Public Policy

Sarah Lawrence College’s Public Policy program addresses the most pressing public policy issues of our time, including promoting peace, protecting the environment, providing education and health services, and safeguarding human and workers’ rights. Supported by the College’s Office of Community Partnerships, students partner with unions, community organizations, and legal groups in the New York City area as a required element of their coursework, gaining direct experience that they can relate to theoretical issues.

Students also participate in international fieldwork, including at a labor research exchange in Cuba, a health-care worker conference in the Dominican Republic, a community-organizing project to help establish a medical clinic for residents of the impoverished community of Lebrón in the Dominican Republic, and a study trip to the United States/Mexico border area of El Paso/Juarez. This combination of study and direct experience exposes students to various approaches to problems and builds an enduring commitment to activism in many forms.

2018-2019 Courses

Public Policy

Immigration, Race, and the Making of the United States: An Immigration Policy Perspective

Open , Seminar—Year

Immigration has been a recurring and polarizing political issue in the United States and globally. While undocumented youth have forced their plight into the national debate, in an earlier moment “Positively No Filipinos” and “Irish Need Not Apply” signs were commonplace in places of business. And yet, in the contemporary political climate, immigration policy is debated as if it were ahistorical and fixed. In this yearlong course, students will explore immigration, immigrant integration, and societal inequality. We will answer questions such as: How has immigration policy changed over time? And how are immigrants integrating into society? We will delve into theoretical debates over why people migrate, the role of states in managing migration flows, the “actors” who have shaped immigration policy, and how today’s immigrants compare with earlier waves of immigrants. More specifically, this course will trace the history of immigration policy and of immigration flows into the United States, as well as the distinct trajectories of groups and cohorts along a series of societal indicators. Students will contribute to ongoing debates by reflecting on where we are and what we can we do to create a better system and a more equitable society.

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Marijuana, DACA, and Guns: A Primer on Voice and Power in Crafting Policy Change

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

In this course, we will examine political power at different levels through both theoretical and practical lenses. We will consider questions of membership and belonging and of political engagement. How are communities defined? How is political voice exercised? And how do power dynamics shape who belongs and whose voices are heard? Current policy debates will serve as a backdrop for the course, which will allow us to explore the relationship between national- and local-level policy contests. Through conference work, students will trace the pathways for effecting change in a series of contemporary policy debates at different levels of government and geographies—including debates over marijuana, DACA, and guns. New York will be our extended classroom, positioning students to connect theory and the academic classroom to practice and the real world.

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Understanding Experience: Phenomenological Approaches in Anthropology

Open , Seminar—Spring

How does a chronic illness affect a person’s orientation to the everyday? What are the social and political forces that underpin life in a homeless shelter? What is the experiential world of a deaf person, a musician, a refugee, or a child at play? In an effort to answer these and like-minded questions, anthropologists in recent years have become increasingly interested in developing phenomenological accounts of particular “lifeworlds” in order to understand—and convey to others—the nuances and underpinnings of such worlds in terms that more orthodox social or symbolic analyses cannot achieve. In this context, phenomenology entails an analytic method that works to understand and describe in words phenomena as they appear to the consciousnesses of certain peoples. Phenomenology, put simply, is the study of experience. The phenomena most often in question for anthropologists include the workings of time, perception, emotions, selfhood, language, bodies, suffering, and morality as they take form in particular lives within the context of any number of social, linguistic, and political forces. In this course, we will explore phenomenological approaches in anthropology by reading and discussing some of the most significant efforts along these lines. Each student will also try her or his hand at developing a phenomenological account of a specific subjective or intersubjective lifeworld through a combination of interviewing, participant observation research, and ethnographic writing.

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Faking Families: How We Make Kinship

Open , Seminar—Spring

In her study of transnational adoptees, Eleana Kim noted the profound differences between discourses about the immigration of Chinese brides to the United States and those describing the arrival of adopted Chinese baby girls: the former with suspicion and the latter with joy. Two ways that families form are by bringing in spouses and by having children. We tend to assume that family-building involves deeply personal, intimate, and even “natural” acts; but in actual practice, the pragmatics of forming (and disbanding) families are much more complex. There are many instances where biological pregnancy is not possible or not chosen, and there are biological parents who are unable to rear their offspring. Social rules govern the acceptance or rejection of children in particular social groups, depending on factors such as the marital status of their parents or the enactment of appropriate rituals. Western notions of marriage prioritize compatibility between two individuals who choose each other based on love; but in many parts of the world, selecting a suitable spouse and contracting a marriage is the business of entire kin networks. There is great variability, too, in what constitutes “suitable.” To marry a close relative or someone of the same gender may be deemed unnaturally close in some societies, but marriage across a great difference such as age, race, nation, culture or class can also be problematic. And beyond the intimacies of couples and the interests of extended kin are the interests of the nation state. This seminar, then, examines the makings and meanings of kinship connections of parent and spouse at multiple levels, from small communities to global movements. Our topics will include the adoption and fostering of children, both locally and transnationally, in Peru, Chile, Spain, Italy, Ghana, the United States, China, and Korea. We will look at technologies of biological reproduction, including the global movement of genetic material in the business of transnational gestational surrogacy in India. We will look at the ways in which marriages are contracted in a variety of social and cultural settings, including China and Korea, and the ways in which they are configured by race, gender, and citizenship. Our questions will include: Who are “real” kin? Who can a person marry? Which children are “legitimate”? Why do we hear so little about birth mothers? What is the experience of families with transgender parents or children? What is the compulsion to find genetically connected “kin”? How many mothers can a person have? How is marriage connected to labor migration? Why are the people who care for children in foster care called “parents”? The materials for this class include literature, scholarly articles, ethnographic accounts, historical documents, and film.

