Social Exclusion

The Social Exclusion Lab (So-ExL) is hosted within the Community Experiential Learning Center (CELC) and co-led by Duana Russell, OTD, OTR/L, and Parul Bakhshi, PhD, DEA (M.Phil), and supported by Mario Millsap, MSOT, OTR/L. The lab’s aim aligns closely with the vision of the center, to address issues of systemic injustices and processes of exclusion of historically marginalized communities and identify innovative ways to foster collaboration and accountability. More specifically the lab will focus on (i) Redefining relationships and establishing trust with local St Louis Community Partners through tangible projects and (ii) establishing processes to promote participatory approaches that identify synergies between various issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), climate, gun violence and occupational justice.

The student learning opportunities offered in the So-ExL are designed in collaboration with other labs and provide opportunities for students to explore innovative perspectives that future occupational therapists can build on to respond to the current challenges posed locally in Missouri, in the USA and beyond. Through engagement with our lab, we encourage students to familiarize themselves with emerging areas where we strongly believe, occupational therapists will have a major role to play in the coming decade.

To better grasp the factors ranging from community-based to individual perspectives, the lab seeks to develop innovative cross-disciplinary projects, which draw upon theories and frameworks of occupational therapy (OT) but also social psychology, human development/rights, disability studies, climate science, public policy, etc. The laboratory uses an array of complementary methodologies including surveys, focus group discussions, mixed methods and Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) to capture the complexity of social exclusion. It offers a new lens for designing equitable social programs and policies.

Examples of Projects

  1. Reframing the importance of inclusion and diversity within the climate challenge in OT
    Collaboration between So-Exl lab (CELC) and Dr. Steve Taff’s lab
    Student Project 1: Review the evidence on DE&I and OT in the past decade to outline the achievements and a shortfall of the efforts. Reflect on the gaps and where we go from here in the current context.
    Student Project 2 (in partnership with Dr. Kathryn Biesanz): Review the evidence in the realm of indigenous knowledge provided by community organizations to understand the approaches to health, healing and being well together.
  2. Global warming and gun violence: Reframing the discourse through a pragmatic perspective
    Collaboration with Dr. Stacy West-Bruce’s lab
    Student Project 3: Connecting the dots in the evidence – What do we know about the links between warming, violence and crime across the globe?
  3. Building an inclusive community garden within WashU: In collaboration with Urban Harvest
    Collaboration with Dr. Jessica Dashner’s lab
    Student Project 4: Gardening from the ground up – Defining the process for setting up a green space in partnership with local communities.

Duana Russell Thomas, OTD, OTR/L
Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy and Medicine
CELC Director
Phone: (314) 286-1625
[email protected]

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