are here. Let yourself rest when you need it. Do not be afraid to adjust your course of study or try different opportunities. Nothing is absolutely permanent and your future will pan out the way it is meant to. You will see why everything happened the way it did and you are worthy of all of your dreams and goals.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: My favorite spot to study was Charlie’s Café at the Design Library on Tempe campus! It was such a cool spot that not a lot of people knew about, which I liked.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I plan to continue to walk the line between fields and navigate the intersections of justice with community care and connection by concurrently pursuing my JD at the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law with my master of social work at ASU. I want to explore different fields during my time in law school but I am most interested in victim advocacy, immigration law and civil rights law. I would love to end up working somewhere where I can utilize my entire background and skillset to provide legal services for underserved communities with a focus on empathy and tackling the structural and political issues facing those communities.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would allocate that $40 million to community aid and mental health/addiction resources in communities throughout the country. In my experience with political organizing, direct action like this is often the most impactful and efficient. I also feel that most problems on our planet are not necessarily about access to money (and may not be fixable with $40 million) but are more about the allocation of power and structural issues within our societies and governments that lead to money being funneled to resources that are not actually helpful or relevant to the communities we reside in.