Skip to main content
Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life

Tisch College Courses

Each year, Tisch College creates, cosponsors, or otherwise supports undergraduate courses that help students acquire the knowledge, skills, and values needed to engage in productive civic lives. In 2017-2018, these include more than a dozen courses in fields like media, science, politics, and entrepreneurship.

Fall 2018

TCS 20-01PHIL 20-01PS 20-01

Introduction to Civic Studies

Instructor: Peter Levine, Tisch College Associate Dean for Research
Co-Instructor: Ioannis Evrigenis, Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of Classics; Erin Kelly, Professor & Chair of the Philosophy Department

Civic Studies is an interdisciplinary field of study that focuses on critical reflection, ethical thinking, and action for social change. People who think and act together to improve society must address problems of collective action (how to get members to work together) and deliberation (how to reason together about contested values). They must understand how power is organized and how it operates within and between societies. They must grapple with social conflict, violence, and other obstacles to peaceful cooperation. When tensions arise within a group, people face questions of justice and fairness, and they must confront questions about appropriate relationships to outsiders of all types. This introductory course explores ethical, political, and theological frameworks for understanding how people can and should organize themselves to improve societies. Readings are drawn from philosophy and political theory, economics, the history of social movements, and other disciplines. This course provides theoretical grounding for Civic Studies majors and for other students interested in social change.

TCS 193-01PS 118-01

Topics in American Politics: Inside Congress & The 2018 Midterm Elections

Instructor: Steve Israel, Former U.S. Representative (D-NY3)

The 2018 congressional midterm elections will be one of the important and closely watched in history. Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011-2016, will dissect and track the elections in real-time, covering the essentials of polling, media, fundraising, super PACs and campaign organization. Behind-the-scenes campaign experts will participate in classroom discussions.

TCS 193-02PS 188-01

Special Topics in International Relations: The Politics of Self-Determination and Secession

Instructor: Vartan Oskanian, Former Foreign Minister of Armenia (1998-2008), Founder of the Civilitas Foundation

The course will study and analyze several currently active self-determination movements through the dual lenses of international law on self-determination and global politics. It will assess whether these movements can rely on international law to support their independence claim—or whether it is all politics. Students will also become acquainted with conflict resolution, mediation, and negotiation methods and skills, as well as international court proceedings through in-class negotiations, simulations and mock court litigations.

TCS 193-03CIS 150-01

Civic Engagement and Contemporary Art

Instructor: Harsha Menon, Former Robyn Gittleman Teaching Fellow at the Experimental College

How can aesthetics be employed to instigate effective civic involvement?  What are the ethics involved that implicate both the artist and viewer?  This course, taught in seminar format, will interrogate the intersection of civic engagement and contemporary art through textual analysis, close involvement with a Tisch College Partner, and exhibition practice.  There will also be a practical component of training in fine art disciplines such as photography, film, and collage (as determined by the students) culminating in a “pop-up” exhibition space on the Medford Campus that relates to Jacques Rancière’s critique of representational mediation.  No previous studio art experience required.

Note: This course counts as an arts distribution credit. 

TCS 193-04CIS 150-02

Media and Moral Responsibility: Issues of Media Ethics in Practice and Principles

Instructor: Anthony Rudel, Station Manager at WGBH's WCRB, Author of Tales from the Opera and Hello Everybody! The Dawn of American Radio.

Like it or not, we live in an era where the media’s role is often questioned by those who may claim it’s all fake anyway. But that’s not the central issue that we should question. Is it ethical for a journalist who has a vested interest in a subject to report on that subject? Should a music director of a radio station not play a particular artist because they disagree with a political stance taken by that artist? Should movie channels ban the work of any actor accused of sexual misconduct? Should social media be responsible for unsocial behavior? Is reality TV really reality? And, are there really any rules when it comes to media and ethical behavior? The central theme of the Media Ethics seminar is an exploration of the many kinds of decisions, or more accurately, choices media professionals face every day, and perhaps of greatest significance, the slippery slope that diminishing standards and the absence of gatekeepers has created. With an appreciation of the historical foundation of mass media to be a national town hall of civic discourse, we will explore the ways that modern media has been challenged by a slippage in ethics. But media is much more than just news, so this course will also explore editorial decisions made by music stations, and other forms of media, to compare how their choices have consequences.

