Sociology 389: Project Community, Winter 2003


GSI: Jessica Charbeneau
Office: 4518 LSA
Mailbox: 3009 LSA
Office Hours: M & W by appointment
Email (best way to reach me):

Program Assistant: Kim Love

Welcome to Project Community!

Project Community is a unique learning opportunity that pairs sociological theory with community service. In other words, through your involvement in Project Community, you are constantly making the link between your “lived” experiences in the community and the concepts and theories presented in this, and other, courses. This, in a nutshell, is what C. Wright Mills means when he talks about developing a sociological imagination, and yours will be fine tuned by the end of the semester!

A partnership between the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and the Department of Sociology has made Project Community possible. More information about the program can be found at mserve/ProjectCommunity/HTML/index.html. Here is a list of important names and contact information of individuals associates with the program:

Mark Chesler, Faculty Sponsor
Joe Galura, Director
Sean de Four, Associate Director
Jenny Kellman Fritz, Education Program Coordinator

In order to receive credit for this course, you must:

1. Attend your service site every week
2. Attend and participate in your section seminar every week
3. Complete weekly reading assignments
4. Complete a weekly journal assignment
5. Complete a midterm paper
6. Complete a final project

1. Site Attendance:
Generally 4 hours are expected at site per week. This, however, is dependent on the needs of your particular site and the training you are required to complete. It is important that you regularly attend your site as others your classmates, coordinator, and participants at your site are counting on you! Obviously, conflicts arise, so you are permitted to miss one time. Beyond that, you are required to make up any absences. Scheduling make up sessions can be difficult though, so please act responsibly and be considerate of your classmates’ and community members’ time. Contact your coordinator if you need assistance with site make ups.

2. Seminar Attendance and Participation:
The weekly seminar is your chance to critically digest the reading material and reflect on your site experiences through group discussion and activities. You must be prepared to discuss the readings in seminar in order to actively integrate the academic and practical components of the course. Your coordinator will help facilitate dialogue, highlight key points, and clarify any questions that arise from the readings and site experiences. You, however, are expected to take initiative for your own learning!

Your coordinator will verify your participation in order to assign credit for the course. You are allowed one absence from seminar. An additional absence will require a written make up assignment, which will be provided by your coordinator on a case by case basis. At 3 absences, you will not receive credit for the course.

3. Readings:
As noted above, you are expected to complete the weekly assigned readings and to be prepared to discuss them in section each week. I cannot stress enough what a difference this will make in your experience in this course. Seminar discussion and activities will stem from the assigned readings. You must be prepared in order to fully participate and contribute to these discussions and activities. Additionally, your own site experience and interactions between you and the participants at your site will benefit from your exploration of the academic part of the course. The readings will facilitate your own understanding of what Sociology looks like “on the ground.” Think about what you read and how it relates to your experiences before seminar each week, during seminar each week, and after seminar each week. Hopefully the insights and understanding you acquire during this semester will stay with you long after your days at U of M!

4. Journals:
There will be a weekly journal assignment aimed at exploring the sociological implications of issues arising at site. You are expected to incorporate both the weekly readings and your site experiences in these assignments. These assignments will be designed, received, and checked by your coordinators. This will be explained in further detail during your first seminar.

5. Midterm Paper:
The midterm paper is due Feb. 19 at the start of your seminar. I will be responsible for grading this paper. No late papers will be accepted unless you have special circumstances that warrant an extension and you have requested an extension in advance. Your paper should be a thoughtful reflection and critical analysis of the assigned material and your service learning experience. The total length should be 5 8 double spaced, typed pages using 12 point font.

6. Final Project:
The final will be an Action Project designed, implemented, and written up by your seminar group. Think of it, and treat it, as the final for this course. The Action Project Proposal is due March 19 at the start of your seminar. The Action Project is due on April 18th by 5:00 PM in my mailbox, LSA 3009. 1 will be responsible for grading this project; however, you will each turn in an evaluation of each other’s (and your own) participation in the final project. I believe that you will be the best judge as to how much work each of your peers engages in this project, and I believe this process will encourage you to cooperate and not let each other down in terms of equal participation. Late projects will not be accepted unless there are special circumstances that warrant an extension and your seminar requests an extension in advance. The project and paper should be a thoughtful reflection and critical analysis of the assigned material, your service learning experience, and the action project implemented.

Required Texts
1. Coursepack available at Excel on S. University
2. Laurie Anthony, Have a Great One! A Homeless Man’s Story (1999). available at Shamandrum
3. Additional readings will be distributed at various times during the semester. (The Coursepack and Anthony will be placed on reserve in the Undergrad Library)

Guidelines for Privilege Challenge:

* For this assignment, you will take a ‘normative’ social identity that you possess, and engage in an activity whereby this privileged position is challenged. Aspects of your social identity to consider include your socioeconomic class, race, gender, sexual orientation, able bodied-ness, nationality, or religion.