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Political Economy of Women

Open , Lecture—Year

What factors determine the status of women in different societies and communities? What role is played by women’s labor, both inside and outside the home? By cultural norms regarding sexuality and reproduction? By religious traditions? After a brief theoretical grounding, this course will address these questions by examining the economic, political, social, and cultural histories of women in the various racial/ethnic and class groupings that make up the United States. Topics to be explored include: the role of women in the Iroquois Confederation before white colonization and the factors that gave Iroquois women significant political and social power in their communities; the status of white colonist women in Puritan Massachusetts and the economic, religious and other factors that led to the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692; the position of African American women under slavery, including the gendered and racialized divisions of labor and reproduction; the growth of competitive capitalism in the North and the development of the “cult of true womanhood” in the rising middle class; the economic and political changes that accompanied the Civil War and Reconstruction and the complex relationships between African American and white women in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements; the creation of a landless agricultural labor force and the attempts to assimilate Chicana women into the dominant culture via “Americanization” programs; the conditions that encouraged Asian women’s immigration and their economic and social positions once here; the American labor movement and the complicated role that organized labor has played in the lives of women of various racial/ethnic groups and classes; the impact of US colonial policies on Puerto Rican migration and Puerto Rican women’s economic and political status on both the island and the mainland; the economic/political convulsions of the 20th century—from the trusts of the early 1900s to World War II—and their impact on women’s paid and unpaid labor; the impact of changes in gendered economic roles on LGBT communities; the economic and political upheavals of the 1960s that led to the so-called “second wave” of the women’s movement; the gendered and racialized impact of the Great Recession and its aftermath; the current position of women in the US economy and polity and the possibilities for inclusive public policies concerning gender and family issues.

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Econometric Analysis: Structural Explorations in the Social Sciences

Open , Lecture—Year

This lecture requires some basic knowledge (high-school level) of mathematics and statistics. A review of core concepts in these subjects will be carried out at the beginning of the fall semester.

The course is designed for all students interested in the social sciences who wish to understand the methodology and techniques involved in the estimation of structural relationships between variables. The course is intended for students who wish to be able to carry out empirical work in their particular field, both at Sarah Lawrence College and beyond, and critically engage empirical work done by academic or professional social scientists. The practical hands-on approach taken in this course will be useful to those students who wish to do future conference projects in the social (or natural) sciences with significant empirical content. It will also be invaluable for students who are seeking internships, planning to enter the job market, or desiring to pursue graduate education in the social sciences and public policy. After taking this course, students will be able to analyze questions such as the following: What is the relationship between slavery and the development of capitalist industrialization in the United States? What effects do race, gender, and educational attainment have in the determination of wages? How does the female literacy rate affect the child mortality rate? How can one model the effect of economic growth on carbon-dioxide emissions? What is the relationship among sociopolitical instability, inequality, and economic growth? How do geographic location and state spending affect average public-school teacher salaries? How do socioeconomic factors determine the crime rate in the United States? During the course of the year, we will study all of these questions. In the first semester, we will cover the theoretical and applied statistical principles that underlie Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression techniques. We will begin with the assumptions needed to obtain the Best Linear Unbiased Estimates of a regression equation, also known as the “BLUE” conditions. Particular emphasis will be placed on the assumptions regarding the distribution of a model’s error term and other BLUE conditions. We will also cover hypothesis testing, sample selection, and the critical role of the t- and F-statistic in determining the statistical significance of a social metric model and its associated slope or “β” parameters. Further, we will address the three main problems associated with the violation of a particular BLUE assumption: multicollinearity, serial correlation, and heteroscedasticity. We will learn how to identify, address, and remedy each of those problems. In addition, we will take a similar approach to understanding and correcting model specification errors. Finally, we will focus on the analysis of historical time-series models and the study of long-run trend relationships between variables. At the end of the fall semester, students will have to carry out an econometric analysis of a World Bank study on labor markets. The spring semester class will build on the fall class by introducing students to advanced topics in econometrics. We will study autoregressive dependent lag (ARDL) models, co-integration, and error correction models involving nonstationary time series. We will investigate simultaneous equations systems, vector error correction (VEC), and vector autoregressive (VAR) models. The final part of the seminar will involve the study of panel data, as well as logit/probit models. As with the fall class, the spring class will also be very “hands-on,” in that students will get ample exposure to concrete issues while also being encouraged to consider basic methodological questions (e.g., the debates between John Maynard Keynes and Jan Tinbergen) regarding the power and limitations of econometric analysis. At the end of the spring semester, students will have to do in-class presentations of self-designed econometric projects (either singly or in groups) on topics of their choice. The spring semester is particularly relevant to students who wish to pursue graduate studies in a social-science discipline, although it will be equally relevant for those seeking other types of graduate degrees that involve knowledge of intermediate-level quantitative analysis.

