courses

NYU student writing on whiteboard in classroom at Wallkill Correctional Facility

All of our courses are taught in person and in classrooms at Wallkill Correctional Facility that are equipped with desks, white boards, and audiovisual technology.

We conduct admissions to admit new students twice per year, maintain an enrollment number of at least 50 students, and offer 6 courses per semester. Students are provided with course materials, and the facility has a computer lab with printers and a research library.

In addition to credit-bearing courses, students participate in non-credit professional workshops and academic tutoring offered by volunteers, faculty, and staff each semester. Workshops are developed in collaboration with the NYU PEP student council.

Elective: Public Health – Professor Julie Avina

This course examines social, behavioral and cultural factors that have an impact on public health in community and national contexts. We will consider how health is influenced by factors such as age, gender, culture, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, and social class. Public health problems and their solutions will be analyzed in light of individual risk factors as well as larger structural forces.

Social Foundations I: Sociology of Education – Professor Nikhil Goyal

In this course, we examine the sociological dynamics that underpin American schooling, including the constellation of institutions and systems from housing to criminal justice to neoliberalism that intersect with it. We explore: What are the purposes of schooling? How can schools be examined temporally and spatially? Does education reproduce or curtail inequality? Are there new logics of social reproduction, resistance, and marginalization emerging during the market-based school reform era? What are the core features of an equitable, democratic public education system? To grapple with these questions, we draw on an interdisciplinary framework, including sociology, history, geography, public policy, and economics, and a myriad of scholars and thinkers. This is an interactive, discussion-oriented class, so it is critical that you complete all the readings. I have also provided a list of additional readings if you are interested. Each week, you will be asked to write a short essay on the readings to prepare you for the discussion. These essays will be due on the day of the class. Additionally, there will be a final essay due on the last day of class. Please note that the schedule may change slightly over the course of the semester. There is some time built in for you to get help on course material and essays.

 

Writing I: Matter: Finding Ideas in the Objects and Spaces of Everyday Life- Professor Tom Jacobs

This course will take as a starting point a particular thing—a particular material object—that is important to you in some way, and begin to develop connections, conversations, and eventually ideas about its meaning significance in relation to the ideas expressed in a range of readings and discussions. What have writers, philosophers, artists, sociologists, and the like had to say about the way the things we surround ourselves with (or are surrounded by) shape and mold the lives we live? How might their writing help us develop original ideas of our own about the things around us?  The semester’s reading, writing, and conceptual work will progress from the relatively simple to the more complex and demanding. Throughout the semester we will read, reflect on, and write about a shared group of texts that focus on how objects and spaces shape our sense of time, self, and other; on how these objects and spaces contribute to or interrupt our orientation to the world—on how, in short, they help create our “life-worlds.” The objects could be anything from an item of clothing, to a tool or technology, or a cosmetic item, etc. The spaces could be any space from everyday life, and these objects and spaces could also be drawn from memory. We will read essays and excerpts from Emerson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Joan Didion, George Saunders, Bryan Doyle, Ta-Nahesi Coates, Toni Morrison, David Foster Wallace, and Zadie Smith, among others. Theoretical texts will include excerpts from thinkers like Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Frantz Fanon, Eldridge Cleaver, Foucault, Sara Ahmed, and Matthew Crawford.

Cultural Foundations III: Challenges, Issues and Ideas in Covering Sub-Saharan Africa – Professor Frankie Edozien

This reading, writing and discussion seminar will provide students with an understanding of contemporary issues around the various regions on the African continent. We will examine the role of religion, including religious extremism that has led to the near- splintering of several societies; the struggles to develop viable democratic models; cultural norms and practices; and issues of economic development and empowerment. We will focus on the challenges of telling stories from Sub-Saharan Africa that are not the same old stories, with the same tired clichés.

Writing II: Seeing the Other – Professor Danis Banks

Writing II increases students’ familiarity with the essay genre and offers occasions to practice essay writing across disciplines and in several modes, including personal, critical, academic, and creative. It emphasizes writing as a means of critical thinking, inquiry, and discovery, through drafting, feedback, and revision. In this section, with its theme of “Seeing the Other,” we will look at how people who are often considered others are viewed in society, and what may go into understanding another person’s perspective. Texts will include fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and film, including work by Plato, Paulo Freire, Karl Marx, Herman Melville, W. E. B. Du Bois, Elijah Anderson, and James Baldwin. Students will write about such texts in relation to one another and to their own experience. Ideally, a new understanding will emerge of how our views toward other people shape our feelings about—and behavior toward—humanity, through close readings, self-analysis, intertextual work, and collaboration. The class will be discussion-based, using group work and short, informal presentations to develop critical thinking and communication skills. Students will write three papers, each with a rough and final draft, practicing the art of revision, and complete several shorter assignments, including interpretations of and personal responses to the texts.

