Stuart Parker | Defining Community, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Human Services
To enhance students experience with the web of reciprocal relationships and commitments of community beyond one’s extended family, this Introduction to Sociology course is designed to provide students with the conceptual tools for beginning to analyze the dynamics of power in society and the experience of connecting with, and understanding, a local social change organization. Through a set of experiential exercises we develop a simple model of society and apply it throughout the course of the semester to a variety of sociological topics which explore the dynamics of power and inequality. Students then apply this model to a particular organization of their choosing where they combine an interview, an observation and an independent analysis of the problem or issue that the organization is committed to addressing. Their final paper describes the fit between the organizations mission and strategies, with the systemic dynamics of the problem that is being addressed. Students who have completed this assignment report an increased interest in the possibility of social change after learning about and engaging with local groups of people who are trying to make the world a better place.