The “Just Communities” Curriculum

The District of Columbia names a street after the Black Lives Matter movement

New 1-credit course opportunities for Fall 2020

The last few months have been an extraordinary period in history. We have witnessed a cascade of tragedies and injustices that have rocked our national conscience, leading us to look inward for answers and outward for action and solutions. We continue to witness acts of violence inflicted upon Black men and women, and devastating and unequal effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on our most vulnerable populations. Systemic racism, exemplified in the horrific deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others have sparked protests in every state in the U.S. and in many major cities around the world. Out of these events has come a broadened national consciousness around issues of racial justice and systemic oppression. At the same time, daily life for all has come unmoored, growing unfamiliar and distorted under our extended quarantine and social isolation, challenging our solidarity as communities, big and small, national, regional, and campus.   

As part of Georgetown’s engagement with these issues, we have created a set of new 1-credit course opportunities for students. These courses are intended to be complementary to any schedule, providing students unique ways into these insistent and complex issues. They are organized in three categories: Ways of KnowingWays of DoingWays of Being. All of these are designed to be engaged with this moment, and to draw upon Georgetown’s values, community and location. They are also designed to be “change of pace” courses, with a mix of formats, much of which involves encountering new material, self-directed work, peer interaction and small group discussion.

These courses can be found in the Schedule of Classes by searching under subject “Interdisciplinary Studies”. The “Just Communities” courses are numbered 101-122; the schedule description identifies the varying formats and schedules of each.

Black Lives Matter: Facing Racism, Injustice, and Systemic Oppression (Alphonso Saville), IDST-113

This course seeks to respond, in part, to the need to develop the intellectual and spiritual resources needed to combat racism and dismantle systems of oppression in contemporary American society. We will explore social, cultural, and political constructions of race in the U.S. past and present. We will collectively contemplate questions related to race, social inequality, and violence in the making of American democratic society, as we aim to strike a balance between courageous inquiry and action.

Challenging Gentrification: Toward a More Just City (Brian McCabe), IDST-114

What does gentrification mean? Why do neighborhoods gentrify? Who benefits from this process? How do urban policymakers respond to gentrification? In this seminar, we will interrogate the process of gentrification through an analysis of Washington, DC. By investigating the persistent legacy of racial segregation and disinvestment from largely African-American neighborhoods, students will begin to understand the history of American cities as a contested site for gentrification. We will discuss questions about the rights of long-term citizens to shape their own communities, the unequal distribution of benefits that result from neighborhoods change, and the policies enacted by local governments that impact gentrification. Ultimately, the course aims to provide students with a toolkit to participate in the creation of more equitable, just cities. Students will develop skills to engage as critical urbanists with a deeper understanding of the forces shaping contemporary urban life.

Seeing and Hearing Race from the Cinematograph to TikTok (Sky Sitney & Robynn Stilwell), IDST-108

The shadows of minstrelsy pervade American popular culture. As the dominant form of entertainment of the 19th century, minstrel shows shaped everything from the structure of performances, such as vaudeville and television variety shows, to, most perniciously, stereotypes that still operate today. This course will look at representations of race in popular film and music over the past century. We will primarily explore portrayals of African-Americans, but we will also consider those of Asian, Native American, and Latinx peoples.

Recover, Remember, Respond: Engaging Slavery Via Research and Radical Imagination (Bernie Cook), IDST-105

As Nikole Hannah-Jones has recently argued, for true justice and equality to be achieved, Americans must account for the centrality of slavery to the development of America and must address what the U.S. owes Black Americans. Yet, many White Americans have resisted such accounting, preferring to erase histories and to forget the structuring legacies of slavery as an American institution. At Georgetown, our campus community has often forgotten the histories of Jesuit slaveholding and the sale of 272 people in 1838 by the Jesuits of Maryland. Over the past half-decade, students, faculty, alumni, and the Descendants of the GU272 have sought to recover these histories, to remember the people who were enslaved and sold by the Jesuits, and to respond to these legacies by working together to achieve justice in the present and for the future. In this class, we will review and engage with this work. We will engage different ways of exploring and understanding the histories and different ways of responding to the legacies of Slavery in America, with special interest in Georgetown’s own history of Jesuit slaveholding. We will engage with guests including faculty, members of the GU272 Descendant Community, and Georgetown student researchers, artists, and activists. We will consider projects including the Georgetown Slavery Archive, the Georgetown Memory Project, the Names Project (an effort to memorialize the 66 enslaved people who were buried on Georgetown’s campus), two creative projects of radical imagination undertaken by descendants Meli Colomb and Jessica Tilson, and the 2019 Georgetown Student Referendum in which a majority of undergraduates approved a student fee as an effort at reparations for Georgetown’s involvement with slavery. Students will have opportunities to practice research methods and to develop ideas for creative projects as a radical response to the persistent legacies of Slavery.

