Engaged Scholarship Expos Courses

Engaged Scholarship Expos Courses, New in Fall 2019


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 Expos courses welcome students who are passionate and intellectually curious about the course topics, willing to interrogate their assumptions continually throughout the semester, and committed to rewarding work outside of class. 



(Engaged Scholarship Course)

(New course in Fall 2019)

Expos 231, 232

Margaret Rennix

MW 10:30, MW 12

Fall 2019 Syllabus: Narrating Immigration


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


Immigration has become a divisive topic in the U.S., as thousands of people fleeing violence and poverty in Central America arrive at the southern border each year. While conversations about immigration tend to focus on its economic, cultural, and political implications, the lived experiences of immigrants can get lost in the shuffle. Who are the people coming to the U.S. border? What has motivated their journeys? Once they arrive, what happens to them? Which of their experiences make it into the national conversation around immigration, and which are ignored? In this course, students will try to answer these questions, combining both standard academic inquiry with exploratory community engagement. Course participants will have the opportunity to meet with and pose questions to lawyers from the Harvard Law School Immigration Clinic, as well as representatives from the Dilley Pro Bono Project, who provide legal services to asylum seekers 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. These experiences will then inform students’ academic writing, which will culminate in a research paper that seeks to bring national attention to some of the overlooked realities of the immigration system course participants have encountered.

In Unit 1, we will start by looking at concepts of nationhood and community, asking students to critique arguments for and against open borders, focusing on the libertarian, utilitarian argument made in favor of them by economist Bryan Caplan. In Unit 2, we will turn to the self-articulated experiences of immigrants to the United States, putting narratives of asylum seekers in conversation with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s definition of persecution in The Matter of A-B-. Finally, in Unit 3 students will write a research paper in which they synthesize their learning throughout the semester, contributing directly to the national conversation surrounding immigration, with the goal of submitting their work for potential publication. They will write this paper in conjunction with creating a capstone project: a two-minute, self-reflective video produced for the class’s community partners.



(Engaged Scholarship Course)

(New course in Fall 2019)

Expos 209, 210

Matthew Cole

TTh 12, TTh 1:30

Fall 2019 Syllabus: Democracy in Action


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


Winston Churchill famously quipped that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all of those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” These days, it sometimes seems like democracy is just the worst. This year, Pew Research Center reported that 58% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way their democracy is working, and that around the world more citizens are dissatisfied with their democracies than are satisfied. The complaints tend to be the same: politicians are corrupt and out of touch, government is unresponsive, and elections fail to offer meaningful choices. Amidst a climate of cynicism and disillusionment, this course invites students to consider the proposal that the cure for what ails democracy is more democracy: a stronger, deeper form of democracy that gives the word’s original meaning – rule by the people – a new lease on life. Throughout the semester, we will explore the theory and practice of “participatory democracy,” a vision of political life that emphasizes active citizenship, public deliberation, and direct self-government. Advocates of participatory democracy insist that we can save our democracies, but that in order to do so we’ll have to reinvent them by finding new ways to engage and empower citizens.

In our first unit, we will examine participatory democracy as an ideal. Our sources will include John Dewey, the great American philosopher of democracy, as well as some of the idea’s most influential contemporary proponents (one of whom will be joining us in the classroom for a special session). In our second unit, we will consider how this ideal can be brought to life through innovative forms of governance that delegate power to the people. The City of Cambridge’s sixth annual Participatory Budgeting (PB) process will provide students with an opportunity to observe and, yes, participate in a real-world case study, and even to provide feedback on the process to the city. In our third unit, students will look to the future of participatory democracy by conducting independent research into challenges, best practices, and further innovations – and they’ll have the opportunity to present their findings at our culminating democracy forum.

The Engaged Scholarship components of the course include two in-class sessions (September 17th, October 3rd) as well as the following out-of-class components:

· In October, students will coordinate with each other to observe aspects of the PB Process in pairs or small groups. Options for observation will be provided at the beginning of Unit 2.

· In late November or early December, students will be required to volunteer one time to assist Cambridge PB with Get out the Vote (GOTV).

· Students will be expected to contribute to planning, publicizing, and of course, presenting at our capstone event (date and time to be decided democratically).

For more information about Cambridge PB, visit: https://pb.cambridgema.gov/


Additional Engaged Scholarship Courses in Fall 2019



(Engaged Scholarship Course)

Expos 236, 237

Sparsha Saha

TTh 9, TTh 10:30

The “Engaged Scholarship” components of this course include multiple mandatory activities outside of regular class hours. Dates of the Spring 2019 activities 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)

Expos 206, 207

Willa Brown

TTh 12, TTh 3


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.