Engaged Scholarship Expos Courses

Engaged Scholarship Expos courses give first-year students an exciting chance to connect the “theory and practice” of academic research and writing. Supported by Harvard's Mindich Program in Engaged Scholarship (MPES), these courses "challenge students and faculty to integrate scholarship with community perspectives, knowledge, and expertise to have impact within and beyond the academy" (MPES). In Engaged Scholarship Expos courses, students go outside the classroom into neighborhoods and organizations to see real-world issues up close. By the end of the semester, students will have used writing and speaking as crucial tools for developing evidence-based arguments about those issues--and for communicating their thinking with audiences well beyond the classroom.

(New Course in Fall 2018)  
Expos 228, 229
Margaret Rennix
MW 10:30, MW 12

Fall 2018 Syllabus

Note: This Expos course requires participation in some activities outside of normal class hours.

Immigration has become an increasingly divisive topic in U.S. politics, as thousands of people fleeing violence and poverty in Central America have arrived at the nation’s border. While conversations about immigration tend to focus on its economic and cultural implications, the specific experiences of immigrants can get lost in the political shuffle. Who are the people who are coming to the U.S. border? What has motivated their journeys? Once they arrive, what happens to their individual stories and experiences? Who receives those narratives? How are they used? In this course, students will try to answer these questions, grappling with one of the most pressing moral and social issues U.S. lawmakers and citizens are confronting today. But rather than just approaching the complexities of immigration using academic literature, students will engage actively with how narratives of immigration are told and transformed, especially as individual experiences get processed into legal asylum cases. Students will have the opportunity to meet with and pose questions to lawyers and law students from the Harvard Law School Immigration Clinic, as well as lawyers working on the border at the U.S. family detention center in Dilley, Texas. They will also exit the gates of Harvard to attend immigration court proceedings, visit local immigrant neighborhoods, and talk with activists about their hopes and frustrations regarding immigration reform. This course aims to be a multifaceted intellectual experience, allowing students the opportunity to witness directly how academic arguments can affect human lives. And students will be asked to participate in this process, offering their own claims about how immigration policy should be shaped based on what they learn over the course of the semester. In Unit 1, we will start by looking at concepts of nationhood and community, asking students to critique arguments for and against open borders—including those by political philosophers Richard Carens and David Miller, and economist Bryan Caplan. In Unit 2, we will turn to the self-articulated experiences of immigrants to the United States, reading Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends and a number of redacted affidavits from asylum seekers, to consider how “tricky” cases—like those involving minors who have complicated relationships with gangs in their homelands—ought to affect how asylum cases are made. Finally, in Unit 3 students will write a research paper in which they will use an immigration story of their own choosing to argue for changes in United States policy. They will write this paper in conjunction with creating a capstone project: a five-minute video on a specific immigration issue that will then be shared with the community partners they’ve engaged with throughout the course.

There will be two outside-of-class activities students will be asked to attend at specific times, and for which they should plan to keep their schedules open:

  • November 8, 5-7 p.m.—A panel discussion with local immigration activists
  • December 7, 4-6:30 p.m.—A capstone fair (the capstone fair will happen within these hours, but will not take the entire time)

(New Course in Fall 2018)
Expos 236, 237

Sparsha Saha
MW 12, MW 1:30

Fall 2018 Syllabus

The “Engaged Scholarship” components of this course include activities outside class time (these are tentative dates that will be finalized in September, so please note that they are subject to change):

Today, the United States Congress is 19.4% female. That statistic trails the world average of 23.3%, with Nordic, European, sub- Saharan African, and Asian countries achieving better gender balance in national legislatures than the U.S. Some scholars contend that when women run, they are no more likely to win or lose compared to their male counterparts, though they are simply less likely to run in the first place. Other scholars identify a strong correlation between voting and sexist attitudes, notably in the 2016 U.S. election. But the puzzle persists: what accounts for the persistently low levels of female political representation in American politics, particularly since the United States boasts some of the highest levels of female participation in the labor market, especially in executive positions? Our course explores this question as it examines how prejudicial attitudes about women manifest themselves in American political life and society. In Unit 1, we begin by examining the popular argument that women should have more political representation because they would be better political leaders. In this unit, you will also have a chance to engage in the Harvard community by interviewing peers, neighbors, and other members of Harvard Square to get a sense of beliefs about women in politics. In Unit 2, we turn our attention to recent case studies, including Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to investigate how gender stereotypes may or may not have played a role in the outcomes of their political races. Finally, in Unit 3, you will contribute to the scholarship in this field, by researching the phenomenon that Massachusetts lags behind other states when it comes to female political representation at the state and gubernatorial level. We will partner with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (www.mwpc.org) to help them address this problem at the state level by writing a policy paper with recommendations that draw on your research into this issue.

