Following the dissolution of the Cal Lutheran Women’s Resource Center and the successful implementation of a student-focused 2003-06 Irvine Foundation Campus Diversity Initiative grant of $400,000, faculty affiliated with the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and with the Ethnic Studies Program came together to discuss a new Center that would continue support for the university as an inclusive campus that values diversity in teaching, research and community engagement. The founding faculty organized around cross-disciplinary areas of expertise into five faculty working groups that initially served as the foundation of the Sarah W. Heath Center for Equality and Justice. These interconnected, interdisciplinary learning communities originally focused on bringing together faculty to collaborate on social-justice oriented events and to promote peer review and research collaboration on:
- Immigration and global cities
- Globalization and media
- Religion and global change
- Diversity and educational excellence
- Health and social change
These working groups would become the basis for the new Sarah W. Heath Center for Equality and Justice as it was established in 2007.
Several functions of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and Ethnic Studies Program—such as sponsoring events and speakers—were supported by the CEJ, while the academic minors in Gender and Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies would continue to be administered under the auspices of the College of Arts and Sciences.
The CEJ itself has subsequently evolved, especially in terms of its organizational structure, research agenda, and the services it provides on campus and to community partners in Ventura County more broadly.
Formally established in January 2007 under the directive of (then) California Lutheran University Provost Dr. Chris Kimball, the CEJ exists as an important academic resource for teaching, scholarship and programming related to social justice issues. In addition, the CEJ continues to serve as a source of mentorship and professional development for student leaders through its Student Program Coordinator and Student Internship positions.
The CEJ's current staff includes a Director and two Student Program Coordinators who have the support of a Faculty Steering Committee comprised of over 20 faculty from throughout the undergraduate and graduate programs of the University.