Cultural Foundations II: Sociology of New York City – Professor Zhandarka Kurti

For the first time in human history most of the world’s population lives in cities. Today, people are no longer tied to the land but instead forced to make a living in urban spaces around the world. Yet, what do we really know about these urban environments? What exactly is a city? What are the conditions that shaped and produced these urban spaces and how are they expressed in the physical environment and the social, economic and political life of its inhabitants? How do social interactions in the city connect to large scale processes like distribution of political power, economic and racial inequalities, and environmental issues? This course focuses on New York City to examine the various social, political and economic forces that shape global cities today. What’s so special about New York City? Different monikers such as “the City That Never Sleeps,” “Gotham,” “Empire City,” or “the Big Apple,” reflect its diverse population, the tenth largest in the world. Wealth, grandeur and the American Dream are embedded in the cityscape–the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty are symbols that represent the city’s development into a manufacturing and commercial powerhouse starting in the 19th century, creating immense wealth and power for one small group of people and brutal work, suffering and hope for the rest. Using a sociological framework, we will explore the deep historical and geographical roots of contemporary inequality in New York City and situate them within the rise of other global cities including Tokyo, Mumbai, Mexico City and London to understand their role as nodes in a wider global economic network. Together we will examine what is general and specific about the social, cultural and political transformations of New York City including deindustrialization, patterns of production, consumption and work as well as changing immigration patterns, policing, and gentrification. The course will bring sociology and urban ethnography together with the writings, photography, art and music of older and newer generations of New Yorkers to explore how urban space has become the most important and contested ground for unfolding struggles over political and economic rights today.

 

Social Foundations I: Work, Labor, and Power
Professor Andrew Ross
(Mondays beginning May 14)
Why do we work so hard? How are the benefits from our labor distributed? In this class we look at the history of work and labor in the United States, from early attitudes toward agricultural livelihoods, and the emergence of plantation slavery, through the industrial period and the emergence of white-collar labor up to today’s landscape of post-industrial work in which trade unions are in decline.  
*This course can be taken as an elective if the Social Foundations I requirement has been fulfilled.

Social Foundations II: Strategies in Social and Cultural Analysis
Professors Nikhil Singh and Thuy Linh Tu
(Tuesdays beginning May 15)
This course introduces students to a range of research methods and sources used in social and cultural analysis: from the analysis of images, sounds and objects, to the understanding of material culture and infrastructure, to ethnography, oral history, and the investigation of texts and archives. The main goal of the course is to understand the relationship between theory, evidence, and method in the effort to produce new knowledge. In thinking about research strategies we will consider: 1) how specific methods align to particular questions, 2) the politics and limits of knowledge production, and 3) the relationship between method, interpretation and argument.  Course readings will provide insights into how scholars choose and develop research strategies, and practical individual and group exercises will introduce students to the challenge of designing and conducting original investigation. 
*This course can be taken as an elective if the Social Foundations II requirement has been fulfilled.

Elective: Foundations of Speech Communications
Professor Piper Anderson
(Wednesdays beginning May 23)
In this course students will develop effective speech communication skills that will prepare them for a range of academic and professional activities where formal presentations are required. Central components of the course include generating topics, organizing ideas for written and oral presentation, mastering elements of audience psychology, and practicing techniques of speech presentation in a public forum. Students will be required to participate in a culminating event presenting their persuasive speeches on a social topic of their choosing.

Elective: Creating a Publication
Professor Allyson Paty
(Wednesdays from June 13 – July 11)
After having each written and refined original writing through a series of workshops in early 2018, students will now compile and edit this writing into a print volume. The five editorial and design meetings will acquaint writers with each stage of the publishing process, from establishing an editorial vision to determining design features to acquiring the technical skills of copy editing and proofreading. The course will culminate in a printed volume, to be released and distributed at the end of the term.
*This course can only be taken for credit by participants who attended all five of the Spring 2018 writing workshops.

Writing I: On Humane-ism
Professor Laurie Woodard
(Mondays beginning June 18)
The focus of this first-year writing seminar is the human condition. As students develop their reading and writing skills, especially close readings, observation, critical analysis, thesis development, utilization of textual evidence, rhetorical structure, and formation of an argument, we will explore themes including identity, race, ethnicity, gender, class, nation, capitalism, power, empathy, and humane-ism. Students will also develop their own literary voice, style and tone as they work towards becoming more engaging and effective writers. Class meetings will include in-class writing, discussion of texts, grammar and syntax exercises, and workshopping of student work. Readings will include, but are not limited to, works by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, George Monbiot, and Twyla Tharp.

Writing I: Fiction and Memoir
Professor Ethan Loewi
(Tuesdays beginning May 29)
This course offers a wide-ranging, intensive study of two closely intertwined genres: fiction and memoir. Students will read, discuss, and critically investigate great works of literature while developing every facet of their core writing skills. Each author we’ll examine has something vital to tell us about the art of storytelling: how to form an identity on identity on the page, write great sentences, craft compelling story arcs, and combine powerful true events with style and drama. Developing core writing skills will be paramount: students will write critical essays on the stories and novels we read, as well as produce original creative work. The course will also include a workshop component, giving students the chance to share their stories with each other and receive feedback from their peers. Writing is a vital tool for enacting social change and critiquing institutional power structures. The course will explore this aspect of fiction, and develop the skills of grammar, style, and structure that are needed to produce great writing. By examining our class texts through critical, creative, and historical lenses, this course will empower students to tell their own stories, and better understand the stories of others.

