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Pitner RonThe I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice continues to grow as it remodels itself and welcomes a new endowed chair.

Dr. Ronald Pitner was named endowed chair last fall after serving in the role of director for three years. The Newman Institute is named after The Reverend I. DeQuincey Newman, an important leader in the history of social justice and poverty issues in South Carolina. “I find it an honor to follow in those footsteps,” says Pitner, “expanding his mission and effecting more positive change for various communities.” Pitner’s new role as endowed chair will still require community outreach, but now he will focus on “the more scholarly activities, [such as] promoting research and scholarship on peace and social justice.”

It is in that vein that the Newman Institute is pleased to host Dr. Llewellyn J. Cornelius for the spring Newman Lecture on February 16 at 6pm in the Capstone Campus Room. Cornelius is the Donald L. Hollowell Distinguished Professor of Social Justice and Civil Rights Studies and the Director of the Center for Social Justice, Human and Civil Rights at the University of Georgia. Lecture attendees will benefit from his years of experience in Community-Based Participatory Research, psychosocial research, and survey and evaluation research. Cornelius’s talk is titled “Why is the south the epicenter of the new HIV/AIDS Epidemic? The role of barriers to health insurance in disparities to HIV care” and will focus on “disparities in the rates of HIV/AIDS by region and race,” as well as the impact of factors such as lack of insurance and stigma. Anyone from the community is welcome to attend.

While the invited Newman lecture is a cornerstone of the Institute, Pitner has plans to expand the scope of the Institute’s offerings, beginning by introducing a new call to action each year that centers on a particular theme. Pitner lists the goals of the annual call to action as follows: “1) to have a facilitated and interactive dialogue with the university and South Carolina community during the fall semester of each year on a ‘specific call’ related to diversity, inclusion, and social justice; 2) to have members leave the dialogue fully charged with a plan for reflection and contemplation about an appropriate action to take; 3) to provide two reflective check-in meetings with dialogue participants to discuss how they are thinking about their plan for action; and 4) to culminate during spring semester with community members presenting their plan for action.”

After unveiling the year’s call to action, the Newman lecture will then become one component of a larger program. Pitner explains that the Institute will host four events, two in the fall and two in the spring. This additional programming will include student-led facilitations on social justice issues, community events and forums, as well as some collaborations with venues. For example, Pitner would love to host a film showing at the Nickelodeon Theatre followed by a facilitated dialogue. Previously, Newman Institute events have been sponsored by African American Studies, the Law School, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, and Pitner hopes to grow these sorts of campus and community partnerships.

Newman 2Beyond the calls the action, the Institute has emphases in research and training. One current research project, for example, involves working with the USC and Penn State schools of law on increasing diversity in admissions by looking at socioeconomic background and other factors. The Newman Institute also facilitates the Poverty Factor Training program and hopes to schedule more sessions in the future.

When asked about the intersection of social work and social justice, Pitner explains that in the National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics, “social justice is an integral part of it—it’s naturally a component of social work anyway.” Social justice is a core mission of social work, and Pitner teaches about it by exploring “this notion of trying to restore equity in some way.” Social justice is a broad concept, he says, encompassing race, schools, poverty, and much more. As Pitner leads the revitalization of the Newman Institute, he does so by not only thinking of poverty but also about race, gender, and other intersecting issues and identities, thus building on Newman’s legacy.

Individuals or organizations interested in sponsoring Newman Institute programming may contact Dr. Ron Pitner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Sarah Wells, development officer for the College of Social Work, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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