TCS 193-05CSHD 143-02

Developing Leaders Who Make a Difference: Leadership in a Civic Context

Instructor: Diane Ryan, Tisch College Associate Dean for Programs & Administration

Developing Leaders Who Make a Difference integrates concepts from adult development and learning, leader(ship) development, and organizational behavior and applies them to building capacity for social change. This course is organized in three sequential segments: Leading Self, Leading Others and Leading Organizations. At the end of this course, students will be able to develop effective strategies to lead individuals, teams and organizations to their fullest potential in service to others.

TCS 193 - 06PS 119-01

U.S. National Elections

Instructor: Eitan Hersh, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

This is an advanced research seminar with two aims: to present and discuss scholarship on several aspects of U.S. national elections and to accommodate research papers on U.S. national elections. The course’s readings offer analyses of U.S. elections by social scientists. There will be ample discussion of the 2018 election underway during the term. The primary goal of the course is to help students compose exemplary, quantitative original research papers, and we will spend time every class meeting developing these papers.

TCS 94-04PJS 50-01

Science and Civic Action

Instructor: Jonathan Garlick, Tisch College Senior Fellow for Civic Science

This course teaches students conceptual approaches and practical skills needed to effectively create change on science-based issues that impact our lives and communities. The course links science issues to our professional, personal, and civic responsibilities and equips students to help others make critical choices on divisive or complex science issues. Future scientists and engineers will acquire skills that build civic capacities, while students from the humanities and social sciences will learn skills indispensable for positive civic action. This course aims to strengthen inclusivity through pluralistic and dialogic approaches to science learning and civic action.

TCS 94-03SOC 94-17

Girls and Girlhood

Instructor: Margaret McGladrey, Postdoctoral Fellow

What is girlhood, and how do social and cultural ideas about it influence the life chances of people who are classified as “girls”? Are we living in an age of “girl power” where stereotypes about girls’ capabilities are fading away, or are girls more vulnerable than ever because of contemporary social problems like the hook-up culture, sexting, sexual assault, suicide, and media sexualization? In this course, you will explore answers to these questions through the lens of gender and age in ways that illuminate girls’ intersectional identities in terms of race, ethnicity, place, ability, nationality, religion, sexuality, and socioeconomic status and illustrate whose stories are foregrounded and whose are forgotten. Topics include educational justice, sex trafficking and unpaid labor, rape culture and gender-based violence, health and embodiment, gender and sexual politics, and media consumption and production. You will gain a strong understanding of current “girls’ empowerment” activism by applying the concepts we learn throughout the course to specific programs to assess their political, social, and civic impact and ethical standards.

TCS 94-05ELS 194-05

Special Topics: Philanthropy, Social Enterprise, and Community

Instructor: Nancy Lippe, Lecturer, Experimental College

Philanthropy plays many roles in our communities, from alleviating crisis situations to encouraging strategic, systemic change. Nonprofit organizations are the intermediaries connecting donors to community needs. Working with a grant from former Tufts Trustee Nathan Gantcher, students have the opportunity to practice philanthropy by serving as a young adult grant-making board to award $25,000 to local nonprofits in the cities of Medford, Somerville, Cambridge and Boston.

TCS 94-01PJS 50-02

Special Topics: Dialogue, Identity & Civic Action

Instructor: Jonathan Garlick , Tisch College Senior Fellow for Civic Science

This course offers students in-depth training in dialogue facilitation to develop skills needed to take civic action for positive social change. Students will facilitate the creation of spaces to communicate openly about contentious or divisive issues and will work towards breaking down destructive communication habits like avoidance, silence, or reactive responses, by enabling participants to feel truly listened to. Students will design conversations and facilitate dialogues that build deep listening and mutual understanding and will be trained to conduct dialogues when there is a need to intervene to support difficult conversations on campus and in their communities.

