CLICK HERE for a copy of the syllabus to print.

What are the learning objectives of this course?

In this course, we will prioritize three learning goals:

  • To evaluate whether policies designed to address inequality and/or poverty “work,” and in particular whether they “work” once we shift from the abstract and aerial views of traditional policy models to the one-the-ground perspective of communities and specific places.
  • To learn how to create policy analysis blending quantitative and qualitative evidence, history, and first-hand observations made in the field.
  • To question the adequacy of the “change-oriented” approach of critical community-based service learning and to contrast it with traditional service learning and “objective” social science approaches to studying and helping people and communities different from oneself.

To achieve these learning goals, the course will marry scholarly analysis to community-based learning as we explore the complex relationship between social disadvantage, public policy, and political power.  We will read a variety of scholarly works in the fields of political science, sociology, and history.  At the same time, you will work at a community site of your choosing in the Northside.  Your observations at your site and traveling to and from the West End to the Northside will provide evidence against which we can “test” the theories we encounter in our scholarly readings.  To supplement these real-world observations, we will also make use of primary sources, such as government and non-profit reports and Census data.

How will I be assessed?

Your final grade for the course is based on four components: your performance on written assignments, which include two papers and a final exam; two oral presentations, one on data and the other on policy analysis; your contributions to the course’s blog; and your participation in class discussions. To receive a passing grade for this course, at a minimum, you must complete all written assignments (including drafts) and participate in the community-based learning component of the course.  Failure to do so will result in an F for the course regardless of your progress on other course assignments. For more information on each of these assignments, see the ASSIGNMENTS section of the course website.

Written assignments: The written assignments for the course are: the Metro Richmond paper, the Policy Analysis paper, and the final exam.  More information on each of these assignments is available under the ASSIGNMENTS page of the course website.  In short, though, the Metro Richmond paper will require you to decide whether Highland Park is a “ghetto” using evidence from the Highland Park Tour and Census Workshop.  Similarly, the Policy Analysis paper requires you to evaluate a policy of your choosing using your CBL observations and those of other students, data from the Census and other government reports, and scholarly articles and books.  Prior to handing in your Policy Analysis paper, you will present it to the class as part of a panel discussion (see below).

The final exam is the culminating essay of the course.  I will provide a prompt closer to the end of the term, but I can give you a summary of what to expect.  At the opening of the setter, we will discuss Tania Mitchell’s call for critical service learning.  For the final exam, you will need to respond to her vision of critical service learning given what you have learned over the semester.

Oral assignments:  There are two oral presentations in this course.  The first is your Data Presentation.  For this presentation, each of you will choose one of the policy areas we will cover, and it will be your job to use the data sources introduced to you throughout the course to create a “profile” of Highland Park.  If you need guidance, the presentations created by students in prior iterations of the course are available under COMMUNITY PROFILES.

The second oral presentation takes place at the end of the semester, when you present your preliminary findings from your Policy Analysis papers.  For this presentation, I will group you into a panel with students who are researching similar themes, and as is the case in a conference presentation, our job is to share our research, discuss the findings, and find ways of improving one another’s analysis.

Contributions to the course’s blog: This is a CBL course, but I am not going to monitor your hours.  Instead, I expect you to post to the course website what you see and/or have learned at your sight.  Your posts and those of your fellow students will serve as the “research notebook” for the course, a holding place for what we as a group observe and have learned “out in the real world.”  These posts will serve as the evidence you will use to write your Metro Richmond paper and Policy Analysis paper, and they demonstrate to me your intellectual growth during the term.  You need to do this at least five times during the semester, though if you post more, I will take the five best scoring posts to grade at the end of the term.

I urge you to read and use the posts of other students, including students that have taken this course in years past.  The neighborhood of Highland Park has changed a great deal since I started teaching this course in 2009, and the posts capture this change and students’ reactions to them.

Participation in class discussions: This course simply will not work without the active participation of each member.  You are the expert on your particular slice of Highland Park/the Northside, and as such, the rest of the class relies on you to keep them informed — to share observations, to point out where course readings are relevant, to question scholars’ conclusions — using the vantage point of your CBL placement.  Note that I also use class discussion to measure whether students are keeping up with the readings and are able to apply course readings to the real world.

How do I submit written assignments?

I am a big fan of anonymous grading and on-line submissions. I try my very best to treat students fairly, but I have read too many social science studies showing that all of us, despite our best intentions and best efforts, harbor implicit biases and that those biases creep into how we evaluate individuals. For that reason, I would prefer to grade your papers without your names on them. When you are ready to submit a written assignment, label it with your 8-digit URID number rather than your name. Make sure your name is not also in another field, such as the header or footer. Then go to the Blackboard of this course and upload your papers. (I will show you how to do this). Do not email me your paper unless you have my permission. (You will be surprised how quickly my inbox fills during the semester, even without student papers). You also do not need to hand in a paper copy; the Blackboard version will suffice. When I finish grading your paper, I will I match your name to your URID number so that I can record the grade and then return the graded assignment back to you through Blackboard.