Understanding and Navigating Health Inequities in the Time of COVID (Theodora Danylevich & Carol Day), IDST-109

This course addresses the intersecting crises of Covid-19, Economic Downturn, Health Disparities, and Racism. Beginning with an historical approach, we will look at how diagnosis and sociopolitical power relations have interacted in the last 400 years, pathologizing race and gender, and rationalizing colonialism and the institution of slavery. We look to these histories to understand how health inequities have been produced and perpetuated in concert with forces that produce racism, poverty, and gendered inequities. We will then engage in implications for social responsibility and human health in our communities in the present, through applied activities and guest speakers, fostering collaborative thinking towards change. This course will involve a blend of historical and scholarly writings, memoir and journalistic writings, as well as literature and art as we seek to trouble the narratives that have covered over and perpetuated histories of violence and inequity that have contributed to our current crises.

Race, Class, and the City: Detroit Intersections (Sherry Linkon), IDST-101

Cities bring people together, but they also reinforce and are shaped by differences, especially of race and class. Perhaps no city in the U.S. better reflects the intersections of race and class than Detroit. In the first half of the twentieth century, thousands of migrants and immigrants came to work in the auto industry. By the middle of the century, factories moved to the suburbs and racial divisions reshaped the landscape, while the music industry gave Motor City a new identity as Motown. By the end of the century, Detroit’s dramatic abandoned structures became the focus of dozens of documentaries about urban problems and economic restructuring. In the past decade, Detroit has seen a lively but uneven and contested rebirth, as artists, organizers, and entrepreneurs recognized the potential of its history, people, and space. Using Detroit as a case study, this course will consider ways of thinking about race, class, and place – and how they shape each other. Drawing on a wide range of artistic and analytical materials, we will consider the interpretive tools that different disciplines bring to our understanding of race, class, and the city. Students will work independently to explore varied sources, and together we will build an interdisciplinary review of Detroit’s intersections.

Map of the Modern World (Mark Giordano), INAF-008

This one-credit course is designed to provide basic knowledge of the physical and political geography of the world. Weekly lectures cover the fundamental forces that shape the physical geography and the effects of physical geography on human behavior in ten regions of the world.  The final exam covers information presented in the lectures, the location and capitals of contemporary states, and the identification of major geographical features.  The final examination is multiple choice and graded pass-fail.  The course is required for graduation from the School of Foreign Service.

Bearing Witness: The Legacy of Jan Karski Today (Derek Goldman), IDST-107

Outside of Georgetown’s White-Gravenor Hall sits an iconic commemorative bench and statue honoring Holocaust witness, Polish World War II hero, spy and diplomat, Jan Karski, one of the most influential and legendary Professors ever to teach at Georgetown University. This course explores Karski’s story and its contemporary resonance, centering around the filmed version of Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski, a celebrated original theatrical production created by The Laboratory of Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown and starring Oscar-Nominated actor David Strathairn, who will participate as a guest in the course (in dialogue with Professor Derek Goldman who co-authored and directed the production). Karski’s remarkable legacy speaks to the importance of moral courage; of bearing witness to history; of respect for others, especially those who are different; of the responsibility to question; and of the role of the individual in speaking out, even when the message is not “convenient.” Using Karski’s life and teachings as inspiration, we will examine our own relationship to the current historical moment, how individuals may bear witness to history and, following Karski’s example, “shake the conscience of the world.” The course will make use of a dynamic new experiential web-based platform that will include not only the filmed theatrical production, but archival clips and interviews with extraordinary leaders who will engage Karski’s legacy today.

Policing in an era of Mass Deportation and Detention (Denise Brennan), IDST-116  

Over 11 million migrants are left out of any form of immigration protection, while another 17 million people live in a household with at least one family member who is unauthorized. Under current immigration law, anyone without authorization to be in the United States is subject to detention and deportation. Surfacing unauthorized individuals requires racialized surveillance and policing that is part of and fortifies a broader carcerality that is not exclusive to immigration enforcement. The expansive immigration carceral state transpires alongside racial profiling, brutal policing, and mass incarceration of Black individuals. This is most clear when police, ICE, and Border Patrol work together in a range of policing activities: from routine traffic stops to immigration enforcement raids. Through a framework of the criminalization of immigrants, this course explores these critical linkages between racialized and brutal policing, the rise of mass incarceration and Black disenfranchisement, and immigrant detention and deportation. A key theme in the course will be refusal, resistance, and resilience. In addition to scholarly materials, we also will read manifestos and other rebellious documents produced by members of targeted communities.

