Justice and Anti-Oppression

At its founding, HECUA brought together social justice activists from the predominantly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous community of North Minneapolis with undergraduate students and faculty from historically and predominantly white institutions to unite in solidarity and pedagogy around the realities of urban poverty. During HECUA’s five decades of operation as a nonprofit organization, we have strived to center racial and economic equity in all our practices, while navigating the challenges of systems designed to uphold the status quo of white supremacy. You’ll find a brief summary of our efforts below.


HECUA’s pedagogy is rooted in interdisciplinary, integrated, experiential, and holistic learning. This requires self-reflection, diverse experiences, and praxis (theory plus action). Our programs value non-dominant and non-Western approaches to learning. Our students experience a variety of ways of knowing including but not limited to Indigenous, feminist, and oral traditions alongside rigorous academic theory. In the tradition of Paulo Friere and other critical pedagogues, we understand our students, teachers, and community members are co-learners and co-creators. 


HECUA is part of a long tradition of social justice, and we connect our students to the current movements through internship placements with organizational partners and field experiences with justice advocates. We ask our students to be active changemakers in communities, engaged in working against oppression and building liberatory futures in reciprocity with community partners.

Organizational Practices 

HECUA’s commitment to Justice & Anti-Oppression continues to evolve. Our former Anti-Racism Committee has been renamed the “Truth, Reparations, Conciliation, and Intersectionality Committee” (TRCI, affectionately called “tricky”). HECUA embarked on an internal framework assessment,  supported by our strategic plan, to center equity in all of our programs, partnerships, and enrollment processes, in addition to our internal policies for human resources, finance, and operations.

  • Truth: HECUA acknowledges our history in the United States, in Minnesota, and abroad. For example, we practice Indigenous land acknowledgements.
  • Reparations: HECUA works for material change in conditions to repair past harms. For example, we offer scholarships for racial justice.
  • Conciliation: HECUA strives to be in right relationship, to mitigate current harm, and to address power dynamics. For example, our US students visit the sacred sites around Bdote.
  • Intersectionality: HECUA recognizes the interconnectedness of identities and systems. For example, all HECUA programs feature thematic interweavings of people in place.


“When I returned to the University of San Francisco after being abroad in New Zealand, I had a clearer path of how I wanted to pursue the rest of my studies. I began taking more special topic classes that focused on environmental justice, advocacy, and diversity. I also joined the executive board of the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Students for the Environment, an on-campus club whose mission is to integrate diverse voices into our environmental department. HECUA’s Culture and Environment program gave me the tools to advocate for BIPOC presence in nature and nature accessibility.” – Reanna Lacosta, HECUA New Zealand, fall 2019

In just the last 20 years, over 3,000 students have been steeped in HECUA’s radical pedagogy. From fall 2017 to summer 2019, more than 25% of our students were BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and 4% were trans/nonbinary/genderqueer. 

HECUA offers additional support to undocumented and/or BIPOC students through targeted scholarships as well as payment plans and discounts for high need students. (Contact ap@hecua.org if you would like more information.)

For stories of student experiences, including those of underrepresented students, first generation college students, genderqueer students, and BIPOC students, read more on the HECUA blog.

HECUA students have partnered with over 750 community organizations involved in social justice movements across the globe. We prioritize partnerships and internship placements at organizations centering BIPOC communities. 

All HECUA programs bring community experts into the classroom, and bring students to community sites as part of the curricula, and we compensate these guest speakers and hosts for their time and expertise. As with our community partnerships, we prioritize the participation of experts from BIPOC communities.

Our consortium members, including Augsburg, Knox College, University of San Francisco, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and UMN Morris, are among the leaders in colleges and universities serving underrepresented students.

For more insight into  our academic partnerships and commitment, see HECUA’s 2018 public statement of Truth, Race, and Reconciliation. 

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