How will my final course grade and grades for semester assignments be determined?

Throughout the semester, you have the opportunity to earn up to 100 percentage points toward the final course grade. For all written work and oral presentations, this course uses a 100-point grading scale. See the ASSIGNMENTS page for details on how each assignment will be graded.

Once all individual assignments have been scored, I calculate the final course grade using a weighted formula. Below is a list of the course assignments and how many percentage points each assignment is worth:

Posts 20 percent
Data Presentation 10 percent
Metro Richmond Paper 20 percent
Policy Analysis Paper 20 percent
Policy Analysis Presentation 10 percent
Participation in Class 10 percent
Final Exam 10 percent

Each written assignment will be graded on a 100-point scale, and then at the end of the semester weighted according to how much the assignment is worth. For instance, Metro Richmond paper is worth 20 points or 20 percent of the final course grade. If you obtain an 80 on the paper, then I will weight that score by 0.20 when calculating your final course grade. The final course grade is the weighted average of your scores on these assignments.  The 100-point score is later converted into a letter and a 4-point scale when the final grade is submitted to the Registrar’s Office.  For example, if at the end of the semester, you have earned 89 out of the 100 points, your final course grade will be a B+ or 3.3 on the University’s 4.0 grading scale.

The grading scale for this course is as follows:

A 100.0-96.0 4.0
A- 95.9-90.0 3.7
B+ 89.9-87.0 3.3
B 86.9-83.0 3.0
B- 82.9-80.0 2.7
C+ 79.9-77.0 2.3
C 76.9-73.0 2.0
C- 72.9-70.0 1.7
D+ 69.9-67.0 1.3
D 66.9-63.0 1.0
D- 62.9-60.0 0.7
F 59.9-0 0.0

Note that fractional scores are rounded up only at the discretion of the instructor, and this occurs only in cases in which the student has demonstrated sustained engagement in the course material and careful attention to detail. You can do this by, for instance, attending every class meeting, handing all written assignments on time, and demonstrating knowledge of the course readings by participating regularly during discussions.

I highly recommend you obtain a writer’s handbook or bookmark an on-line handbook such as the University of Richmond’s Writer’s Web and the University of Purdue’s OWL, both of which are linked to under WRITING on the course website.  Be aware that I give credit for results, not “hard work” or “lots of time spent” on a project. On the other hand, I respect students who apply themselves and show improvement over the course of the semester, and this effort will be taken into consideration in the reporting of the final course grades.

The dates for all assignments are listed under the ASSIGNMENTS and the COURSE READINGS pages of the course website.  These due dates are final unless otherwise modified.  Bear in mind that I have a very strict late policy.  Students who turn their work in late without previous permission will have their grades for the assignment lowered according to the following scale:

0-2 hours late 10-point deduction…
2:01-6 hours late 20-point deduction…
6:01-12 hours late 30-point deduction…
12:01+ hours late 50-point deduction.

That said, I also understand that each of us has a life outside the classroom, and on occasion, that life intrudes on our ability to follow through on our obligations. Should you expect that you will be unable to hand in an assignment on time for any reason, please see me as soon as possible so that we can make alternative arrangements. The sooner you see me, the more credibility you enjoy.

Rubrics for all assignments, as well as model papers and helpful hints for completing the assignment, are all available on the course website.

How will community-based learning be used in this course?

CBL is an integral part of this course.  We will use using it to challenge scholarly theories of poverty and policy analysis.  Each of you will choose a site that is in or near Highland Park, and from these vantage points, you will see a slice of life in Highland Park.  Collaborating together, we will have multiple vantage points of Highland Park, and we will use these vantage points to try to understand poverty in the Richmond region using Highland Park as our focusing lens.  While we will learn a lot about Highland Park, our ultimate goal is to understand our region as a whole and to see how the Richmond region fits into larger conclusions scholars have made about inequality and poverty.

During your CBL, you will make observations and record these in your posts to the course website.  In class, we will discuss will see whether our observations confirm or challenge the conclusions other scholars have reached, and when there is divergence, we will try to understand why.  During the semester, you will use your posted observations, and those of other students, as evidence in your papers.

The beginning of the semester is a time of transition as you choose and set up your site.  Don’t worry about posting until we get to the Tour of Highland Park.  Your observations made on this tour will serve as the content of your first post.  Come October 1, expect to post five more times.  I have placed deadlines on the course syllabus to encourage you to post on a regular basis.  You need to post before the deadline, but you do not need to wait until the deadline to post.

