CSPL courses you didn’t know existed (but that you should take)

This spring, the Center for the Study of Public Life (CSPL) is showcasing several classes taught by some exciting and unusual visitors, in addition to the usual lineup of wonderful Wesleyan professors. Read on to find a potential class to add as you embark on pre-reg!

Group Psychology in Politics: Local, State, and National Perspectives (CSPL 206)
Taught by Middletown’s Mayor Dan Drew (0.5 credits, meets Friday 1:20-4:10 pm) – open to first-years!

This course is an introduction to the use of group dynamics to understand the deep personal and systems-level issues at play in the body politic. This framework is applicable at the local, state, national, and international levels. Often, if not most of the time, these issues play an outsized role in any public policy initiative, debate, vote, action, deliberation, and discourse, though they are rarely acknowledged. This class will examine group dynamics as it is practiced in the field of organizational development (OD), a branch of organizational psychology used to implement cultural changes across social systems. The application of OD to politics is not widespread, but its tools are useful in understanding the dynamics in political situations and in the understanding of how power is exercised. The course will introduce concepts in open systems theory and will introduce three models to hold the data in our case studies: the Burke-Litwin Model, BART, and GRPI.


Topics in Journalism: Writing, Wit, and the Natural World (CSPL/WRCT 250K)
Taught by Koeppel Fellow Richard Michael Conniff (1 credit, meets T/R 2:50-4:10 pm)

This course will engage students as readers and writers of essays, opinion pieces, and long form articles about the natural world. We live in the shadow of climate change and the sixth great extinction event. So when is outrage effective, and when does wit or irony allow a writer to find a more persuasive voice? What’s the role of objectivity in a world where everybody seems to be shouting? We’ll consider the work of such writers as Gerald Durell, David Quammen, Elizabeth Kolbert, and Peter Matthiessen. Students will also write regularly and collaborate together in class to critique and improve one another’s work.


Topics in Journalism: Introduction to Data Journalism (CSPL/WRCT/QAC 250L)
Taught by Koeppel Fellow Andrew Tran (co-taught with Robert Ira Kabacoff, Professor of the Practice in Quantitative Analysis) (1 credit, meets T/R 2:40-4:10 pm) – open to first-years!

This course serves as an introduction to the field of data journalism. Students will learn to apply the processes of a data scientist to journalism using the R software platform. Through case studies and practical assignments, students will gain knowledge of data journalism’s rich history and potential, while practicing modern, hands-on methods in acquiring, exploring, analyzing and reporting about data. By the end of the course, students will be able to produce polished data stories and be prepared to continue pursuing their interests in either journalism or data science.


Music Movements in a Capitalist Democracy (CSPL 333)
Taught by singer/songwriter Dar Williams
(1 credit, meets Wednesday 1:20-4:10 pm)

This course will focus on music movements that have used the presentation, expression, and production of music and music events to facilitate sociopolitico transitions. The vital context of these movements is the United States in particular, where the speed and power of commerce, as well as the concentration of capital, present unique opportunities for progressive values and goals in music.

We will look at huge events, like the Newport festivals, Woodstock, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, Lillith Fair, and Bonnaroo, and examine how these movements have both evolved and spread their tendrils into the world (if they have). We will also spend some time on smaller, grassroots venues and music series in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and New York and see how blues, folk, punk, and “Americana” venues have affected and interacted with their communities. We will look at how music scenes evolved and grew and sometimes became institutions, like the Chicago Old Town School of Music.


Topics in Education, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship: Social Entrepreneurship in Education (CSPL 341B)
Taught by Harber Fellow Bernard Dean Bull (1 credit, meets T/R 10:20-11:40 am)

This seminar focuses upon educational innovation and entrepreneurship as a form of social entrepreneurship, some of society’s greatest challenges in education. Learners will survey critical issues in contemporary education and explore innovative and entrepreneurial efforts to address these issues. Learners will explore how diverse education startups, non-profit organizations and NGOs, individuals and grassroots groups, K-12 schools, Universities, foundations, professional associations and others are responding to these issues in innovative ways. As the course progresses, learners will explore the roles of foundations, corporations, and government policies and regulations upon educational innovation and entrepreneurship. As part of this course, learners will work individually or in groups to research solutions to a pressing contemporary educational challenge and propose/pitch a means of addressing that challenge through social entrepreneurship.


Introduction to Design Thinking: Liberal Arts to Epic Challenges (CSPL 202)
Taught by Ric Grefé (1 credit, meets M/W 10:20-11:40 am) – open to first-years!

Human centered design or design thinking taps the creativity and diversity of a team to develop solutions to complex problems, following careful observation to gain the human perspective of a problem. Increasingly, this methodology is at the center of innovative practices in business, non-profits and governments. It can be particularly effective in addressing the human needs that are the focus of social enterprise and policy. Many of the disciplines that comprise the liberal arts education are valued sources of perspective and ideas contributing to solutions.

