At The New School, civic engagement is central to the learning experience of our students. Our diverse educational programs and courses allow students to interact with communities, both locally and around the world, and to participate in debates about such issues as equality and social justice, democratic governance, environmental sustainability, and human development. Students also have the opportunity to use new technologies to facilitate learning and stimulate public discourse inside and outside the classroom.
Civic engagement experiences integrated into New School coursework are designed to offer students the opportunity to explore critical issues concerning today's society and also to fashion the next generation of visionaries and professionals dedicated to social change.
Community Development Finance Laboratory
The Lab examines community capital markets through real-world projects and produces working tools, such as organizations can use every day. The course consists of three components: (1) the Pro-Bono consulting clinic that allows students to work in partnership with community based organizations to conduct feasibility studies and business plans for their community economic development projects, (2) seminars with community development finance experts where students learn about particular issues and techniques as well as are provided with networking opportunities, (3) workshops to build technical skills. This component of the course consists of workshops in which students learn about a particular community development finance tool, such as the New Markets Tax Credit and Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and work with spreadsheets from actual deals in order to gain a fine-grained understanding about how these tools are used and how deals are structured. This is a two-semester, three credit hour course.
Participatory Community Engagement
This course has two primary goals. First, students gain an understanding of the theory behind participatory community development, popular education and critical pedagogy. Students read about and collectively discuss questions of powerlessness, marginalization, poverty, and inequality and how grassroots participatory processes have inspired community driven approaches to addressing these enduring problems. Students also engage with academic critiques of participatory models in order to learn how to critically evaluate participatory processes. Second, through partnerships with local organizations and communities students experiment with key participatory strategies and models. Through practice, theory, and dialogue students learn the promises and also the inherent challenges of using participatory methodologies as a vehicle for social change.
IHAD: Dance Practicum
In this course, students gain the skills to teach dance to 2nd and 3rd Graders at the Chelsea Elliott School. The course examines pedagogical methods, connections between dance and the children's literacy and math syllabi, and focuses on teaching games and methods that are effective for the appropriate age group. Students first "practice teach" lessons and subsequently work with the children. Students are supervised by the professor while working with the children. They reconvene at Eugene Lang College throughout the semester to share their experiences and for feedback.
Social scientists have noted that while there has been a decrease in political engagement among the young, there has been a surge in volunteerism among those 13-25. In this course, we explore the multiple pathways of engaging in civic participation as well as the ways that people may educate themselves and share their education during their civic work. In the first part of the course, we examine what participation means. In the second part of the course we look at ways that students and institutions of higher education can engage and partner with civic organizations to enrich the experience offered by each as well as enhance the quality, diversity, and scope of the services and activities offered in the community.
In this course, students are trained to become Citizen Tree Pruners through Trees New York, a local environmental advocacy organization. The training consists of eight hours of classroom work and four hours of field-based learning with a Trees New York Forester. Training topics include street tree identification and biology, pruning skills, and tree health maintenance. The balance of the course covers topics in community development, urban mapping, and citizen environmental stewardship. Upon passing a mid-term exam, students are certified to prune trees owned by the City of New York. A final project focuses on mapping a patch of Manhattan's urban forest and developing a proposal for supporting local street tree stewardship.
CRS: Refugees and Forced Migration
Nada Mustafa Ali
The seminar addresses urgent issues in global, conflict, forced migration, refugee and urban studies. Students will understand current theoretical and policy debates on forced migration and refugees, explore key instruments in international law that define who is a refugee and protect the rights of refugees, and critically examine how refugees are constructed in the media and in global policy debates, including in debates around security and the war on terror, strained economies, access to services, and cultural authenticity. Students have the opportunity to develop practical, firsthand experience of working with or conducting research among refugees through a collaboration with the International Rescue Committee, where they work closely with groups of young refugees in New York. In addition to working closely with the IRC, Students are encouraged to link-up with some of the activities organized by UNHCR and various civil society organizations working with refugees in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1951 Refugees Convention.