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Resource Economics and Political Ecology

Open , Seminar—Fall

Humankind’s ability to radically shape, alter, degrade, and threaten the Earth’s system(s) is strongly evidenced. From stratigraphic (geological) markers to plastic and electronic waste to climate change, nonrenewable resource depletion, and soil, water, and air spoliation, the consequences of human activity-induced (anthropogenic) provisioning are well-known, unceasing, and, it appears, accumulating and intensifying. Given the impact and interaction between humankind and the natural environment, far less certainty exists as to how to conceptualize, give narrative to, and address the complex, evolving, and continuous influence between humankind and its environment. As for the discipline of economics, significant tensions exist as to what tools, methods, vision, qualitative and quantitative measurement indicators, and theoretical foundations are appropriate and best-suited for voicing, revealing, stewarding, and redressing existing and future ecological challenges. Along with established and significant topics such as sustainability, externalities, pollution, regulation, global governance, benefit-cost analysis, taxation and subsidy, property rights and the commons, technology, competition and markets, biophysical realities, planetary boundaries, ecosystem services, consumption, and environmental ethics, this semester-long seminar will: 1) investigate distinct and alternative methodological, analytical, and theoretical tools of various schools of economic thought and their approaches to environmental concerns (e.g., mainstream neoclassical, ecological economics, post-Keynesian, Marxian, feminist/ecofeminist, institutionalist, behavioral); 2) examine and stress issues of environmental, racial, and intergenerational justice; unequal ecological exchange; trade and development; labor and ecological arbitrage; legal, political, and public policy dimensions; monetary considerations, accounting; value theory and social costs; 3) consider topics such as deep, shallow, social, industrial, urban, and dark ecology; thermodynamics; and novel ecosystems; 4) analyze and apply evaluative tools, methodologies, and practices, including interdisciplinarity, theoretical pluralism, systems thinking, critical ethnography, critical realism, neoliberalism, ultrasociality, cultural ecosystem services, and indigenous and postcolonial ontologies and epistemologies; and 5) critically explore, appraise, envision, and theorize as to existing and alternative provisioning possibilities and theses such as green capitalism, ecosocialism, degrowth (décroissance), metabolic rift analysis, capitalocene, anthropocene, and subsistence and sufficiency perspectives. Conference production (work) will look to situate students (economists) as keen and discerning interdisciplinary social scientists and will consist of research projects where a broad range of formats or mediums will be accepted in offering the opportunity to examine a topic of personal interest concerning the complex and evolving interaction between humankind’s economic system(s) and the Earth’s system(s).

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Microeconomic Theory and Policy: Advanced Topics

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Some prior background in economics is required.

What assumptions, methodologies, values, vision, and theoretical foundations do microeconomists incorporate and rely upon for analyzing economic behavior at the individual level? What insights, knowledge, inferences, and/or conclusions can be gleaned through examining characteristics of individual firms, agents, households, and markets in order to understand capitalist society? How do our theories of individual and business behavior inform our interpretation of distributional outcomes? Among other topics, this semester-long seminar in intermediate microeconomics will offer an inquiry into economic decision-making vis-à-vis: theories of demand and supply, the individual (agents), households, consumption (consumer choice); theories of production and costs; theories of the firm (business enterprise, corporations); theories of markets and competition; prices and pricing theory; public policy and legal foundations; and theories of value and income distribution. Critical analysis, reflection, and insight into these and other topics will be supported and strengthened by appealing to a broad range of traditions in economics, including neoclassical (orthodox, mainstream, marginalist) and post-Keynesian, feminist, Marxian, law and political economy, and institutionalist (heterodox schools of thought). Insights from legal analyses on microeconomic topics (such as cost-benefit analysis, the Coase theorem, and Pareto optimality) will also be discussed.

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Secondary Currents: Experimental Film in Place

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

This course is part of the Intensive Semester in Yonkers program and is no longer open for interviews and registration. Interviews for the program take place during the previous spring semester.

This production seminar explores, in depth, the rich world of moving images as artistic expression. Students participate by completing a series of exercises and projects supported by lectures, discussion, and screenings. We explore moving-image forms and styles that blur the boundaries between narrative, documentary, and abstract filmmaking. There is, by definition, no formula for this kind of work. Rather, the course introduces the language and techniques of film production alongside strategies for the use of film, performance, and audio design as a means to creatively examine our relationships to place. We direct our concerns to an investigation of our relationship to the legends, histories, topographies, politics, and language of place in its broadest context. Assignments are geared toward generating an ease and familiarity with one’s engagement with place as a media artist. Over the course of the semester, we look at and analyze the pioneering work of many experimental artists, including Gilliam Wearing, Doug Aiken, Pipolotti Rist, Seoungho Cho, Mike Kelly, Shana Moulton, Ragnar Kjartansson, and others. Labs and screenings are designed to introduce the tools and technology necessary for each project. A major component of the course is the ongoing analysis and critique of each other’s work.

