Curriculum and Courses | Civic Engagement at NSPE | New York City
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Courses and Curriculum

  • Each school in The New School for Public Engagement offers its students opportunities to practice civic engagement by using their scholarship to make a difference. In a sense, The New School for Public Engagement is in the business of matchmaking: helping students find a perfect match between the skills they are acquiring in school and problems that require solutions in the world around them. Below is a sampling of courses and co-curricular programs that enable students to apply their skills and engage as global citizens. You can also view a comprehensive listing of civic engagement courses.

    Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy

    Milano students take part in a number of projects in the community. With nonprofit, management, sustainability, and international affairs scholarship as their tools, Milano students are well positioned to integrate civically engaged learning into their education. Students in the Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management program find many opportunities for volunteering and innovating in the course Sustainable Urban Communities. Students in this class have participated in projects like the Solar Decathlon—a national competition in which teams build sustainable houses—and worked with a growing number of partners, including Habitat for Humanity and the DC Department of Housing and Community Development. Partnering with the GrowNYC/Greenmarket, students and faculty in the Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management program offer sustainability classes to the public in the Union Square Greenmarket.

    Students in the Urban Policy Analysis and Management program deliver policy and analytic advice to public and nonprofit clients to help advance their policy objectives. In the Urban Policy Lab, students work in teams conducting analysis addressing a policy issue for a partnering public or nonprofit organization. Students in the class also apply skills they have learned in real-world situations by collaborating with partner organizations. These projects enable students to hone their research and policy analysis skills and gain issue-specific knowledge.

    Milano students interested in public education can enroll in the Community-School Partnership Lab, which combines a semester of public education policy and management training with a year of fieldwork supporting a public school in Harlem. Students collaborate with Milano faculty, the Center for New York City Affairs, local school leaders, and community groups to develop lasting partnerships between an elementary school and community-based organizations. Students expand and apply their knowledge of urban education reform and management, participatory research, and the public school's role in community outreach and parent engagement.

    School of Language Learning and Teaching

    Students in the Master's in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MATESOL) program bring their skills into the community by teaching English in two outreach programs. The programs are designed to support English language learners who might not otherwise be able to afford classes and allow students to gain experience as teachers and develop an understanding of the challenges learners face. One program provides free classes on campus; the other is offered to English learners on-site at their workplaces, a model that has been implemented in restaurants. The program is made possible by partnerships between the MATESOL program and restaurant owners who want to provide their workers with opportunities for professional development and language acquisition. The on-site ESL program was recently featured on CNN and NY1.

    School of Media Studies

    Students in the Media Studies program can take a course called Projects in Advocacy Media, in which they collaborate with a nonprofit, special interest group, or community group on a media project to raise awareness about a social issue. The project may be designed to educate, raise funds, or serve as a call to action. In the School of Media Studies, media are studied as tools for bringing about change. In Photography and Social Change, students investigate photography and its history of effecting social change. Students in the Documentary as Social Practice and Art as Social Practice classes explore the use of documentary film and art in developing new forms of social practice and promoting change.

    In Urban Media Archeology, media are examined through an archeological lens. Students examine urban media networks and infrastructure and the way they have evolved over time, conducting research on their own and in partnership with local libraries and archives. The results of their research are displayed in an open-source mapping platform, developed with the help of Parsons programmers.

    School of Undergraduate Studies

    Undergraduate students have many opportunities to make connections and apply their skills to real-world problems. In Social Entrepreneurship, students explore a wide range of social problems and develop market-based solutions combining for-profit and not-for-profit initiatives. Students choose a business model and use it to address a social issue they care about and analyze prospects for success, develop funding models, and strategies for impact assessment.

    Courses integrating the humanities and civic engagement are being developed through the Humanities in Public/Practice project. Called Public Humanities courses, they enable undergraduate students to take part in difficult dialogues on a range of topics. Recent courses include Documentary and the Ethics of Representation and Philosophy and Moral Imagination: Literature, Film, and Photography.

    The Creative Arts and Health certificate program offers Transforming Community Through the Arts, a class in which students work with a community to develop solutions to problems using theater, music, art installations, multimedia events, and other art forms. Each student builds a relationship with a community, develops an understanding of the challenges they face, and collaborates with the community on art-based solutions.

    Students in the Environmental Studies program do research, independent projects, and group work in the community, contributing to local environmental preservation efforts while learning through fieldwork. In the Urban Ecosystems course, students gain critical skills in the field as they check aquatic traps and record data at the Hudson River. Their data is given to the River Project for use in its long-term biodiversity study.

    School of Writing

    The role of the writer as social critic, activist, and engaged citizen is integral to the community and curriculum of the School of Writing. Students recently organized a panel discussion in which journalists addressed the evolving role of print media in social change. Students also bring the dialogue into the community, as in an open discussion on Occupy Wall Street. Students in the Riggio Honors Program: Writing and Democracy invite members of the community to participate in their monthly student work showcase and use the series to explore the relationship between writing and democracy.

    Students in the School of Writing can participate in ASHLAB, a long-term multidisciplinary project in which the poet John Ashbery's house in Hudson, New York, is digitally mapped. In a series of courses, students annotate, inventory, and anthologize Ashbery's work, library, art collection, and living space. The goal of the project is for students to use new technology and design to re-imagine the writer's archive in virtual space. It also puts students in contact with contemporary poets and critics and enables them to take part in documenting living literary history.

    The School of Writing is home to many projects and groups in which students can take part, such as the Feminist Writers Organization (FWO), which promotes diverse feminist perspectives and approaches writing as a transformative activity with revolutionary consequences.

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