A good post is not one that describes what you did at your site.  Instead, discuss what you learned that day, and make connections to the readings when possible.  Always end with a question or set of questions generated by your experiences or observations.   If you are posting about a specific experience or observation, I encourage you to post sooner rather than later.  Observations are fresher and more detailed when posted no later than 24 hours after you complete your site visit.  If you want to develop strong posts, I encourage you to bring a notebook with you to your site and jot notes either during your time there or shortly after.  Sometimes details that don’t seem important at the moment end up looming large in retrospect.  Contemporaneous notes are also useful because (I promise) you will not remember all that you want to remember by the time you get to the end of the semester; notes, even if not converted into formal posts, can jar memories and inspire ideas, especially useful when writing term papers.Further instructions on how to post are included under the ASSIGNMENTS page on the course website.  We will also discuss how to write a good post and take field notes prior to the Highland Park tour.

I will follow your posts, and we will use them in our discussions of the readings in class.

The community-based learning component of this course is an essential feature of this course.  You cannot pass the course without completing it.  If circumstances arise such that you become concerned about your ability to complete the community-based learning, please see me as soon as possible.

Note that community-based learning is more than simply showing up and performing service for a non-profit or governmental organization.  See ABOUT CBL for advice on how to make the most out of your experience.

What is the policy on laptops, readings and digital devices?

Please bring your readings and a notebook or some paper to class every day. We may not flip open the reading every class period, but if we need to, you want it there. If you don’t have your reading with you, I’ll send you out of class to go get it.

This course is designed around discussion and collaboration. So no laptops open during the class period. I find the wall of laptops detrimental to conversation. Instead, take notes on paper; I’ll also make my lesson plans available to you after class. Also, please silence and put away cell phones and other digital devices.

I will make two exceptions to this general rule. First, if you have a job or caregiving responsibilities, you may keep your cell phone on, and leave to answer it discreetly as needed. Second, some of the readings are on-line, and if you prefer reading on an iPad or tablet, you may open this device at the appropriate time.

Academic Integrity

As we will talk about many times this semester, academic integrity is at the heart of the scholarly enterprise. To be a scholar, you must, must, must conduct yourself with integrity.

Therefore, at all times, you are expected to abide by the standards of the university honor code. I encourage you to discuss the readings and course content with your peers. Scholarship, as you will learn, is built on conversation and collaboration. However, all work you submit as your own must be your own. Having someone else produce your work (in whole or in part), misrepresenting the work that you did to create a scholarly piece, and using the words, answers, or ideas of others without proper attribution constitutes dishonesty. Please note that academic integrity applies to violations that are both intentional and unintentional.  Therefore, make sure that you are familiar with the University’s honor code and the guidelines on the websites of the University of Richmond’s Writing Center and Library, and if in doubt, err on the side of caution.  If you have questions about what constitutes academic dishonesty, do not hesitate to speak with me.

Please note that, for the purposes of this course, academic integrity applies to your CBL.  If you claim to have had an experience in your CBL placement, I am assuming academic honesty in your presentation of your work: what you saw or heard, what you did, and when you were there.  Fabricating “field work” is a serious breach of academic integrity.

I assume that all work, pledged formally or not, has been created in accordance with the highest standards of academic integrity.  It goes without saying that violations of academic integrity, intentional or not, will be severely punished.

Where can I find course readings?

The books for this course can be found in the UR Bookstore. I have supplemented the books with shorter readings that you can find on-line.  These works are denoted on the printed syllabus with an asterisk (*).  On the course website, you will find active links highlighted with a colored underline.  To access the readings, go to the COURSE READINGS page and click on “(on-line)” next to the name of the reading.

Please note that, for copyright reasons, this page will lock after the first week of the semester. To access it, use the password I give you in class.

To guide your reading of the day’s assignment, I will post hints or a guide on the course website, so that you have an idea of what we will be doing at our class meeting. These are especially helpful in focusing your readings when the reading is long or when the semester gets busy.

Required reading available for purchase at the Bookstore:

  • Peter Dreier, John Mollenkopf, and Todd Swanstrom, Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twentieth-First Century (3rd edition, revised, University Press of Kansas, 2014)
  • William Julius Wilson, More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (W.W. Norton, 2009)
  • Marie Gottschalk, The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics (Princeton University Press, 2015)
  • Charles Payne, So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools (Harvard University Press, 2008)
  • Larry Adelman, Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? (2008), episodes “In Sickness and In Wealth,” “Becoming an American,” and “Not Just a Paycheck” [on reserve in the MRC and on-line]

You will need to cite your course readings when they are used in your papers.  To assist you, I have included the full citations of all course readings under WRITING.

Header Image: From Hollywood Cemetery overlooking the James River.