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Food, Agriculture, Environment, and Development

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

Where does the food we eat come from? Why do some people have enough food to eat and others do not? Are there too many people for the world to feed? Who controls the world’s food? Will global food prices continue their recent rapid rise? And, if so, what will be the consequences? What are the environmental impacts of our food production systems? How do answers to these questions differ by place or by the person asking the question? How have they changed over time? This course will explore the following fundamental issue: the relationship between development and the environment, focusing in particular on agriculture and the production and consumption of food. The questions above often hinge on the contentious debate concerning population, natural resources, and the environment. Thus, we will begin by critically assessing the fundamental ideological positions and philosophical paradigms of “modernization,” as well as critical counterpoints that lie at the heart of this debate. Within this context of competing sets of philosophical assumptions concerning the population-resource debate, we will investigate the concept of “poverty” and the making of the “Third World,” access to food, hunger, grain production and food aid, agricultural productivity (The Green and Gene Revolutions), biofuels, the role of transnational corporations (TNCs), the international division of labor, migration, globalization and global commodity chains, and the different strategies adopted by nation-states to “develop” natural resources and agricultural production. Through a historical investigation of environmental change and the biogeography of plant domestication and dispersal, we will look at the creation of indigenous, subsistence, peasant, plantation, collective, and commercial forms of agriculture. We will analyze the physical environment and ecology that help shape but rarely determine the organization of resource use and agriculture. Rather, through the dialectical rise of various political-economic systems such as feudalism, slavery, mercantilism, colonialism, capitalism, and socialism, we will study how humans have transformed the world’s environments. We will follow with studies of specific issues: technological change in food production; commercialization and industrialization of agriculture and the decline of the family farm; food and public health, culture, and family; land grabbing and food security; the role of markets and transnational corporations in transforming the environment; and the global environmental changes stemming from modern agriculture, dams, deforestation, grassland destruction, desertification, biodiversity loss, and the interrelationship with climate change. Case studies of particular regions and issues will be drawn from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the United States. The final part of the course examines the restructuring of the global economy and its relation to emergent international laws and institutions regulating trade, the environment, agriculture, resource extraction treaties, the changing role of the state, and competing conceptualizations of territoriality and control. We will end with discussions of emergent local, regional, and transnational coalitions for food self-reliance and food sovereignty, alternative and community supported agriculture, community-based resource management systems, sustainable development, and grassroots movements for social and environmental justice. Films, multimedia materials, and distinguished guests will be interspersed throughout the course. One farm field trip is possible, if funding permits. The seminar participants may also take a leading role in a campus-wide event on “food and agriculture,” tentatively planned for the spring. Please mark your calendars when the dates are announced, as attendance for all of the above is required. Attendance and participation is also required at special guest lectures and film viewings in the Geography Lecture and Film Series—approximately once per month in the evening from 6-8 pm. The Web board is an important part of the course. Regular postings of assignments will be made there, along with follow-up commentaries. There will be in-class essays, debates, and small group discussions. Conferences will focus on in-depth analyses of course topics. You will be required to prepare a poster project and paper on a topic of your choice related to the course, which will be presented at the end of each semester in a special session.

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Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Year

Experience in the social sciences is desired but not required.

In this yearlong seminar, we will begin by examining competing paradigms and approaches to understanding “development” and the “Third World.” We will set the stage by answering the question: What did the world look like 500 years ago? The purpose of this part of the course is to acquaint us with and to analyze the historical origins and evolution of a world political-economy of which the “Third World” is an intrinsic component. We will thus study the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the rise of merchant and finance capital, and the colonization of the world by European powers. We will analyze case studies of colonial {development” to understand the evolving meaning of this term. These case studies will help us assess the varied legacies of colonialism apparent in the emergence of new nations through the fitful and uneven process of decolonization that followed. The next part of the course will look at the United Nations and its associated institutions and the role that they have played in the post-World War II global political-economy—one marked by persistent and intensifying socioeconomic inequalities, as well as frequent outbreaks of political violence across the globe. By examining the development institutions that have emerged and evolved since 1945, we will attempt to unravel the paradoxes of development in different eras. We will deconstruct the measures of development through a thematic exploration of population, resource use, poverty, access to food, the environment, agricultural productivity, and different development strategies adopted by Third World nation-states. We will then examine globalization and its relation to emergent international institutions and their policies; for example, the IMF, World Bank, AIIB, and WTO. We will then turn to contemporary development debates and controversies that increasingly find space in the headlines: widespread land grabbing by sovereign wealth funds, China, and hedge funds; the “global food crisis”; and the perils of climate change. Throughout the course, our investigations of international institutions, transnational corporations, the role of the state, and civil society will provide the backdrop for the final focus of the class: the emergence of regional coalitions for self-reliance, environmental and social justice, and sustainable development. Our analysis of development in practice will draw upon case studies primarily from Africa but also from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United States. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage substantive research project beginning in the fall semester and completed in the spring. Project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions. Where possible and feasible, students will be encouraged to do primary research during fall study days and winter and spring breaks.

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The Price of Citizenship: A History of Poverty and Public Policy in the United States

Open , Lecture—Year

This lecture is a super-lecture and may enroll up to 60 students.

The history of poverty and public policy in the United States did not begin with President Roosevelt’s New Deal or with President Johnson’s War on Poverty. Before the Great Depression and the Other America, the public policy toward urban poverty began with the humiliating and punitive institution of the poorhouse. And subsequently, public policy and social welfare in America developed in the shadow of the poorhouse. If one school of experts suggests that American social welfare has been obsessed with the social control over poor people, then a second school of experts has been engrossed in dividing the poor into two moral categories: the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. Unfortunately, many experts were preoccupied with “improving” the morality of poor people rather than with ending economic poverty amid American bounty. By contrast, there is another tradition—one of social-justice movements that demand an end to American economic poverty and savage inequality. How did those dynamics shape the contours of American citizenship during the New Deal and the Great Society? Those issues will be explored in the lectures, discussions, and films in this course.

