Spring 2021 Courses in Civic Engagement, Social Change, and the Study of Public Life

Looking for interdisciplinary classes that think outside the box? Want to go beyond theory and understand how academic concepts apply in real-world settings? Take a class with the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life! or Service-Learning! 

CSPL211 Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing: Legal Advocacy for Disabled Veterans 

Sarah Ryan 

In-person with remote students

The public rarely understands what it takes to fight for one’s legal rights or benefits. Good writers can translate those battles in ways that teach, empower, and (re)build community support for struggling individuals. This course is a study in the translation of legal challenges into civic advocacy.

CSPL235 Activism and Theories of Change

Leslie Gabel-Brett 

Hybrid with remote students 

In this course you will explore strategies and theories of change that shape social justice movements, with particular reference to recent movements in the United States. You will discuss the benefits and risks of the many available strategies including direct action, grassroots mobilization, impact litigation, legislative campaigns, electoral campaigns, artistic protest, and public education. What strategic, ethical or moral questions are raised by various types of protest and communications?

CSPL 239 Startup Incubator: The Art and Science of Launching Your Idea

Rosemary Ostfeld


The Startup Incubator is a one-semester, experiential learning program designed to teach and enable student entrepreneurs to develop sustainable business models from their ideas.The program will bring together an ambitious, committed, and diverse group of individuals from all classes and majors who are passionate about developing successful solutions to challenges; identify as entrepreneurs, disruptors, and thought leaders; and have the tenacity, work ethic, and ability to succeed. All participating students should have a promising business idea and take the course with the intention of launching or running their own venture.

WRCT 250V The Voice(s) of Expertise: How Podcasting Is Changing the Way We Listen and Learn

Graham Whitney Griffith

Hybrid in-person only 

In this course, students will examine the changing nature of audio news and storytelling, and the extent to which traditional understanding of the voice of expertise is being disrupted by the rise of podcasting and other on-demand audio forms. This course will be a combination of media criticism, a study of best practices in journalism, and design thinking. As students examine the impact of new media on news and journalism, they will also develop their own ideas for on-demand audio (including podcast design) throughout the semester, working on an individual project, and in collaboration with other students.

CSPL 322 Methods and Frameworks for Understanding and Overcoming Health Disparities

April Joy Damian


In recent years especially, the need for both interdisciplinary and mixed approaches to inquiries in public health research has become apparent in health promotion, policy formation and evaluation, service needs assessment, the social determinants of health, and program evaluation and outcomes measurement more generally. This course is intended to provide an overview of methodologies and frameworks used to examine and overcome disparities in health through research. A range of quantitative and qualitative research designs and methods will be introduced, and strategies to address challenges in real world program settings will be emphasized.

CSPL 328 Advanced Human Rights Advocacy 

Jim Cavallaro 

In- person only 

This course will enable students to engage in critical assessment of human rights advocacy while participating directly in projects through the University Network for Human Rights. Students in Professor Cavallaro’s Fall CSPL 316 course are encouraged to apply, as are other students interested in gaining practical experience in human rights. The course will involve seminar discussions and readings that assess the strengths, weaknesses, and challenges facing the human rights movement domestically and internationally. 

CSPL 250W Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction 

Daniel de Visé

Hybrid in Person-Only

Journalistic nonfiction uses the tools of the newsroom to create long-form stories that read like novels. Students will learn the skills to ensnare readers in any medium of narrative nonfiction writing, from articles and books to screenplays and teleplays. Journalists excel in conducting interviews and marshaling facts. But few journos ever master the art of narrative storytelling. Nonfiction book writers can wield a narrative arc to tell a story. But many book writers are weak on basic reporting. We will read the work of newspaper reporters who learned to write long-form narratives, and magazine writers who learned the skills of the newsroom. By semester’s end, students will know tools of both trades. We will hear from some of the writers about their work.

CSPL 341 Case Studies in Educational Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Anna Shusterman


Entrepreneurship, innovation, and reform are a defining part of the fabric of K-12 education in the US and other places, presenting opportunities and risks. For the first two months of the course, we will be visited each week by one or more experts who have led or studied innovative or entrepreneurial projects in the education sector. Perspectives and cases to be discussed include the founding of schools and businesses, start-up ventures, social entrepreneurship and nonprofit organizations, educational law and policy, and innovation within public schools and districts. Students will learn from conversations with experts in the field about how to define problems in education, how different people have approached solutions to these problems, and lessons learned. 

CSPL 480 Engaged Projects 

Makaela Kingsley 


Engaged Projects (EPs) are rigorous, self-designed endeavors in which a student studies a topic of their choice and completes a final project intended for a non-academic audience. Students are encouraged but not required to select a topic that is connected to another class or their major. Final projects can take the form of blogs, videos, a website, or other media; a work of art, an event, a workshop, a presentation, or panel; a policy proposal or analysis; a white paper or op-ed series; a business plan; and/or any other piece(s) thoughtfully designed for the public.

Learn more: https://www.wesleyan.edu/patricelli/engaged-projects.html

CSPL 262 Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship 

Makaela Kingsley 

Hybrid in-person only

In this project-based, cohort-style class, students will learn strategies for understanding social and environmental problems, and they will design interventions to create impact. Each student will select a topic to work on individually or as part of a team throughout the semester. Topics will include root cause analysis, ecosystem mapping, theory of change, human-centered design, business models, leadership and teamwork, impact metrics, storytelling, and more. 

DANC 376 The Artist in the Community: Civic Engagement and Collaborative Dancemaking

Katja Kolcio

Hybrid In-Person only 

This is a hybrid course in which we will combine theoretical analysis with practical application and project based-work. Students will explore how, in a collaborative community setting, performance and art-making can be used to address local issues, spark community dialogue, and encourage civic participation, and will consider the power dynamics and ethical issues that emerge.

MUSC 438 Wesleyan University Collegium Musicum

Jane Alden 


The Collegium Musicum is a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring and performing the diverse vocal and instrumental repertories of the medieval, renaissance, and baroque periods of European music history. The course joins the long history of communal song, implementing community vocal work as a resource to tackle current health challenges and loneliness. Outreach projects will focus on singing with and for seniors with internet access. (Note that this is not a Service Learning course, but includes a volunteer component). 

MUSC 463 Teaching Music Lessons to Children in Local Schools

David Paul Nelson


Wesleyan students will teach private and small group music lessons to local children remotely. These sessions will be augmented by a weekly classroom session in which readings and the student teachers’ journals will be discussed. Some of the Wesleyan Department of Music’s private lesson instructors will visit to answer questions and guide the student teachers through the issues, musical and extra-musical, that the lessons will raise.