Justice, Spirituality and Education Conference to address equality in the classroom

Biola will host the Justice, Spirituality and Education Conference on Saturday, March 31.

Katie Nelson and Katie Nelson

Teachers, students and others who work toward social equity will flock to the Justice, Spirituality and Education Conference at Biola to learn about the importance of integrating social justice into the school system on Saturday. Sponsored by Biola’s School of Education, the all-day event is free for students. It aims to find a solution for the division that currently exists between education and freedom.

“The impetus behind this conference is to build a greater awareness in academia and social justice,” said David Costillo, recruiting and community relations director. “We have something as believers that compels us to seek social justice.”

The keynote speaker for the event is Mary Simpson Poplin, a professor of education at Claremont Graduate University. Poplin has an extensive background in working toward social justice, especially in the realm of education — including a period during which she worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India. Costillo describes Poplin as a “very dynamic woman” who became a Christian in her 40s and has been actively integrating education and equality ever since.

Conference focuses on equality in classrooms

This idea of unifying education and justice is the focal point of the JSE Conference, according to Ogechukwu Ibem, a Ph.D. student at Biola’s School of Intercultural Studies, who will be leading a seminar at the conference.

“It’s an opportunity to show people … what it’s like to have equality in the classroom,” Ibem said. “Everybody in the classroom should be free.”

In addition to Poplin’s opening and closing sessions, there will be multiple paper presentations led by many different people, including Costillo and Ibem, that will go more in depth on topics relating to education and social justice.

“[I’ll] be looking at how have different theologians written on things related to living spiritually,” Costillo said of his presentation.

Ibem will also be investigating a different facet of the conference topic.

“I’ll be speaking on multiculturalism, justice, peace and spirituality,” he said.

Chapel credit offered for students who attend

The conference will begin at 8 a.m. with registration and a continental breakfast, followed by Poplin’s keynote address at 9 a.m. The paper presentations will be held from 10 a.m. to noon, at which time there will be a lunch break, and it will continue from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The conference will conclude with a closing statement from Poplin.

The conference will be held in Mayers Auditorium from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Students may register online up until the day of the event. The conference costs $115 for non-Biola attendees but is $20 less for Biola faculty and is free for Biola students. Chapel credit will be offered.

Ibem hopes that students will take the time out of their weekends to come to the event.

“I believe that students at Biola … are going to learn [at the conference] that education belongs to everybody,” he said. “They are learning that God cares about education.”

Costillo estimates 100 people will show up to the conference, and emphasizes the fact that students who are not education majors can still benefit from attending.

“We want students to come and be ready to learn,” Costillo said. “[We want] to help them be a better participant where God is calling them to serve, whatever their major is.”

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