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International Law

Open , Lecture—Fall

In a global landscape pocked by genocide, wars of choice, piracy, and international terrorism, what good is international law? Can it mean anything without a global police force and a universal judiciary? Is “might makes right” the only law that works? Or is it true that “most states comply with most of their obligations most of the time”? These essential questions frame the contemporary practice of law across borders. This lecture provides an overview of international law—its doctrine, theory, and practice. It addresses a wide range of issues, including the bases and norms of international law, the law of war, human-rights claims, domestic implementation of international norms, treaty interpretation, and state formation/succession.

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Human Rights

Open , Lecture—Spring

History is replete with rabid pogroms, merciless religious wars, tragic show trials, and even genocide. For as long as people have congregated, they have defined themselves, in part, as against an other—and have persecuted that other. But history has also yielded systems of constraints. So how can we hope to achieve a meaningful understanding of the human experience without examining both the wrongs and the rights? Should the human story be left to so-called realists, who claim that power wins out over ideals every time? Or is there a logic of mutual respect that offers better solutions? This lecture examines the history of international human rights. It focuses on the claims that individuals and groups make against states in which they live.

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Drugs, History, and Politics in Latin America and Beyond

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

The “War on Drugs,” shootings in favelas, colgados in US-Mexican border states, and (in)famous drug lords (or ”narcos”) dominate contemporary images of, and conversations about, drugs in Latin America. From the narconovelas and narcocorridos to even narco-tourism, narcoviolence has created a myriad of cultural and social artifacts that cultivate both fascination and repulsion over a phenomenon that has profound economic, social, and political ramifications for the region and for the world. This course seeks to understand the multiplicity of historical causes and effects of narcoviolence in the most conspicuous cases in Latin America during the 20th century: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Central America. To do so, the course will situate the current narcoviolence within a longer history of psychoactive drugs as goods, linking producers and consumers through global capitalism since the early modern period. From coffee to cocaine, we will discuss the origins of both fascination with and prohibition of psychoactive drugs. We will examine the social, political, and economic functions of drugs in different historical contexts, their transformation from luxury to mass commodities, and even their fetishization. In addition, the course explores the economics, politics, and culture of drugs in the long era of narcoviolence and globalization. Using primary and secondary sources, history and social science perspectives, the course seeks to foster deep and serious engagement with the history of Latin America and its complex relation to psychoactive drugs.

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Diversity and Equity in Education: Issues of Gender, Race, and Class

Advanced , Seminar—Year

The education system is a central institution in the socialization of young people and the maintenance of the modern nation-state. Schools support meritocratic models of society by providing opportunities for social mobility. Paradoxically, schools also reproduce gender, racial, and class inequality. In this course, we will examine the roles that schools play in the transmission of culture, formation of identity, and reproduction of social structures. Paying special attention to gender and its intersection with other social categories, we will look at practices and policies that shape students’ performance as they strive for competence, achievement, and acceptance. We will also analyze the larger political and economic contexts that shape both schools and the communities in which they are situated.

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open , Lecture—Fall

Mathematical prerequisite: basic high-school algebra and geometry.

Correlation, regression, statistical significance, and margin of error...you’ve heard these terms and other statistical phrases bantered about before, and you’ve seen them interspersed in news reports and research articles. But what do they mean? And why are they important? And what exactly fueled the failure of statistical polls and projections leading up to the 2016 US presidential election? An introduction to the concepts, techniques, and reasoning central to the understanding of data, this lecture course focuses on the fundamental methods of statistical analysis used to gain insight into diverse areas of human interest. The use, misuse, and abuse of statistics will be the central focus of the course; specific topics of exploration will be drawn from experimental design, sampling theory, data analysis, and statistical inference. Applications will be considered in current events, business, psychology, politics, medicine, and other areas of the natural and social sciences. Statistical (spreadsheet) software will be introduced and used extensively in this course, but no prior experience with the technology is assumed. Conference work will serve as a complete practicum of the theory learned in lecture: Students working closely in small teams will conceive, design, and fully execute a small-scale research study. This lecture is recommended for anybody wishing to be a better-informed consumer of data and strongly recommended for those planning to pursue graduate work and/or research in the natural sciences or social sciences.

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First-Year Studies: Democracy, Diversity, and (In)Equality