The most progressive and effective solutions to many problems are those that emerge from closely observing human patterns and then encouraging diverse imaginations to create rapid prototypes of solutions that can be tested and refined. The result is human-centered, rather than high level policy influences for social change. Although the methodology is called “design thinking,” the approach is used in designing experiences, services, and organizations, as well as objects. No design background is required.

The class sessions will consist of (1) the presentation of methods and theories, (2) case studies to be worked on in teams either in the session or between sessions, and (3) discussions with faculty members from other disciplines and designers who have worked on significant engagements for social change. Design thinking can be a purposeful link to the application of other disciplines to real world problems, including anthropology, behavioral economics.

An optional field trip is planned to work through a problem in the IBM Design Studio in New York City.


Human-Centered Design for Social Change (CSPL 215)
Taught by Ric Grefé (1 credit, meets M/W 1:20-2:40 pm)

Design thinking is the way the creative mind approaches complex problem solving. Increasingly, it is at the center of innovative practices in business. Yet it can be particularly effective in addressing the human needs that are the focus of social enterprise and policy. This course will introduce a number of ways to understand how to use this method and will apply it to a number of real-world examples as teamwork in class. Invited designers who have worked in the field in the U.S. and in other countries will lead several sessions. An individual project will require fieldwork and will constitute the demonstration of mastery.

This course explores the techniques of human-centered design and design thinking for approaching social challenges ranging from election processes to subsistence challenges in impoverished rural populations. The most progressive and effective solutions to many problems are those that emerge from closely observing human patterns and then using creativity to make rapid prototypes of solutions that can be tested and refined. The result is human-centered, rather than high-level policy influences for social change. The class session will consist of (1) the presentation of methods and theories, (2) case studies to be worked on in teams either in the session or between sessions, and (3) discussions with designers who have worked on significant engagements for social change.


Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship (CSPL 262, cross-listed with the Civic Engagement Certificate)
Taught by Makaela Kingsley (0.25 credit, meets Friday 1:20-3:20 pm) – open to first-years!

This is an intro-level crash course in social entrepreneurship. We’ll start by defining social entrepreneurship, then we’ll explore the tactics and tendencies of successful social entrepreneurs. We will partially incubate a real social enterprise, so we can learn 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.


Nonprofit Boards: Theory and Practice II (CSPL 281)
Taught by Cathy Lechowicz (0.5 credit, meets W/F 10:50-12:10 pm) – POI

This course will focus on the nonprofit sector, with special emphasis on the role of nonprofit boards of directors. Course time will be spent on literature about the history and purpose of the nonprofit sector, comparison to the government and public sector, and the purpose/function of nonprofit boards of directors. As part of the course, students will work directly with a local nonprofit–students will participate as a non-voting member of the board of directors and complete a board-level project for the organization.


Race, Incarceration, and Citizenship: The New Haven Model (CSPL 269/ANTH 269/AMST 268, cross-listed with the Certificate in Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory)
Taught by Charles Barber and Chyrill Bellamy (1 credit, meets Wednesday 7:10-10:00 pm) – POI

This course will explore the elements of local responses to contemporary criminal justice issues, drawing on current research projects in New Haven. The course will explore a variety of promising practices, which emphasize community engagement and individual citizenship over incarceration and punishment. Topics will include evidence-based practices to reduce criminal recidivism, mental health issues in the criminal justice system, treatment engagement, and the creation of valued roles in the community. Students will have the opportunity to participate in federal research studies.


Community Research Seminar (SOC 316, cross-listed with ENVS, the Civic Engagement Certificate, and the Environmental Studies Certificate)
Taught by Rob Rosenthal (1.5 credit, meets M/W 10:50 am-12:10 pm) – contact Course Assistant Maddie Scher for the application, for the list of projects, and with any questions

Teams of students learn the theory and practice of doing community research while carrying out research for local nonprofits, community organizations, and activist groups. Highly challenging, highly rewarding. This year’s projects include research on how institutional and systemic racism effects of Communities of Color in Middletown (for the Middlesex Coalition for Children) and the long-range effects of service-learning courses (for the Wesleyan Service-Learning Program).


Collaborative Cluster Initiative Research Seminar II (CSPL 321)
Taught by Sean McCann and Charles Barber (0.5 credit, meeting time TBA) – POI (open to any interested students)

Students participating in the Collaborative Cluster Initiative will take this course in the spring semester. They will continue with projects started in the fall semester. This is a continuation of CSPL320. This course will supplement the seminars providing historical and cultural background of the prison system in the United States. The emphasis will be on the practical application of topics engaged in the other seminars and contemporary concerns related to the prison system in the U.S. We shall follow current debates at both the national and state level, including legislation, media, and university initiatives. Students will also visit local sites. Speakers will visit the class to share their experiences and expertise. Students will conduct individual research projects and present them in workshop fashion.