Radical Access, Care, and Disability Justice at Georgetown (Lydia Brown and Mimi Khuc), IDST-120

This course explores the kinds of care made possible through disability justice-informed ways of knowing and being, particularly disability justice’s commitment to radical access. It examines anti-racist disabled activism and organizing, including in the time of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, to provide a blueprint for creating structures of care to address the needs of Georgetown students and their communities. It will focus on mental health, collective trauma, student experiences, and access-centered pedagogy, and will draw on wisdom and offerings from queer and trans disabled people of color.

Leadership in and for a Just Community (Erika Cohen Derr and Aysha Dos), IDST-106

The term “leadership” shows up everywhere these days, sometimes with reverence and sometimes with skepticism. What does it mean in your daily life? Leadership for and in a Just Community is designed to introduce students to leadership theory and consider their role in practicing leadership on campus, in their academic discipline, and within a larger community. The course centers on leadership as a relational process, beginning with introspection, self-exploration, and reflection, and considering the effects of identity on leadership practice. This course will entail reflection on leadership issues and strategies through a critical lens to challenge widely held ideas about leadership, and prepare students to be effective in working with individuals, groups and organizations in leading and managing change on campus and beyond.

Design Justice (Jonathan Healey & Sydney M. Luken), IDST-104

“Design Justice” is a 1-credit course offered by the Design faculty of Georgetown University’s Ethics Lab. Together we’ll explore how norms and values are present in seemingly value-neutral products and systems, and introduce Design approaches for reimagining more equitable alternatives. This course follows a “virtual studio” model, in which core content and exercises are shared online for asynchronous engagement, supplemented with synchronous online sessions for discussion and small-group critiques focused on developing students’ craft. Students will gain experience working with visual design techniques and be introduced to the Design Justice framework, which is adaptable to collaborative work in any discipline.

Entrepreneurial Thought and Action for the Common Good (Jeff Reid and Shye Gilad), IDST-111

Learning to think and act like an entrepreneur could be the most valuable life skill you acquire in your time at Georgetown, even if you never want to start a business. Entrepreneurship is one of the world’s most powerful forces for positive change, yet it is often misunderstood. This course will help students to broaden their view of entrepreneurship beyond popular Shark Tank or Silicon Valley mythology and to recognize how entrepreneurial thought and action are relevant and accessible to EVERYONE – no matter what major or career path you choose. In a world of ever-increasing disruption, change, and uncertainty, we will explore ways that entrepreneurial leaders can use creativity and innovation to solve important problems, and we will introduce students to resources that will help them become more entrepreneurial in their chosen field.

Intergroup Dialogue: Engaging race and ethnicity (Eddie Carreon & Joselyn Lewis), IDST-110

In a multicultural society, discussions about issues of racial and ethnic conflict and community are needed to facilitate understanding among different racial/ethnic and other social/cultural groups. In this intergroup dialogue course, students will participate in semi-structured meetings across racial identity groups. Students will discuss relevant reading material and will explore group experiences in various social and institutional contexts. Participants will examine narratives and historical, psychological, and sociological materials to help explore who we are, what we know and understand about each other, and how race and racism impacts our lives and relationships. The goal is to create a setting in which students engage in open and constructive dialogue, learning, and exploration concerning issues of intergroup relations, conflict, and community.

3D Design for Real-World Interventions (Don Undeen), IDST-103

“How can we use 3D printed objects installed in public spaces to give visibility to issues of injustice, and to manifest visions of a more equitable future?” In this 1-Credit course, students will learn to use simple 3D modeling tools like TinkerCAD to develop “Intervention Objects,” objects designed to be installed in public spaces with the purpose of inspiring joy, reflection, and/or civic engagement. In addition to learning the practical skills of 3D modeling, students will also engage in readings on the history and practice of Guerilla Art; participate in discussion groups to develop their own identity, creative vision, and goals; practice exercises in ideation and iteration; and ultimately design, 3D print, and install their own Intervention Object. Students will observe the public’s response to their object, and reflect on how the reaction compares to their expectations.

Data for Social Impact (Cori Zarek), INAF-112

Data is increasingly a major driver in modern society. It informs the way decisions are made by companies, governments, civil society, and average community members. It is even akin to currency as we voluntarily exchange our data for services like email and social media and involuntarily exchange it in ways we’re constantly discovering. In this course, we will focus on the ways that data can be leveraged for social impact — to make it easier to access housing or healthcare, to curb the effects of climate change, to focus foreign aid where it can do the most good, and more. Students will cover the building blocks of data, learn about policies that impact how data can be used, and discuss real-world examples of ways that data can drive social impact.