  •  Interviews with Harvard peers and members of Harvard Square community to be completed before October 10 (not set time, flexible dependent on individual schedules).

  • Panel symposium featuring female politicians, candidates for office, academics, and other stakeholders to be held on Nov 14, 4-6pm. Location TBD.

  • Capstone Presentations to Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus, HQ in Boston, MA in early December, specifics TBD.

(New Course in Fall 2018)
Expos 242, 243
Spencer Strub
TTh 9, TTh 10:30

Fall 2018 Syllabus

Note: This Expos class requires an independent research trip into Boston outside of normal class hours.

In winter 2018, Boston and coastal Massachusetts experienced two “hundred-year floods” in quick succession. Coming hard on the heels of costlier disasters elsewhere, the impassable roads in the Seaport and icebergs in the streets of Scituate were widely understood as a sign of things to come. The changing shape of the New England coastline raises tough questions: how should governments and peoples prepare for, and adapt to, a changing climate? How do we stave off the worst-case scenarios, and how should we mete out responsibility for the damage that’s already been done? And how might our society––our politics, our culture, our sense of justice and our narratives of ourselves––transform in response to the unfolding global ecological crisis?

While such questions are usually left to activists, engineers, and urban planners, this course will ask you to begin to answer these questions using the tools of the humanities. We’ll begin by exploring the way we talk about the world-to-come today, focusing on the writer Elizabeth Rush’s portraits of coastal communities confronting sea level rise and the loss it entails. In the second unit, we turn to questions of ethics and politics. We’ll weigh Aldo Leopold’s foundational “Land Ethic” – which calls for a society that respects an “ecological conscience” – against more recent work on the role that race and class play in exposure to environmental risks. In doing so, we’ll develop richer, more sensitive accounts of the interaction between nature and society. The course ends by considering the case example of Boston itself. In class, we’ll assess Climate Ready Boston’s reports together, analyzing how the city is preparing for “climate resilience.” In a final capstone project and research paper, you’ll prepare your own neighborhood-specific studies that respond to these reports, drawing on our readings in ethics and political thought as well as your own discoveries in the research process – a process that will ask you to survey climate scientists’ projections, delve into the history of Boston, and even walk the shoreline of the city. The goal is to develop and articulate your own vision for a just and livable future for New England.

Required Research Travel:

As part of the research for Unit 3, students will be expected to coordinate with each other and visit a neighborhood in Boston subject to climate impacts. This trip will require taking the T and walking. A response paper recording observations from this trip is due November 9th; the research trip can be made at any point beforehand.


This course will be offered in Spring 2019 
Sarah Case

Fall 2018 Syllabus

Note: This Expos class requires students to visit the neighboring community of Allston to conduct research outside of class hours.

“In wilderness is the preservation of the world,” wrote the pioneering environmentalist, Henry David Thoreau, over one  hundred years ago. Since then, our ideas about wilderness have become even more complicated. Away from the noise and crowds of daily life, refuges like America’s National Parks and local public parks provide a place to connect with and appreciate the power of the natural world. But with more and more people living in cities, access to these preserves is increasingly expensive and exclusionary, and debates rage over whether hoards of visitors are doing more harm than good to fragile ecosystems. With an increasing awareness of the dangers presented by climate change and the benefits of spending time in nature, environmentalism is on the rise. But what are the issues at stake with this increasing focus on living sustainably? Has access to nature and green space, especially in urban areas, become a privilege of the elite? This course will consider the boundaries of environmentalism, thinking about why access to green space matters in an increasingly urbanized world, and how this issue plays a role in larger debates about equality and social justice.

Our first unit will focus on the green spaces of Harvard’s campus. You’ll question the role that access to nature plays in student life by analyzing a campus site of your choosing We’ll then move to examine questions of public access to parks by exploring two case studies: Denali National Park in Alaska and Manhattan’s Central Park. We’ll think through the thorny relationship between sustainability and public space at play in these popular destinations. Our third unit will consider the relationship between urban green space and social justice by focusing on contested development projects in the neighboring community of Allston, site of Harvard’s recent expansion. With local residents being priced out, we will question who urban green initiatives really benefit. Students will analyze new environmental projects in Allston, such as housing developments and parks, to think about the ethics of sustainable development in urban settings.

Required Research Travel:

During Unit 3, students will arrange to visit the neighboring community of Allston to research green initiatives and their impact on the local community. This will involve working in pairs, and taking public transit and/or walking. The tentative deadline for conducting this research will be in early November.