Immigrant Communities in the City
This course examines immigrant communities in the urban environment, ranging from mixed migrant neighborhoods to well-established enclaves to fragmented communities scattered throughout. The course takes New York City as its primary case study with a focus on immigrant communities and institutions as key forces shaping the urban landscape. Topics include: understanding ethnic enclaves, immigrant community-based organizations, immigrants and work, inter-group dynamics, immigrant cultural institutions, race and ethnicity, gender in immigrant neighborhoods, immigrants and the state, and immigrant political activity. Students engage in a course project working with immigrant institution(s), organization(s), and/or city agencies actively involved in immigrant neighborhoods. Ideally, these projects will be shaped in collaboration with the community partner(s).
Collab: Red Cross
This is a course for those interested in the social responsibility and agency of design, designers, and design thinking. We will be partnering with the Red Cross, the world’s largest humanitarian with a membership of 100 million people internationally. In New York alone the American Red Cross (ARC) have a volunteer base of 8,000+ people and attend to an average of 8-10 emergencies per day Brooklyn has the most fires in the US, second is Detroit. Children make up a large proportion of the people they serve yet the ARC recognizes that they need to develop new ways of connecting with young children and teenagers so that they can be better prepared in the event of a disaster. In the Collab Studio we explore and design digital and non-digital games, activities, and drills, animations and films, mobile and online interactive works, and contemporary design-based curricula for elementary, middle, and high schools. The work generated is presented to the executive branches of the American Red Cross in Washington and New York with the intention of it being adopted and put into practice.
Applied Research: Urban Bike
In this course, we consider the bicycle as an interface to the city, a system of transportation, and a method to support sustainable urban lifestyles. We begin the semester observing, surveying, and researching urban cycling culture using ethnographic, documentary, and urban research techniques within NYC, but also in other U.S., European, and Asian cities. Throughout this process and investigation, students explore the possibilities and opportunities for innovative design projects ranging from cargo & commuting frame design using traditional and alternative materials (steel & bamboo, electric), mobile/social media, urban sensing, infrastructure, and apparel and accessories addressing safety, security, and improving comfort and accessibility. The bicycle is also used as a platform to explore grassroots community activism using the creation of narrative as a means of capturing the social and political dimensions of the urban cycling experience.There are guests throughout the semester from industry, as well as nonprofit and community-based organizations. Students also have the opportunity to submit their work to the Bicycle Film Festival, participate in an UrbanBike exhibition, and engage with other external projects.
Urban Homelessness: Civic Engagement and Activism in the City
Jurgen Von Mahs
We study the multifaceted problem of the urban homeless through service learning, which involves field experiences within an academic framework—working with service and advocacy organizations in New York City. Online coursework includes discussion of the nature, extent, and causes of as well as social and policy responses to homelessness. Students are also required to volunteer onsite with one of two New York City-based homeless service and advocacy organizations—the Coalition for the Homeless and Women in Need—performing assigned tasks (evening volunteer opportunities are available). The course challenges common stereotypes about homeless people, promotes understanding of the challenges and constraints homeless service providers face, and helps students think about the problems in creative, innovative, and unconventional ways.
Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship
This course explores innovative, entrepreneurial approaches that address social problems within the United States and internationally and across diverse domains, such as education, economic development, the environment, health, and human rights. The course introduces students to key concepts associated with social innovation and social entrepreneurship and the steps in the entrepreneurial process: identifying an opportunity or social need, formulating a strategy to address the social problem, mobilizing resources and partners, managing growth, tracking results, and maximizing impact. We also examine the need for public policy to help develop and sustain these new activities and organizations. Cases, readings, and guest speakers advance our understanding of entrepreneurial social action in diverse contexts and the construction of new projects, organizations, and movements.
SDS Projects: Urban Communities
The Urban Communities studio is a collaborative project with Milano, and a community group in Washington, DC. A team of students partners with a carefully selected nonprofit partner on projects that support the nonprofits mission. Students work to develop creative design ideas in collaboration with Milano students who interrogate policy and financial models. The premise of SDS Projects is to confront complex issues (for example: explore community, investigate the intersection of design and public health issues, support information and graphic design in pursuit of the public good, extend and strengthen the concept of a civil society) and propose design solutions. Specific outcomes are based on the client and projects they identify in conversation with the group. Ideas around low cost, replicable and sustainable housing models, on clearly identified sites, and in support of the solar decathlon will be of particular interest.