Open , FYS—Year

From ancient times through the major modern democratic revolutions, democracy’s advocates—as well as its critics—believed that democracy requires, and tends to bring about, political equality. Often democratic equality has also been understood to entail important limits on social inequality. And it has also been long presupposed—and sometimes argued—that democracy only works in fairly homogeneous societies, since only in such societies can a people be sufficiently similar and equal to form shared political understandings and projects. Absent considerable commonality—religious, linguistic, ethnic, racial, and/or cultural—as well as political and perhaps social equality, it is feared that democracy deteriorates into the tyranny of the majority or a war of all against all or a shallow contest of competing interests. At the outset of the 21st century, however, we are witness to two dramatic shifts in the character of society that increasingly seem to challenge the viability of democracy, at least if these long-held views about its necessary social presuppositions are correct. On the one hand, democratic societies have become increasingly unequal as a result of globalization, changes in the nature and remuneration of work, new policies, and new political conditions. On the other, democratic societies are increasingly diverse and their citizens less willing to “forget” their many differences to melt into a dominant national culture. These developments raise some basic questions. Can the character of democracy be reconceived so that it is either better suited to—and/or better able to modify—these new social conditions? If not, is democracy doomed? Or might it be possible to reform democracy to render it compatible with conditions of deep diversity while also making it capable of securing the requisite degrees of political and social equality? This course will explore these questions in a number of ways. We will study exemplary historical statements of the ideal of democracy, drawing on traditional works in political philosophy. We will also draw on contemporary work in sociology, anthropology, cultural and legal studies, and political science to examine the nature of social and cultural diversity, including religion, class, gender, sexuality, and race. We will draw on a similar range of disciplines to seek to comprehend the causes and consequence of the widening inequality characteristic of almost all economically advanced democratic societies. Finally, we will explore works that bring these themes together by examining current scholars‘ efforts to (re)articulate the ideal and practice of democracy in light of increased diversity and inequality. By the end of the course, students will have been introduced to a variety of different disciplines in the social sciences, with a special focus on contemporary political philosophy, and will have surveyed a number of different proposals for deepening democracy in 21st-century social conditions. Educational objectives include acquiring, developing, and perfecting the skills necessary to: read demanding texts with care and rigor; participate in focused analytic discussion of these texts; write, edit and revise interpretive and argumentative academic essays; and conduct original, independent research projects. Students will meet for individual conferences to discuss their independent research projects on a biweekly basis and will also participate in small-group, biweekly meetings to discuss, among other things, the applicability of various concepts discussed in seminar to everyday social and political contexts; to engage in peer-writing workshops; and to take trips to New York City as a “laboratory” of democracy, diversity, and inequality.

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First-Year Studies: Imperialism, Resistance, Development, Intervention: African States in the International System

Open , FYS—Year

This course will engage key questions in development studies, international relations, and politics from the perspectives and experiences of African states and societies. We will begin with the African continent’s introduction to international politics and economics through trade in goods and slaves to imperialism and colonialism. We ask not just what Europeans wanted but also how Africans responded and resisted. We will also investigate present-day campaigns to address colonial-era human-rights violations. With the end of colonial rule, independent African states became full, but subordinate, members of the international system. As the Cold War reached new heights, states were pressed to choose between capitalism and communism, to ally with the West or the Soviet Union. We will explore the forms of economic and political development that states and social actors pursued. What sorts of aid did they receive? What conditions were attached to that aid? What room was there for democracy? What role did institutions like the World Bank play in aggravating or alleviating conditions of poverty? We will bring our discussion of international aid and development up to the present by discussing China’s dramatically expanded role on the African continent by providing loans, building infrastructure, and engaging in trade. We will conclude the fall semester by considering to what extent China presents either a different model of development and international politics or just an updated version of earlier models. During the second semester, we will focus on war, interventions, justice, and peace. With the end of the Cold War, African states experienced a dramatic increase in civil and interstate wars. We will investigate the central causes of key conflicts, as well as interventions by non-African states. Key questions include: Under what circumstances did Western states engage in humanitarian or other forms of intervention in response to conflict? Why did the international community withdraw during the Rwandan genocide? What institutions did the international community establish in order to support human rights, and how effective have they been? We will consider the various forms of justice pursued after the Rwandan genocide, as well as the charge that the International Criminal Court is targeting African states. Finally, we will use what we have learned to consider the impact of the United States’s Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) on US and other military actions on the African continent. The United States has dramatically increased its military presence on the continent in the last decade, as members of the US military have engaged in dramatic firefights with militants in East Africa and the Sahel. US-armed drones have killed significant numbers. We will consider how those interventions impact the prospects for short-term and long-term peace and development. This course will not provide any easy answers but will equip students to ask better questions, to effectively support their arguments, and to engage in in-depth research. Conference meetings will largely be one-on-one, but we will also schedule a few small group conferences during the year. There is also the possibility of full group outings, depending upon local events.

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Community and Civility

Advanced , Seminar—Year

Social theorist Wendell Berry argues, “A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” This course will explicitly examine Berry’s ideas about collective possibility and how community shapes the American idea, our national ethos, political and social life, and the very concept of civility that is essential in society. From America’s founding to the Age of Trump, the course will look at how concepts of community and civility have evolved from New England and frontier towns to suburban postwar sprawl and the current rise of inner cities, planned communities, and gentrification. Moreover, the course will attempt to make sense of the seeming polarization in American society today, along with the concurrent rise in rudeness, anxiety, social dislocation, and isolation that is chronicled regularly in both popular and academic writing. To be sure, this course on community and civility fits into a larger and growing area of research that has shown that the norms and networks of civil society have powerful practical effects in many disparate geographic, political, and economic arenas, including questions of inequality and social mobility. We will examine concepts such as “social capital” and “civil society,” and the seminar will explore these areas with a focus on the United States. Although many issues, concepts, and methods discussed in this seminar have important analogues in other settings, from the United Kingdom to Brazil, the literature and substantive focus of this seminar is entirely US-based. This seminar is intended to be both practical and contemporaneous to the politics of the present, and it will straddle the border between academic research and contemporary policy questions. The course will be both applied and theoretical and will ask students to apply social scientific concepts and methods to controversial public problems. The course is advanced, the workload is intense, and prior background in American history and politics is preferable.

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Intensive Semester in Yonkers: Inequalities and Opportunities in Yonkers: Integrating Theory, Research, Policy, and Practice

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

This course is part of the Intensive Semester in Yonkers program and is no longer open for interviews and registration. Interviews for the program take place during the previous spring semester.

