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Humanics

Director

Justin MyersJustin Sean Myers is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Fresno State.  He received his PhD in Sociology from The Graduate Center - The City University of New York, his MA in Sociology from San Diego State, his BA in Sociology from Sonoma State, and his AA from Santa Rosa Junior College. His research utilizes qualitative and historical methods to examine how marginalized communities are organizing against environmental and food inequities.  This scholarship has appeared in Environmental Sociology, Geoforum, and Agriculture & Human Values.  Other work on food and environmental politics has appeared in Twenty Lessons in Environmental Sociology and Twenty Lessons in the Sociology of Food and Agriculture.  He is currently writing a book on the food justice movement in Brooklyn. 

Dr. Myers began teaching at Fresno State in the fall of 2018. He teaches many of the core courses for upper division sociology majors, including Contemporary Sociological Theory, Social Classes & Inequality, and Qualitative Research Methods. Social Movements, the Sociology of Food, and the Sociology of Work and Labor are elective courses Myers teaches.

Myers is excited to now also lead the Humanics Program as the director and answers some questions to get to know him better. 

Director FAQ


I examine the conflicts emerging between activists, community-based organizations, corporations, and the state over how to define social justice, frame the roots of injustice, and put forth concrete solutions to realize a just and sustainable society.  In particular, I analyze the mobilizing grievances, political opportunity structures, resource mobilization capacities, and political tactics (routine, contentious, or market) of social movement actors, inquiring as to how these aspects shape their ability to base build, form coalitions, and flex power. My primary research project is focused on East New York Farms! (ENYF!), a longstanding food justice organization in the Black, Caribbean, and Latinx community of East New York, Brooklyn, and analyzes their efforts to build a community food system premised on farmers markets, urban farms, and market-oriented community gardens to address a legacy of social, economic, and ecological disinvestment.  This work has engaged with the conflict between non-profit organizations and philanthropic funders, the relationship between community gardening and municipal disinvestment, the role of the state in supporting farmers markets in low-income communities, whether Walmart can be a solution to food inequities, and the role of redlining and planned shrinkage in producing communities with inequitable food relations.​

Prior to taking over as Director of the Humancis program I have given guest lectures in several of the courses in the program since I arrived on campus in Fall 2018.  Through these experiences I have come to understand the importance of Humanics to students, the university, and the wider community in the valley and so I am excited to become director of the program.  

Humanics has a long history of building the leaders of tomorrow in the San Joaquin Valley and supporting community-based initiatives that seek to address the multitude of social, economic, and environmental inequities affecting valley residents.  As director I want to continue this proud legacy of growing and strengthening the valley’s CBO community and their efforts to create a more just and sustainable society for everyone who lives here.  From my study of and experience with environmental justice and food justice movements, it is clear that addressing inequities requires supporting the efforts of communities to address the inequitable power relations producing such inequities, which entails building strong leaders who can mobilize people and resources to address those inequities. Humanics exists to build such leaders. 
 
I especially want to thank the program’s former leaders, Dr. Matthew Jendian and Don R. Simmons, for all the years they have spent building Humanics into what it is today as well as the financial support of the community, the Whitney Foundation, and the Office of the President at Fresno State, for their contributions have created a sound financial footing for the program that will enable an even brighter future for Humanics moving forward.

As director I will pull upon my experience on the steering committee for the Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership at Marist College, where I worked collaboratively with students, faculty, staff, administration, and the community to bridge university-community divides, leverage institutional resources to address community needs, and expand the power of community-based service learning courses.  I will also draw upon my expertise as a scholar of and participant in food justice and environmental justice movements to leverage the resources of Humanics to continue our support of power-building CBOs in the valley.  One way I foresee doing so is through expanding our investment in community-based participatory action research projects to ensure the work of Humanics is building up existing community efforts.
 
I am eager to start reaching out to CBOs in the valley to get started on the next phase of Humanics.  I am also looking forward to connecting with existing Humanics students to discuss their goals and dreams and find ways to strengthen a program that aims to cultivate in students the skills for successful CBO leadership.  For me, achieving such a purpose entails building stronger relationships with programs, departments, and colleges across campus so that more people are aware of the benefits that Humanics can realize for the valley, for without a strong pipeline of future students Humanics would not be able to fulfill its motto of “Exceptional Leaders, Enhanced Organizations, & Enriched Communities.”

I want people to know that Humanics is here to strengthen the ongoing efforts to make Central California a more just and sustainable place in which to live, work, and play.  Humanics cultivates in students the skill-set necessary to lead organizations that help their communities address the problems facing residents.  Each class in the program teaches students the capacities they need to achieve these ends, including how to develop, write, and evaluate grants to fund organizations, how to create grants to fund other organizations, how to recruit and manage volunteers and staff, and how to enhance the organizational capacity and sustainability of organizations.
 
Humanics courses are unlike traditional lecture classes in their emphasis on collaborative team-building projects, prioritization of service-learning, partnerships with community-based organizations, and hands-on experience with philanthropic grantmaking.  Components that are designed to emulate real-world practice and application and the cultivation of abilities to tackle the problems facing society today.
 
Humanics has existed since 1998 and over those decades the program has developed lasting relationship with a multitude of organizations addressing social problems throughout Central California and graduated scores of students who are thriving at community-based organizations throughout the Central Valley.  We are always looking to cultivate new relationships with students, community organizations, and those who live in Central Valley.  If you are interested in Humanics please reach out.

Humanics has continued to pursue its mission during the shift to virtual instruction and despite the challenges that virtual instruction poses it has also brought possibilities, as students from Central Valley who could not commute to campus were able to take virtual courses.   We were therefore able to bring in new students who wouldn’t have become Humanics scholars if it weren’t for the shift to virtual.  Presently, Humanics courses are still virtual but the hope is that in Spring 2022 we can be back teaching face-to-face on campus.