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University Welcomes 5th Annual Rev. Dr. MLK Distinguished Speaker in Social Justice

In hosting the 5th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Speaker in Social Justice, the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion welcomed Dr. Anthony Abraham Jack as the 5th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Speaker in Social Justice, on Wednesday, Jan. 25 via Zoom. Jack is a sociologist and Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard University,

The President’s Advisory Council is tasked with selecting a speaker every year who will help advance critical dialogue on campus.

President Patrick Leahy, Ed.D., opened the floor for the event by anticipating the impact of Jack’s presence, “Dr. Anthony Jack words should be particularly relevant to all educators at Monmouth University. If I know his background correctly, he will challenge us to think of ways in which we go beyond just having access and inclusion but, more importantly, genuine belonging among all of our students.”

The event’s dialogue was moderated by Claude Taylor, Professor and Center for Student Success’ Director for Academic Transition and Inclusion. Both Taylor and Jack directed the conversating and discussed how class divides on college campuses create barriers to academic success, which is also the subject of Jack’s book, The Privileged Poor.

The Privileged Poor was named the 2018 recipient of the Thomas J. Wilson memorial prize by the Harvard University Press.

Throughout the discussion, Jack detailed his inspiration for writing the book, along with his research methods.

“The story of low-income and first-generation college undergraduates is an incomplete one. I wanted to share the story, the right way, through my students,” began Jack.

According to Jack, the need to tell this story encouraged him to reach out. “I wanted to hear students’ voices, so I knew interview would be key.”

Zaneta Rago-Craft, Ph.D., Director of the Intercultural Center and Advisor to the President on Diversity and Inclusion, explained that Jack’s book was one of the reasons as to why he was chosen as this year’s distinguished speaker.

“Dr. Jack’s recent publication, The Privileged Poor, felt particularly timely given current economic and financial uncertainty, and the long standing issues surrounding college affordability…The engaged participation we witnessed showed that the speaker was able to connect with the audience and deliver a powerful message,” Rago-Craft said.

“Anthony Jack delivered remarks that raised critically important issues of economic inequality and insights into the lives of low-income and first-generation college students at elite colleges and other colleges like our community at Monmouth,” concurred Taylor.

He added, “Events like this provide an opportunity for students, faculty, employees, and our surrounding communities to think critically about what work lies ahead for us to fulfill our mission.”

Nayeli Conill, a junior communication student, gave an example as to one of the insights she took away from the event.

“I learned that colleges have more students from the top 1 percent than the bottom 60 percent. Moreover, there is a difference between first-generation students who are admitted to college vs. those who actually finish,” said Conill.

Rago-Craft emphasized the need to invest in conversations like this one, “They serve as a reminder of the ongoing struggle and importance of continuing the work of leaders like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.– especially as it pertains to racial and economic justice.”

“In order to cultivate a community of justice and care, more people need to understand how unequal America is,” closed Jack.