This course provides an introduction to the methodologies of community-based and participatory action research within the context of a community partnership course. All students work for 10-15 hours per week in a community-based organization that addresses issues of inequality. Over the course of the semester, we discuss participatory action and community-based research methods and practice; integrating theory, research, policy, and practice; public health and public policy; nongovernmental organizations and private-public partnerships; understanding and addressing environmental inequalities for children and families; interactions with and impacts of media on children and families; media, identity, and globalization; intersections of class, race, gender, immigration status, and nation of origin with inequalities; and integrating artistry and performative practices in community-based work. Students also attend monthly group conferences with other students working in their community-based organization and biweekly one-on-one conference meetings with associated reading and written work.

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What’s in a Name? Perspectives on Poverty

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Previous coursework in psychology, sociology, or economics or instructor permission required.

Poverty, misery or want is a phantom with a thousand faces that vents its fury primarily among the majority of people who live in what is referred to as the Third World and among the pockets of poor people living on the fringes of the large industrialized cities… —Santiago Barquín

What is poverty? Does it have a face? Is it confined to a particular space? What does it mean to be poor? This seminar challenges students to confront their individual conceptualizations of poverty through a cross-disciplinary study into its dynamics. Readings will survey the way poverty has been defined by economists, psychologists, philosophers, and neuroscientists. Students will gain an understanding of how these definitions bear on the methodological approaches used to study both the prevalence of poverty and the severity of its effects. Students are expected to discuss the merits and demerits of each perspective and the practical consequences they engender. The course will move to situate poverty into context in order to examine how it is expressed across different environments. How is urban poverty similar to or different from rural poverty? Does suburban poverty even exist? The course will trace the origin of stereotypes about poor people and how they are perpetuated and supported by popular discourse through readings from White Trash: The 200-year Untold History of Class in America. Readings from $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America will ask students to interrogate the factuality of myths about who is poor. Together, the course will ponder the differential impact of poverty on racial and ethnic groups in America. Students will be asked to evaluate state-level welfare policies to observe the variation in state legislatures and the consequences for individuals and families. In thinking about the consequences of poverty, the course will also cover the way individuals are shaped by poverty, charting its effects on the brain and the body. Conference projects will give students the opportunity to research poverty-related social issues such as the poverty-obesity paradox and the income-academic achievement gap. Throughout the course, students are encouraged to be mindful of the way poverty is operationalized and to consider what psychological perspectives have to offer by way of improving our understanding of how people are affected by life in poverty.

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The Experiences of Immigrant Children

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: previous course work in psychology, politics, or public policy or permission of the instructor isrequired.

In the years to come, the United States is expected to see unprecedented growth in the foreign-born population. As our population becomes more diverse, we have an essential need to understand the experiences of immigrant individuals. In this seminar, students will explore the influence of immigration policies on recent trends in immigration and the consequences of those policies on families. Special attention is paid to the intersection of gender, poverty, and race in shaping patterns of migration. Although theories of immigration span across many social-science disciplines, the bioecological-systems approach will be used as a framework for contextualizing these theories and for applying a child-centric view to the migratory process. This seminar will take turns considering the unique experiences of Asian, Latinx, and Black immigrant children before, during, and after migration.Issues of legal status and maternal separation are central course themes. Other course topics include acculturative stress, discrimination, family dynamics, identity, and trauma. These experiences will be connected to the developmental outcomes of immigrant children. Course work requires students to consider the experiences of immigrant children and how best our schools, communities, and broader society can meet their needs. During the semester, students are asked to engage with the bioecological model of development in order to structure their analysis of the many factors affecting immigrant children. Students are encouraged to use their conference projects to hone in on one area of interest.

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Advanced Research Seminar

Intermediate/Advanced , 3-credit seminar—Year

Permission of the instructor is required.

In this research seminar, students will gain valuable research experience through a weekly seminar meeting focused on research methods, research ethics, and contemporary research questions and approaches; a weekly lab meeting with one of the faculty members leading the research seminar; and individual and group conference meetings with faculty supervisors on a regular, as-needed basis. The seminar component will include readings on, and discussions of, research methods and ethics, both broad and specific to the research in which students are involved, as well as the discussion of contemporary research articles that are relevant to student and faculty research projects. All faculty and students involved in the research experience will take turns leading the discussion of current research, with faculty taking the lead at the beginning of the semester and students taking the lead as their expertise develops. Weekly lab meetings will also involve reading and discussing research articles and research methods papers specific to the topics of research being undertaken by each student and faculty member. Students will be expected to learn the current research approaches being employed by their supervising faculty member, contribute toward ongoing research in the form of a research practicum, and develop and implement their own independent research projects within the labs in which they are working. Faculty supervising each lab will also be available to meet with students individually and in small groups on an ongoing basis, as needed and at least every other week, in addition to the regular weekly, hour-long lab meeting. Students participating in the Psychology Advanced Research Seminar will be expected to attend and actively participate in weekly full group seminars, weekly lab meetings, and regular (typically, at least biweekly) individual and group conference meetings; keep an ongoing journal and/or scientific lab notebook; select and facilitate group and lab discussions of relevant contemporary research articles (at least once for each meeting type); work at least 5 hours within a lab and/or community setting, as appropriate for their projects; contribute toward ongoing research and practice within their lab or community settings; develop, implement, and report on (in the form of a short paper prepared for possible publication and a poster at the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Poster Session) an independent research project; and provide their colleagues with ongoing verbal and written feedback on their projects.

