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News article

York St John student wins social justice prize for design inspired activism

Published: 02 November 2021

  •   Awards
  •    Students
Alissa Morgan with IJS prize

York St John University continues to put social justice at the heart of its teaching, as it announces the first Institute for Social Justice Student Prize winner. 

The Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) was established in 2020 to promote research that exposes and addresses inequalities across society. This year the ISJ launched their Student Prize to showcase the ways in which graduating students have engaged with social justice issues and initiatives. Graphic Design student Alissa Morgan is the 2021 winner for her work as a ‘design activist’. 

Throughout her graphic design course, Alissa combined her passion for design with a desire to make a difference.  

Alissa said: “I became obsessed with learning about what was happening in the world, and what I could do to help.” 

Alissa’s degree work largely focused on women’s rights, with one of her first design activist projects a nuanced, creatively-charged timeline on the history of the British suffragette movement in the past 150 years. Her current projects aim to disrupt inequalities and platform injustices so they cannot be ignored.  

Alissa said: “Social equality is something that must be targeted head-on, specifically by those with a position of power. In a society that has seen huge shifts in focus towards activism, it’s about time the Art and Design sector follows suit and uses its power to make a difference. 

“It means the world to me to win the ISJ Student Prize. I’ve been doing ‘Design Activism’ since my first year at YSJ, simply because I was passionate about making a change. It’s inspiring to see so many people that are interested in my work, and that want to change the impact they have on the world. It’s so important that everyone plays their part.” 

Director of the Institute for Social Justice Proffessor Matthew Reason said: “We are aware that one of the biggest social justice impacts that the University will have is through the future choices and careers of our graduates. It is for this reason that we launched the Institute for Social Justice Student Prize. 

“Alissa’s work focuses on challenging and confronting issues relating to social and environmental justice through the power of graphic design and visual communication. We wish her all the best for the future and are sure she will help bring about the change that we all wish to see in the world.” 

The ISJ’s blog page features an in depth look at the winning design work, written by Alissa herself. Read more about Alissa's winning work.

With a collaborative approach, the ISJ enhances the University’s work in tackling societal challenges and gives students the opportunity to incorporate these motives in their studies. For more on the Institute’s work, the ISJ blog and the ISJ podcast (available on Spotify) includes engaging content and powerful discussions. This week and in conjunction with COP26, there will be a daily blog post from a student or member of staff on the theme of climate justice 

This follows from the ISJ’s successful bid for funding from the Natural Environment Research Council for a new project as part of the Creative Climate Connections programme. Suitcase Stories’ will involve a climate change researcher and storytellers working with young people from two West Yorkshire schools to develop storytelling performances that communicate lived experiences of climate adaption from around the world. 

Visit the Institute for Social Justice main webpage for more information, upcoming events and details of active researchers.  

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