Several faculty members are collaborating with the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor to develop an undergraduate Labor and Working-Class Studies, which they aim to begin offering in fall 2016.
English professor Sherry Linkon, sociology professor Brian McCabe and John Russo, a visiting researcher at KILWP, are leading the development of the minor. The group initially began considering the curriculum last winter and recently completed the proposal.
The minor will be an interdisciplinary course of study focused on the implications of urbanization on a variety of fields. The minor’s courses will be taught by faculty from fields including sociology, psychology, anthropology, English, history, justice and peace studies, international health and the culture and politics program in the School of Foreign Service.
For the new minor to be implemented, it must first be approved by the Core Curriculum Committee in the Office of the Provost, a group of 13 faculty members from various departments that approves all curriculum proposals. The proposal may also have to be reviewed by the main campus Executive Faculty, a legislative body including representatives from each academic unit of the Main Campus, including department, program, faculty, senate and student representatives.
The KILWP was founded in 2009 to establish projects that explore workers’ rights policies, coalition-building between labor and community groups and student engagement in local advocacy.
Linkon explained that the cluster acts as a foundation for the minor to build upon in structuring its curriculum.
“We’re trying to decide if there will be any specific courses required or if there will be a structure to the kinds of things we want students to do,” Linkon said. “But that cluster helps make clear to us and make clear to our colleagues across campus as this proposal develops that there is a genuine interest and we’re building on a strength that already exists at Georgetown, simply making it more visible and organized.”
Linkon also emphasized the practical components of the curriculum as a chance for students to become more actively engaged in the Washington, D.C., community.
“I think it’ll have a really strong hands-on element that will let students take the experiences they’ve had through things like all the various programs offered through the Center for Social Justice and develop those and make them deeper, make them richer, and do some research but also do their own grant writing and project development and hands-on work in the neighborhoods of D.C.,” Linkon said.
Linkon highlighted the educational benefits participants can gain from the program, which aims to supplement the community work students currently already take part in.
“It’ll provide an opportunity for those who are interested in the problems and challenges that cities present us with, everything from poverty and gentrification to how economic growth happens,” Linkon said. “We’ll really treat this city as a lab and engage our students in trying to address the issues in this city. It will go beyond all of the kinds of volunteer work that students already do in D.C. to ask students to think about how you would solve the problems that this city faces.”
Linkon expressed optimism about the implementation of the minor, but noted that the upcoming administrative approval process for the curriculum may be lengthy.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity, but we also have a long way to go before we’re ready to do it,” Linkon said. “I want people to get excited, but I don’t want people to think that this is going to happen instantly. These things can take some time.”
Hoya Staff Writer Margaret Heftler contributed reporting.
Correction: An earlier version of this article indicated that the professors were establishing a minor in urban studies. While the urban studies minor is currently in development, the professors were speaking in reference to the labor and working class studies minor.
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