John Soden was first introduced to Martin Luther King Jr. at Syracuse University in King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
"It changed something in me, the concerns I had about it and it didn't become a sort of thing to go about and tinker with," said Soden. "I wanted to see a substantial change in very ethically and informed ways."
Coordinator Dr. Nancy Boxill said Soden and the other students not only study the civil rights leader's legacy, but are carrying it on in their own communities. Soden is active in education reform and founded the Connection School of Houston. Boxill lists the other issues important to King:
"The students come to us already very much engaged in their own communities and doing important policy and social change work," said Boxill. According to Soden, "The point is that, that legacy he left for us is an ethical inquiry as to what kind of reforms are we doing locally, internationally, all of these kinds of things and then the impact that he has on us."
The Union Institute program is believed to be one of very few scholar/practitioner models nationally with an emphasis on Martin Luther King Jr.