Writing I: Stories of Racial Formations
Professor Julia Mendoza
There are many ways to express yourself: through memoirs, autobiographies, poems, letters, diaries, and even tattoos. In this course, we will ask ourselves what it means to not only write one’s own story, but to also be thoughtful to the sensitive task of writing someone else’s story. This class will explore the importance of telling stories in order to understand how stories can illuminate our understanding of social justice. Accordingly, we will seek to read stories along relative interdisciplinary scholarship in order to understand how the power of a narrative can be used for thinking about broader notions of racial formations.
Elective: Practical Journalism
Professor Aaron Gell
In this introductory course, taught by a veteran editor and reporter, students will learn how to report and write non-fiction news articles in a variety of formats. They’ll explore the difference between a news story, an editorial, a news analysis, a profile, a first-person essay, a Q&A, a critical review, and a long-form narrative feature, completing assignments in each form over the course of the semester. The class will explore how reporters uncover information, and how to identify “fake news.” It will provide a foundation in journalistic ethics, teaching students to recognize their own biases and untested assumptions and to strive for objectivity, accuracy and fairness. It will explore how the internet has hammered the old business models that supported the news media, and how it’s opened up surprising opportunities for the rest of us to be heard. And most of all, it will identify the ways in which the techniques of journalism—research, critical thinking, interviewing, fact-checking, persuasive writing, editing and all narrative storytelling—can be applied to everyday life.
Cultural Foundations I: Representations of Women in Literature
Professor Carolyn Dinshaw
In this course, we will read literature – essays, novels, and poetry – by women. But this immediately begs some questions: What is a woman, and who gets to decide? We will need to read theories of gender and sexuality in order to help us start to address such questions as well as the questions that flow from those: How do we think about differences among women? What are the forms of power that separate women from each other, and from men? What about people who are not very well described by the terms “woman” and “man”? Our literary texts are written mostly by writers from the U.S. and England in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Brontë, Jean Rhys, Toni Morrison, Ana Castillo, and Dorothy Allison.
Elective: Introduction to Social Work
Professor Carol Tosone
In this introductory social work course students will learn about the history of the social work profession and its development in the United States, including the dual focus on advocacy for social justice and core counseling skills to engage at-risk clients from diverse backgrounds. Students will learn about the fields of practice in which social workers operate: aging, child welfare, criminal justice, health and mental health, substance abuse, trauma and disaster. Students will also learn about the impact of poverty, oppression, racism, and trauma on individual, family, and group development, and the role of the social welfare system in clients’ everyday lives. Emphasis will be placed on the importance of students developing core assessment, communication and engagement skills, as well as the ability to self-reflect and work ethically to enhance the lives of clients in need.
Social Foundations III: Introduction to Food Studies
Professor Sara Franklin
How do food, culture, the natural environment and human society relate to one another? In this course, we look at food’s role in constructing individual and group identities, considering identity in terms of the body, race, class, gender and religion, as well as geo-political situation. We will read and watch selections representing a range of food media, past and present; explore connections between trends in food culture and media and contemporary politics; introduce methods and analytical approaches used in the emerging field of food studies; and practice some of those approaches and methodologies (ex: participant observation, autoethnography, oral history) in class assignments.
Cultural Foundations III: Major Texts in Critical Theory
Professor Elaine Freedgood
In this course we will come to understand why nothing is obvious, why language is not transparent, and how various thinkers have thought about power, subjectivity, race, caste, class, capital, sexual identity, and knowledge. Every idea has a history; nothing is given or natural in this course.
Environmental Systems Science
Professor Andrew Bell
A comprehensive survey of critical issues in environmental systems science, focusing on: human population; Earth’s waters; Earth’s atmosphere ;the global chemical cycles; energy flows in nature; humans and global change; ecosystems and biodiversity; endangered species and wildlife; energy systems from fossil fuels to renewable forms; urban environments; wastes; and paths to a sustainable future. This course will cover a very significant amount of demanding material. This course will be challenging, and students should expect a steep learning curve.
Social Foundations I: Slavery, Race, and the Making of America
Professor Steve Hahn
This course will explore and histories of slavery and race and their influence on the development of the United States. We will begin with the seventeenth-century origins of North American slavery and end with the twenty-first century system of mass incarceration. Along the way–largely through the use of primary sources–we will see how people of African resisted their oppression as slaves, how African-American slavery was defended by slaveholders and fortified by the national government, how African Americans as slaves and free people helped destroy slavery and struggled over the meaning of freedom, how the Jim Crow system of segregation and disfranchisement came into being, and how twentieth century movements and leaders pressed for new forms of equality and justice.