Spring 2018 Courses in the Center for the Study of Public Life

Looking for interdisciplinary classes that think outside the box? Have you been engaged in community service or political action but have never studied it in a classroom? Take a class with the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life!

Introduction to Financial Accounting (ECON 127)
Meets Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:50-4:10 pm.

In this course, students learn how accountants define assets, liabilities, revenues, and expenses and where those items are placed in firms’ balance sheets and income statements. The purposes and limitations of these two financial statements as well as the statement of cash flows are considered. Students gain an understanding of the accounting numbers that appear in financial statements for inventories, depreciation, and leases; the choices given to firms in their reporting of those items; and how the use of different accounting methods for similar economic events creates challenges for analysts. Instances of questionable financial reporting and strategies that can aid in their discovery are addressed. Firms’ filings of financial statements and note disclosures with the SEC are examined throughout the course.


State and Local Government (CSPL 230)
Meets Fridays 9:00-11:00 am.

This course will cover the history of state and local government in America, the roles and functions of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches in state government, the interaction between federal, state, and local government institutions, state and local taxation and budget policies, the legislative process and how a bill becomes law in a state legislature, participation of the public in state and local government, as well as pertinent issues arising in state and local governments, with a focus on the Connecticut General Assembly.


Activism and Theories of Change (CSPL 235)
Meets Mondays and Wednesdays 2:50-4:10 pm. 

Taught by Leslie Gabel-Brett, Visiting Professor in Public Policy and former Director of Education and Public Affairs for Lambda Legal.
In this course we will explore strategies and theories of change that shape social justice movements, with particular reference to recent movements in the United States. We will discuss the benefits and risks of the many available strategies including direct action, grassroots mobilization, impact litigation, legislative campaigns, electoral campaigns and public education. When do they strengthen one another, and when do they collide? What ethical or moral questions are raised by various types of protest and communications? The instructor will draw on her own experiences as an activist for women’s rights, queer rights, and economic justice. We will also consider the strategies of other recent movements such as Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and collective action in response to the current political environment. This course will be relevant to students interested in public policy, feminism, gender and sexuality studies, and other social sciences, and will provide useful insight for future organizers and activists, lawyers, and public policy makers.


Ethnography and Design (SISP 245)
Meets Wednesdays 1:20-4:10 pm.

Exercising humility and developing methods of meaningful engagement are essential to becoming an effective ethnographer and designer. Collaboration with users provides knowledge that allows designers to imagine artifacts, places, and systems that are thoughtfully enhanced or radically new. This course rethinks power dynamics to better understand how to design both for and with other people. With successful completion of this course students will be able to demonstrate competence in developing, refining, and communicating research interests in a committed, reflexive manner. They will gain an understanding of the strategic and tactical value of design and a sense of the practical problems involved in realizing design solutions and responses that are attuned to the needs of both an institution and individual users. Students will gain experience not only in theoretically framing social and political issues as these are expressed through design, but also in understanding the methodological tools needed to translate problems into creative interventions that are user-centered and compassionate. Students will work with residents at Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH) as part of a collaborative research team, and together, student-participant teams will redesign a particular space, artifact, or service that they explore over the course of the semester.


Topics in Journalism: Storytelling and Social Change (WRCT 250M)
Meets Tuesdays 1:20-2:40 pm.

Taught by Stephen K. Friedman, former President of MTV and Emmy and Peabody award winner.
How did a TV show help reduce the rate of teen pregnancy to the lowest point in recorded history? Why did a new narrative approach to gay marriage enable the movement to go from losing 31 state referendums to suddenly winning? Storytelling, across mediums and social platforms, has the power to change behavior and shift the cultural narrative. This class will explore the nature of “effective” stories, across a wide variety of issues, that engage audiences and often prompt action. We will discuss how this process works and ways to develop social impact campaigns. Students will have the chance to question some of the leading creators/practitioners who will join as guest speakers.


Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship (CSPL 262)
Cross-listed with the Civic Engagement Certificate. Meets Fridays 1:20-3:20 pm.

This is an intro-level crash course in social entrepreneurship. We will start by defining social entrepreneurship, then we will explore the tactics and tendencies of successful social entrepreneurs. We will partially incubate a real social enterprise, learning by doing. Each session will be a combination of lecture, group work/discussion, and in-class presentations.
This course will be useful for students who want to think critically about how social change happens, launch their own projects or ventures, innovate solutions to social and environmental problems, hone their activism, and/or build practical skills. Although it is introductory level, it will be useful for students already involved with social impact organizations or entrepreneurial enterprises.


Policy and Strategy in War and Peace (CSPL 330)
Cross-listed with Government. Meets Tuesdays 1:20-4:10 pm.

This course explores how the relations, relationships, and discourse between senior national civilian and military leaders influence the development and execution of policy and strategy in war and peace. In theory, the purpose of war is to achieve a political end that sees a better peace. In practice, the nature of war is to serve itself if it is not influenced and constrained by continuous discourse and analysis associated with good civil-military relations between senior leaders. This course begins with discussion of the key foundational works to build a common understanding. It then explores how civil-military interaction influenced strategy in war and peace for each decade from the Vietnam War to the present. The readings and seminar discussions also examine how the outcomes of wars influenced civil-military relations and the subsequent peace or wars. This course lies at the intersection of international relations, history, and conflict studies. Students will gain greater understanding of how U.S. policy makers, strategy, and war interact, while honing their critical thinking and writing skills.


Topics in Education, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship: A Law and Policy Perspective (CSPL 341D)
Meets Wednesdays 7:10-10:00 pm.

Entrepreneurial ideas in education invariably raise rich questions of policy and law. Innovations in the public schools, such as charter schools, the use of student test scores (e.g., value added modeling) to evaluate teachers, and alternative pathways to the profession (e.g., Teach for America) engender deep debate and discussion in policy and legal circles. This course will explore (from both a law and policy lens) the various education reform ideas that have been instituted or debated and characterized as innovative or entrepreneurial. The course material will be framed in a way to be accessible to those with a general interest in the area of education but without a background in law and policy per se. The course will draw heavily from guest lecturers and entrepreneurs working in the field.