Justice, Diversity, and Gender Studies

Justice, Diversity, and Gender Studies (JDG) is an interdisciplinary program that both challenges systems of injustice and celebrates contributions from a diversity of perspectives. The JDG program teaches students to analyze intersecting oppressions to develop skills of advocacy and social action to become change makers, equipped to thrive in diverse, cross-cultural settings with openness and respect. Students develop skills of communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. JDG graduates are creative problem solvers and leaders who can mobilize people for common action in organizations, agencies, and communities. The program offers two concentrations, one in Gender, Sexuality, and Justice, and another in Diversity and Justice.

Our graduates work at the Child Abuse Council, Next Gen Climate Iowa, SafePath Survivor Resources (part of Family Resources), and many others.

Ambrose Advantages

  • Inspiring and Supportive Learning Community
  • Service and Social Justice Focused Education
  • Become a Vocal Agent of Change


students in beehive

Students on Campus in Fall

Your education goes far beyond simply recognizing injustice. You'll act to thwart it. With supportive and encouraging faculty, you and your peers will work tirelessly to solve problems affecting people here and now. Empowered through education and involvement, our Justice, Diversity, and Gender Studies alumni confidently step into careers and graduate studies.

More Information on Justice, Diversity, and Gender Studies

What will I learn?

Justice, Diversity, and Gender Studies majors are generally activists, driven, open-minded, compassionate, feminists, community organizers, and advocates.

Through academics, service, advocacy, and close faculty mentoring, you'll discover your abilities to promote justice and human rights.

You will develop gender sensitive solutions to human rights problems by participating in internships and service projects to raise awareness about injustices and to create positive changes our community and our world.

This major involves several other academic disciplines, so JDG courses satisfy many general education requirements. And, your skills are valued. More than 95% of our alumni work in their field of choice or attend graduate school.

Justice, Diversity, and Gender Studies gives you a framework for supporting human rights and social justice advocacy. Similarly, the Bachelor of Social Work at SAU focuses on empowering clients, families, communities, and organizations to be agents of change in the world. Elevate your skills and extend your education in our dual degree program: you can graduate in four years with a degree in Justice, Diversity, and Gender Studies and a degree in Social Work.

If you plan to pursue graduate studies, your BSW could lead to advanced standing in our accredited MSW program, which means you could earn your graduate degree in one year, instead of two. It makes your education more accelerated and affordable.

What Are My Unique Learning Opportunities?

We are active on campus and in the community. Justice, Diversity, and Gender Studies students organize events about trauma-informed care, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, LGBTQIA, body image, and eating disorders. We promote diversity during Multicultural Week and write letters for the UN Day of Peace and Justice.

We get involved and educate others by attending national conferences such as the prestigious N.E.W. Iowa Leaders seminar which teaches women how to run for public office. We bring performers and speakers from around the world – including Iran, EI Salvador, Russia, and South Africa – to campus. Through the annual Ambrosians Working for Social Justice conference, our students meet internationally recognized leader such as Native American activist Winona LaDuke, Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson, author Sheryl WuDunn, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee during the annual Ambrosians Working for Social Justice conference

We intern and serve. Work one-on-one with experts in the field. Advocate for survivors of violence at Family Resources; educate pregnant mothers about prenatal care at Edgerton Women's Health Center; listen to the stories of survivors at Winnie's Place shelter; work with students at Annie Wittenmyer School; develop a fitness plan for clients at the Center For Active Seniors (CASI); and be a force in the life of a homeless youth at The Place2B.

We bring you together. If you want to spend time with like minds, join Triota, the Women's Studies Honor Society. Or, get involved with PRISM, SafeZone, Green Dot, or join our Be The Change Learning Community as a first-year student and make an immediate impact on the lives of others.

We offer Peace Corps Prep, a program that can make you a stronger candidate for volunteer positions within the Peace Corps or other service programs. Most students can earn the certificate – awarded by the Peace Corps – without taking extra courses.

Olivia Bratt '15 was active and involved at SAU. Read this story about her experience and achievements.

