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.

Social Foundations II: Black Englishw/ Professor Renee Blake

What is the relationship between language and identity? What really is Black Language if it is not slang or hip-hop talk? Who speaks it? Who has the right to speak it? Why do speakers continue to speak stigmatized dialects? What are the social, attitudinal and educational implications connected to Black Language? These are some of the questions we will explore in this introductory course to Black Language- a distinct dialect of American English that has influenced U.S. and world cultures. Combining research and theory from linguistics, anthropology, sociology and education, this course emphasizes the relationship between language and culture. Students learn basic linguistic concepts, followed by the linguistic features, structure and discourse functions of Black Language.  Thus, this course is about language, specifically the many ways that people express their personal and community identities. The course focuses primarily on the language variety known as Black Language or African American Language. In this course, students learn about the structure of Black Language, theories about its origins, its use in various social contexts, and its link to current social, political and educational issues. We explore how language is used to convey social identity, particularly regarding race and ethnicity, and make meaning of one’s life. Issues addressed include language variation, language contact and change, language appropriation, in addition to social and linguistic discrimination. Finally, we consider Black Language as the nexus of ideas on race, identity, sexuality, and equality in the United States and globally. We connect the human condition in America to historical trajectories of forced and voluntary migrations of the Black or African Diaspora. The exploration of social being and language is through reading academic texts, listening to creative spoken and written word, as well as music, and exposure to data gathered from digital media and personal stories. Students hone skills in the areas of critical thinking, constructive criticism, data analysis, social and linguistic analysis, and structuring arguments. The hope of teaching such a course  is to broaden what is meant by Black or African American to include other communities of the African Diaspora who are similarly affected by linguistic, social and educational issues as those who are descendants of U.S. slaves.

 

 

Writing I: Matter: Finding Ideas in the Objects and Spaces of Everyday Life – w/ 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.

 

Math: Principles of Macroeconomicsw/ Professor Gian Luca Clementi

This class is about Macroeconomics, the sub–field of Economics that studies the evolution and the determinants of aggregate quantities such as GDP, unemployment, international trade, government debt, … and of prices such as exchange rates, interest rates, … Among the cool questions that macroeconomists ask are: (i) why are some countries very rich and others are very poor? (ii) what causes inflation? (iii) is international trade beneficial to everybody? (iv) does a large federal budget deficit today imply high interest rates in the future? (v) why sometimes countries plunge in devastating financial crisis? Why should college students take a full semester of Macroeconomics, regardless of their goals? Because it makes them wiser citizens, wiser consumers, and wiser in- vestors. Knowing a little macroeconomics helps in a variety of decision processes, among which career choice, financial investment, housing. It also helps reading through what politicians and a variety of pundits argue every day. This course is designed in such a way that by the end of the semester, you will be able to: (i) Comment intelligently on economic events and trends.
(ii) Assess and critique the opinions of analysts, journalists, and opinion-makers.

 

Social Foundations III: American History Makers – w/ Prof. Steven Hahn

When we think of people who “make” history, we usually think about the high and the mighty, important political officials or intellectuals, prominent military or diplomatic leaders.  But when we look at the past, the great changes that take place are often made possible by men and women who are not rich and famous, who don’t occupy places of power – who in fact come from humble roots, from minority populations, who struggle for power, and who envision the world in ways that elites cannot understand or outright reject.  This course will explore some of these history makers, few of whom you’ve probably ever heard of, from back in the eighteenth century to our own day.  Each week we will focus on a different history maker.  We will read about them, read their texts, and learn about the differences they made to our history as well as the legacies they may leave for us.  The history of the United States will look different by the end of the semester.

 

Elective: Oral History: Theory and Practice – w/ Professor Sara Franklin

History, as most of us are taught it in school, has long been written by, and for, the powerful– that is to say, privileged white men. Oral history is a discipline and approach that was developed by scholars and activists in the mid-20th century in order to infuse and nuance history with the voices and histories of disempowered groups and peoples– people of color, women, indigenous communities, differently abled people, political radicals, laborers and the working poor, and the LGBTQ community. In this course, we’ll explore the ethics and principles that shape approaches to oral history. We’ll read and listen to examples of oral history interviews by some noted practitioners in the field, and practice analyzing oral histories by learning how to listen deeply to what is being said, and what is being carefully omitted. Additionally, students will carry out interviews and analysis of their own.

 

Cultural Foundations I: History of the Caribbean – w/ Professor Aisha Khan

Famous for its beauty, cultural vitality, and diverse mix of peoples, cultures, and languages, the Caribbean we know today has a long history, whose legacies remain powerful forces there. The plantation economy that in some fashion dominated the lives of everyone in the region was linked to a colonial project of enslaved African and indentured Asian labor. These labor diasporas made the Caribbean the site of massive transplantations of peoples and cultures from Africa for four centuries, from Asia as well as the Middle East for two centuries, and, throughout, a sizeable influx of peoples from Europe. At the center of questions about western philosophical notions of “freedom,” “equality,” and “justice,” the Caribbean is where globalization began some 500 years ago, where the idea of “modernity” took shape, and where the contradictions of “ideal” agendas and “real” lived experience have always been stark. This course examines Caribbean colonial and postcolonial histories and cultures, focusing on the relationship between Euro-colonial expansion and early capitalism (processes of development and exploitation) that have significantly shaped the region. We will inquire into the ways that epistemologies, or ways of knowing, both define and are defined by the colonial-capitalist mission that massively altered the physical, social, and cultural environment. The course also explores how local ideas about racial, class, cultural, gender, and sexuality hierarchies have both justified and challenged these processes. We will tack between the past and the present, in order to better understand the relationship between historical and contemporary processes. Our coverage will be interdisciplinary and will include ethnographic and other non-fiction works, fiction, and films. We will work with case studies from the English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, and French-speaking Caribbean and their diasporas.

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
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.  

Social Foundations II: Strategies in Social and Cultural Analysis – Professors Nikhil Singh and Thuy Linh Tu
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. 

Elective: Foundations of Speech Communications – Professor Piper Anderson
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
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.

Writing I: On Humane-ism – Professor Laurie Woodard
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
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.