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.

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

Spring 2019 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.

(Engaged Scholarship Course, New in Fall 2018)
Expos 236, 237

Sparsha Saha
MW 12, MW 1:30

Spring 2019 Syllabus

The “Engaged Scholarship” components of this course include multiple mandatory activities outside of regular class hours. Dates of the activities in Spring 2019 will be announced in the first class meeting.

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

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

Spring 2019 Syllabus

Note: This Expos course requires participation in some activities outside of normal class hours as well as a mandatory capstone project.

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.

Students will be required to coordinate with at least two classmates to attend and observe a community group or municipal agency meeting outside of class hours. These observations should be conducted in March or April. A schedule of potential observations will be distributed in the first week of class.

(Engaged Scholarship Course, New in Spring 2019) 
Sarah Case

Spring 2019 Syllabus

From Boston Common to the Charles River Esplanade and the Arnold Arboretum, Boston boasts many beautiful green spaces. Closer to home, the leafy lawns of Harvard Yard provide a respite in a busy urban environment. With over half of the world’s population living in cities, urban green space is more important than ever. The value of public parks to those fortunate enough to live near them is considerable, whether the reduction of the negative effects of climate change, improved public health, or ample opportunities for residents to connect with and appreciate the power of the natural world. But as cities boom and prices skyrocket, access to spaces like parks is increasingly expensive and exclusionary. This course will consider a series of related questions: What exactly are the benefits of resources like public parks? Should urban green space be considered a right of every citizen? Has access to green space in cities become a privilege of the elite? We will explore these questions, thinking about why access to green space matters in an increasingly urbanized world. 

Our first unit will focus on the green spaces of Harvard’s campus. You’ll question the role that access to nature plays for the Harvard community by touring campus and choosing a site to study. We’ll then move to examine questions of public access to parks through the case study of Boston Common, America’s oldest urban park. We’ll think through the thorny relationship between public and private green space for urban communities by working with the Friends of the Public Garden and reading an increasingly influential essay on the fate of public space, “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Our third unit will provide you with a unique opportunity to explore how academic research on questions of environmental access is playing out on the ground through a partnership with Groundwork, a community organization in neighboring Somerville. Groundwork works to build community and environmental health through projects such as urban gardens and youth education. You will consider the relationship between urban green initiatives and the residents who benefit from them while learning about Groundwork’s urban farming initiatives in conjunction with your research. Students will have a chance to present their innovative ideas and research from their writing at a capstone fair at the end of the semester. 

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

  • Friday March 8, 3:15-5:30 p.m.—A discussion with Elizabeth Vizza, Executive Director of the Boston Friends of the Public Garden
  • Wednesday April 3, 4:30-6 p.m. – A panel discussion with the Groundwork Green Team
  • A capstone fair during Reading Period (Time and Date TBA)
(Engaged Scholarship Course, New in Spring 2019)
Expos 204
Willa Brown
TTh 12

Spring 2019 Syllabus

Each year over three million visitors walk Boston’s Freedom Trail, learning a curated story of how this country came to be. But whose story is it? This engaged scholarship course will leave the Yard in order to think about how the stories we tell shape the city we live in. In the wake of the riots in Charlottesville over the removal of a statue dedicated to Robert E. Lee, Americans are embroiled in a debate long familiar to historians: what do our monuments say about who we are? Maybe more importantly: how do those messages change the way we interact with each other? This course will explore these questions in the context of the city you have come to live in for the next four years. We will begin by critically examining the story visitors and residents learn when they walk the Freedom Trail—whose stories are told? What do those narratives say about what this city is? We will be part of the debate about what it means to be represented (or not) on the city landscape. This course will teach you to see the cityscape as a book to be read—a book whose meaning you can shape. After examining these questions, we will make our own decisions about what stories need to be told: the course will culminate in creating a digital map and our own walking tour presented to the public.


This course will require an out-of-class workshop in April (date TBD) and participation in the capstone public tour on Saturday, May 4th