Thriving in College (And Beyond) (Kostadin Kushlev, Yulia Chentsova-Dutton, Deborah Stearns, Jennifer Woolard, W. Gerrod Parrott), IDST-115

In this course, you will learn the principles of thriving in college (and in life). The course is based on the premise that thriving is a skill that depends on our own actions. The goals of the class are to (a) learn about principles of thriving, (b) engage in activities that apply these principles, and (c) develop habits that integrate these principles into daily life. You will thus engage in evidence-based practices to help you cultivate more positive emotions and regulate negative emotions, including coping with stress and anxiety.

Exploring the Spirit of Georgetown: Values for Self and Community (Fr. Mark Bosco, S.J. & Kerry Danner), IDST-102

Over the past months, we have seen families and communities burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic, rampant income insecurity, and by confronting racial injustice. This course engages theoretical and practical resources, drawn from theology, ethics and literature, for staying grounded in our shared humanity. In doing so, we will explore how Georgetown’s Jesuit values (Community in Diversity, Contemplation in Action, Faith that Does Justice, and Care for Our Common Home) invite us to sharpen our moral vision and stay connected to what matters within and beyond Healy Gates. In addition to academic readings, students will read short stories, watch movies and engage with guest lectures in order to reflect on and imagine how they can foster and honor their values during this time of instability.

Well-being in Times of Crisis: the Applied Science of Flourishing (Sarah Stiles & Carol Day with Matt Barnes, Katie Boin, Meg Dimsa, Sonja Lillrank), IDST-112

By all accounts these are among the most challenging times to be a student, much less a new student. This course will focus on aspects of personal well-being and flourishing that are basic to human health. It provides an overview of essential topics and opportunities to apply principles of well-being to your life. Physical, social, and emotional health along with ways to maintain optimal health while living in community with others are central to the course. The COVID-19 crisis paired with systemic racial violence shed a bright light on various social inequalities that we will focus on as vital components of community and identity well-being.

Russia A-Z (Svetlana Grenier, Olga Meerson, Lioudmila Fedorova, George Mihaychuk). RUSS-115-01

This one-credit course is a survey of major topics in Russian culture from its beginnings to the present. It will acquaint students with various issues and fields of inquiry in Russian language, literature, linguistics and culture and help provide the necessary background for further study, both in the U.S. and in the Russian Federation. It is also intended as an introductory course for interested students with little or no background in these subject areas. The course will be team-taught by members of the Department of Slavic Languages and will be primarily in lecture format. In the final three classes of the semester, a professor will be reporting on his or her individual research. All lectures and readings are in English.

Medical Humanities: Ethics of Research with Human Subjects (Michael Pottash). IDST-121

What makes clinical research ethical? How do we balance protecting research subjects while granting people access to cutting edge therapies? To answer these questions we will examine the history of research with human subjects and the ethical questions that are raised by past mistakes. This course will be sure to touch on timely questions raised by the COVID pandemic such as incorporating investigational therapies into clinical practice and the use of challenge studies for vaccine development.

The course instructor and guest lecturers will lead students through examination of the ethical literature, reflective discussions, and analysis of real life clinical cases. The course will culminate in the students conducting a mock institutional review board meeting to evaluate a controversial research protocol.

Medical Humanities: The Problem of Suffering (Michael Pottash). IDST-122

What does it mean to suffer? Why do some recoil from suffering while others cherish it? How do views of suffering vary across culture, religion, or philosophy? While these questions may seem esoteric and unanswerable, they become crucially important in the realm of medicine and healthcare.

This course explores the problem of suffering through examination of the medical humanities, participating in reflective discussions, and tying it back to the clinical setting with real life clinical cases. Participants will be asked to engage with works of literature, film, and art that brings into relief central questions of what it means to suffer.

Italian Society and Pop Culture (Donatella Mellucci). IDST-118

“Italian society and pop-culture” is a 1-credit course designed mostly for freshmen students. Topics will include Italian life-style, (daily routine, family, work, leisure, travel), news & tabloids, Italian customs and traditions, the role of cuisine, fashion and sports, cultural items linked to the social phenomenon (including songs, films, and TV series), Italy and social media.” The course is taught in English.

Science Literacy (Michelle Bertke). IDST-117

This course has been designed to provide non-science majors with the skills to critically read and understand science (specifically chemistry) as it is presented in the news. Everyone can benefit from being able to read a news article and evaluate the science presented as reliable or not. Students are not expected to have strong background in chemistry and introductory material necessary for the lecture will be presented. The course material will consist of news articles as well as scientific papers. Topics for the course will be selected by participants.

Writing the Self (John Glavin). IDST-119

Most applications require the candidate to produce a “personal statement.” You’ve actually recently done something of that sort as part of your college applications. This course is designed to assist you in producing statements that can help you gain the opportunities you desire at Georgetown and thereafter. Spoiler alert: a robust personal statement is quite different from a college essay. Week by week we will explore both a framework and tactical choices to equip you, as the term ends, with a template statement that you can continue to adapt as your resume and your range expand.