*I will provide examples in section, but the goal is to put your ‘taken for granted’ or ‘neutral’ components of your identity at risk, and force yourself, even for one moment, to experience what it feels like to be in a marginal position in society. This is not to say that you do not already experience a marginal position, most of us do, but this is an opportunity to put yourself in yet another marginal place that because of your social identity you have not experienced.

* Hopefully, this assignment will help you experience life from an alternative perspective and illustrate, in a more fundamental way, how power is structured in our social system. In your paper you need to:

1. explain what activity you performed and why you selected this particular social identity to explore,
2. discuss how this activity made you feel,
3. explain how this activity affected the way you see power in this social system,
4. link this experience to your seminar readings and your experiences at site (*You need to directly engage the readings relevant to your activity and provide examples from your experiences at site.* You will not receive credit for this assignment if you do not meet this requirement!), and analyze the ability of the theories and concepts presented in the readings to explain the realities of your experience in this activity, or in terms of your experiences at site.

Guidelines for Action Project Proposal:

* Each seminar is required to write a collective one to two page proposal for an action project to be implemented by your seminar for your site. This could be any sort of activity that will meet the needs of your site, and will require you to put into action all of the things you have been learning throughout the course.

* The Proposal should include:

1. a brief description of your project,
2. why you chose the project,
3. the sociological relevance of the project,
4. what you hope your site will gain from your efforts,
5. the specific steps you will take to implement this action plan,
6. what resources (contacts, education/ knowledge, tangible resources) will you draw on to achieve your goal,
7. what criteria will you use to determine your success, and
8. any concerns you have about its implementation or results.

Guidelines for Action Project:

* Drawing from the semester readings and your collective experiences at site, reflect on what issues or problems you have observed at your seminar site, assess how you can make a difference, and execute this plan. Examples of projects include: raising money to buy necessary supplies, organizing field trips, providing educational workshops on community relevant topics, or any other action that would benefit your particular site. Be as creative as you can!

* After you finish your Action Project, each seminar is collectively responsible for answering:

1. What was your project?
2. How did you attempt to implement it?
3. Did you full fill your criteria for success? Why or why not?
4. How did the site participants and staff receive your efforts?
5. What could have been done differently? What worked particularly well? What did you learn from this experience?
6. How does this experience connect with the readings you have done throughout the semester? Does it affirm, challenge, illustrate the concepts and theories presented? (*You need to directly engage the readings relevant to your activity and provide examples from your experiences at site.)
7. Include a self evaluation and an evaluation of your peers’ work on this project.

* Again, you can be creative in your approach to answering these questions. You can write, compose, design, or create:

  • a reflection paper (5 8 pages)
  • a 30 minute videotape (VHS only no digital tapes) / audiotape presentation
  • a compilation and analysis of interviews with site members
  • a proposal for future action projects based on your pilot project (5-8 pages)
  • a painting accompanied by text to explain its meaning (3-5 pages)
  • a collage accompanied by text to explain its meaning (3-5 pages)
  • a collection of photographs accompanied by text explaining its meaning (3-5 pages)
  • anything else that you deem creative and get approved by me

* The format of the project is up to your group, but please do not confuse creativity with carelessness. I am looking for thoughtful, meaningful final projects that illustrate your ability to collectively synthesize the sociological material covered in the course, your experiences at site, and the needs of your site participants.

* Your participation in this project, as determined by your peers, will also be factored into determining your grade.

Calendar of Topics and Readings

Jan. 8 Week 1: Introduction
Jan. 15 Week 2: Introduction to Sociological Themes and Service Learning
Jan. 22 Week 3: Privilege and Service
Jan. 29 Week 4: Site specific issue and reading TBA
Feb. 5 Week 5: Defining Poverty and Who are the Poor?
Feb. 12 Week 6: Structural and Cultural Exl2lanations of Poverty Race,
Feb. 19 Week 7: Site specific issue and reading TBA

*MIDTERM DUE @ 4:00 PM in section*

Mar 5 Week 8: The Homeless and the Media
Mar 12 Week 9: Site specific issue and readings TBA
Mar 19 Week 10: Violence, Victimization, and Deviance


Mar 26 Week 11: Children and Teens in Shelters and on the Street
April 2 Week 12: Social Policy and Housing and Homelessness
April 9 Week 13: Site specific issue and readings TBA

*Work on Final Project *

April 16 Week 14: Eml2owerment Exercise: Where do we go from here?

April 18 3009!! **FINAL PROJECT DUE BY 5:00PM