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First-Year Studies: (Re)Constructing the Social: Subject, Field, Text

Open , FYS—Year

How does the setting up of a textile factory in Malaysia connect with life in the United States? What was the relationship of mothers to children in upper-class, 17th-century French households? How do our contemporary notions of leisure and luxury resemble, or do they, notions of peoples in other times and places regarding wealth and poverty? What is the relation between the local and the global, the individual and society, the self and “other(s)”? How is the self constructed? How do we connect biography and history, fiction and fact, objectivity and subjectivity, the social and the personal? These are some of the questions that sociology and sociologists attempt to think through. In this seminar, we will ask how sociologists analyze and simultaneously create reality, what questions we ask, and what ways we use to explore our questions and arrive at our findings and conclusions. Through a perusal of comparative and historical materials, we will look afresh at things that we take for granted; for example, the family, poverty, identity, travel and tourism, progress, science, and subjectivity. The objective of the seminar is to enable students to critically read sociological texts and also to become practitioners in “doing” sociology—something we are always already involved in, albeit often unself-consciously. This last endeavor is designed both to train students in how to undertake research and intended as a key tool in interrogating the relationship between the researcher and the researched, the field studied, and the (sociological) text. In conference, students will undertake research on topics of interest to them and learn the craft of research by working on topics of direct interest to them. In the seminar, students will also engage in a few shorter collaborative projects with their peers.

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Informality and Precariousness in the City: Family, Home, and the Politics of Transnational Life

Open , Seminar—Fall

The UNHCR puts the number of stateless people—those denied nationality—at 10 million globally. Often, these are migrants, refugees, victims of trafficking, and displaced groups who find themselves living under extremely precarious and vulnerable conditions and without much in terms of resources and rights. Cities and urban areas become important spaces in which the marginalized poor and excluded communities seek refuge and shelter and engage in forms of rebuilding and place-making that tends to fall outside of the purview and control of the state and the authorities. Here, we take a broad transnational perspective on how the precarious and vulnerable urban poor develop strategies and practices of living that are geared toward securing greater autonomy and dignity, primarily through forms of peripheral development and informality. We will explore interconnected themes of family, kinship, work, gender, and social reproduction as they pertain to the urban poor. Some of the theories and concepts that we will read include Teresa Caldeira’s “autoconstruction,” Asef Bayat’s “quiet encroachment of the ordinary,” Henri Lefebvre’s “right to the city,” and Ananya Roy’s “subaltern urbanism.”

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Health Policy/Health Activism

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

How does your race, class, gender, and where you live and work influence whether you get sick? Why does the United States spend more on healthcare than other countries, yet rank relatively low on many measures of good health? How likely is it that you will have access to healthcare when you need it? Can we make affordable healthcare available to more people? What do we mean by “public health”? What is the role of government in providing healthcare or managing the health of populations? In this course, we will investigate these questions directly and through studying health social movements. Health activists have not only advocated for particular diseases and for research funding but also have also sought to reduce stigma, uncover health disparities and environmental injustices, and democratize medical research. Throughout the year, we will examine the history and contemporary meanings of “health,” examining the moral values attached to health and illness and questions of medical authority and medical knowledge. We will begin in the fall semester by studying health social movements in conjunction with studying patterns of ill health; i.e., who gets sick and why? In the spring semester, we will turn to healthcare systems, both within the United States and globally. We will study programs of healthcare reform in the United States and other countries, international health policy, and specific health policy issues such as vaccination, genetic screening, or the ethics of medical research. Throughout the year, we will explore broad questions of social justice, inequalities, governance, activism, and the environment through the lens of health.

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What’s the Story? A Radio Journalism Class

Open , Seminar—Fall

Almost two years into a politically divisive presidency that has fractured the country—and with the proliferation of fake news—journalism is more important than ever. And so are the skills required to do the job. The landscape of radio is exploding, and new podcasts are being launched almost faster than listeners can decide which episode to download next. These outlets, shows, and storymaking machines are hungry—both for stories and for the producers with the skills to know how to tell stories. In this class, we’ll learn the fundamentals of making radio news—both writing and production, for short stories and long. We’ll cover editing, software, interviewing skills, and, of course, how to hold your microphone. We’ll learn what makes a story, how to get good tape, and how to write for the ear (very different than for the eye—just try comparing an article from The New York Times with a transcript from NPR). We’ll also cover the skills critical for all nonfiction narrative storytelling, print or audio, from “Morning Edition” to “This American Life.” We’ll talk research, ethics, fact checking, how to find sources, and how to get them to talk. Finally, we’ll cover the art of the pitch. That’s industry lingo for selling your story. It’s no good getting the scoop if you don’t know how to sell your stuff. News is new. Come and learn something new.

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Wrongfully Accused

Open , Seminar—Year

Long-form investigative journalism has opened many doors, perhaps most literally in America’s penal system where journalists have regularly revealed—and freed—the wrongfully convicted. This class will set out to expose the innocence (or confirm the guilt) of a man or woman convicted of a controversial murder or other serious felony. Working collectively and using all of the tools and traditions of investigative journalism, the class will attempt to pull out all known and unknown threads of the story to reveal the truth. Was our subject wrongfully accused? Or are his or her claims of innocence an attempt to game the system? The class will interview police, prosecutors, and witnesses, as well as the friends and family of the victim and of the accused. The case file will be examined in depth. A long-form investigative piece will be produced, complete with multimedia accompaniment.

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