Carrie Landau '96, '02 MCJ spoke to St. Ambrose students on the topic of Exploring Gender and women's issues, as well as pursuing careers in the field of criminal justice. A special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in south suburban Chicago, Landau has spent a large part of her working life battling the growing epidemic of human sex trafficking.

Click here to read how first-year WGS (which is now called JDG) students made an impact on the lives of others. 

What are some potential career outcomes?

This major can prepare you for careers in advocacy, social services, community education, and more. Some of our graduates work with immigrants and violence survivors through AmeriCorps, served in the Peace Corps, work in the federal technology sector, and are public school educators.

Our graduates also have landed prestigious scholarships, fellowships, and enrolled in top graduate programs at Washington University in St. Louis, DePaul University, and the St. Ambrose Doctor of Occupational Therapy program. More than 95% of our recent graduates are employed or have been admitted to graduate school.

What have alumni of this program done?
  • Cat Roth '15 paired her WGS (now JDG) degree with a Biology minor. She is a Doula Home Visitor at the Child Abuse Council and provides traditional labor support to clients at the hospital and prenatal and postnatal home visits.
  • Two graduates, Bernadette Muloski '12 and Jessica Pera '13, served in Americorps, supporting social justice for immigrants and survivors of violence in the U.S.
  • Emily Block '12 works for the federal government in Maryland.
  • Kyla Hadenfeldt '12 is a Support Services Therapist at Safe Connections in St. Louis, Mo.

Lisa D. Powell, PhD, Professor, Director

Mara Adams, PhD, Professor
Brett Billman, PhD, Asst. Professor
Sarah Dennis, PhD, Asst. Professor
Sarah Eikleberry, PhD, Assoc. Professor
Marianne Fenn, PhD, Assoc. Professor
Jessica Roisen, PhD, Professor
Julie Jenks Kettman, PhD, Assoc. Professor
Emily Kingery, PhD, Assoc. Professor
Keri Manning, PhD, Professor
John Stachula, PhD, Professor
Katie Trujillo, PhD, Professor
Brittany Tullis, PhD, Assoc. Professor

Degree Requirements

Minor in Justice, Diversity, and Gender Studies

The minor in Justice, Diversity, and Gender Studies requires 16 credits total, including JDG 201, JDG 325, and JDG 400-WI and 6 additional JDG or affiliate credit hours.

Click here to read course descriptions in the online course catalog


The program offers two concentrations, one in Gender, Sexuality, and Justice, and another in Diversity and Justice.

Gender, Sexuality, and Justice

The Concentration in Gender, Sexuality, and Justice offers students a breadth of knowledge around the socio-cultural formation of gender and expectations of sexuality, how these ideas developed in particular contexts, and how they became institutionalized. Students will consider how conformity to these expectations are enforced and how this impedes human flourishing. Students will study movements of liberation around sex, gender, and sexuality, and investigate ways to advance justice for those marginalized based on these identities.

Diversity and Justice

The Concentration in Diversity and Justice offers students a breadth of knowledge around the impact of public policies and social perception of human difference as it relates to access, privilege, and status. Students will study the contributions of communities historically marginalized based on race, ethnicity, disability, and sex, and the ways communities have organized and advocated for social change to promote the full flourishing of all people.

Mikka Mills '16

At St. Ambrose, Mikka discovered her deep passion for social justice. She hosted events to support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and programs to promote self-confidence and self-actualization. For all of that, and so much more, she was awarded the Undergraduate Social Action Award from the Sociologists for Women in Society. SAU’s commitment to diversity and inclusion enhanced her own sense of empowerment, Mikka said. "The space provided by St. Ambrose and the support for our programs is amazing.”

Mikka Mills Earns Social Action Award
Shannon Werhane mobile headshot Shannon Werhane headshot

Shannon Werhane

Master of Social Work,Clinical Therapist,Class of 2016

Shannon's education was about so much more than book-learning. It was about personal discovery, finding her niche, and how she can have the biggest impact. In our MSW program, you can learn how to empower people to improve their lives through their strengths and how to spark stronger communities. It is an education that can have a deep personal impact, too. Shannon calls it "eternal optimism."

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Lisa Powell, PhD, Director

Justice, Diversity, and Gender Studies
Ambrose Hall
518 W. Locust St.
Davenport, IA 52803

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