Spring 2018

TCS 193-07PS 159-01

The People, Revolution, and Popular Constitution-Making

Instructor: Joshua Braver, Postdoctoral Fellow

This seminar focuses on the concept, history, and politics of the people’s the power to enact a revolution and institutionalize it in a constitution. The seminar begins with interrogating the abstract idea of the people.  We will look at variety of classical and modern thinkers to ask: Who are the people?  How are they created? Are they bound by law, or is law counterrevolutionary?  Does representation divide the people or constitute it?  From there, we will analyze particular cases of popular constitution-making around the world beginning in the 18th century with the U.S. and French Revolutions and then on to more contemporary examples in Eastern Europe and Latin America. Lastly, we will evaluate the new emerging social science on constitution-making.

TCS 093-03EXP-0018-VS

Hamilton: in Context

Instructor: Mary Pat McMahon, Dean of Student Affairs
Co-Instructor: Miguel Rodríguez-Santos, A18

The purpose of Hamilton: In Context is to analyze the life story of Alexander Hamilton: immigrant,scholar, soldier, founding father, economist, scoundrel. Hamilton's unique position among the Founding Fathers rose to recent national prominence through Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical in 2015. While the play pioneers new territory in musical theater genre, Hamilton’s biography has captured the imagination of millions, reignited interest in the American Revolution and the humanity behind many familiar names represented in dusty textbooks. Hamilton: In Context seeks to answer these questions: Why care about a person who lived 260 years ago? What can his struggles and accomplishments show us about modern American politics and society? What do we learn from this particular founding father’s history and life? How does Lin-Manuel Miranda's medium influence our sense of Hamilton's relevance? Why him? Why now?

TCS 261-01UEP 0261-01

Community Development, Planning, and Politics

Instructor: Lorlene Hoyt, Research Professor, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning

Collaborative seminar exploring community development concepts and strategies in U.S. and other national contexts. Examines the history, structure and function of urban and virtual communities, with attention to the politics of space, civic participation and socio-economic inequality. Introduction to methods of inquiry including personal interviews, case study analysis and digital storytelling. Guest speakers provide insights from practice and professional networking opportunities. Seminar participants encouraged to build solidarity, become a community.

TCS 193-04EXP-0085-XS

Dialogue, Identity & Civic Action

Instructor: Jonathan Garlick, Tisch College Senior Fellow for Civic Science

This course offers students in-depth training in dialogue facilitation to develop the skills needed to take civic action for positive social change. Students will facilitate the creation of spaces to communicate openly about complex or divisive issues and will work toward breaking down harmful communication habits like avoidance, silence, or reactive responses. Students will design plans and facilitate dialogues that build deep listening and mutual understanding and will be trained to support difficult conversations in the campus communities they care about.

TCS 193-01ELS 193-02

Social Entrepreneurship, Policy, and Systems Change

Instructor: Scott Warren, CEO, Generation Citizen

This course will explore the dynamics and interplay between social entrepreneurship, social change, and policy. Using the framework of Generation Citizen, an organization designed to encourage young people to be active and engaged citizens through implementing action civics in schools across the country, students will explore frameworks for social transformation, and whether stable governance and effective policies are necessary for sustainable change. The course will examine the intersection between social change and policy change, and examine how the two concepts intersect while focusing on the end goal of systems change. Students will learn about Generation Citizen’s evolution and theory of change, as well as examine different case studies from across the United States and world. Guest speakers will include diverse practitioners of social entrepreneurship who think about long-term pathways to transformative social change, and dynamic policymakers.

TCS 193-06PS 118-01

Topics in American Politics: Organizing for Social Change

Instructor: Danny LeBlanc, CEO, Somerville Community Corporation
Co-Instructor: Kenneth Galdston, Director, InterValley Project

This course will trace community organizing to some of its early roots in the United States, as well as drawing connections between community organizing and other movements, including the labor, civil rights, and environmental movements. Presentations and discussions with other Boston area community organizers will be included as will be opportunities to visit with and observe local community-based organizations.

TCS 193-05PS 118-02

Topics in American Politics: Massachusetts State Government - Learning While Doing

Instructor: Ben Downing, Former Massachusetts State Senator

Students will be placed in one of a dozen State House offices—for a legislator, committee, in the governor’s office, or for an executive branch agency—to serve in a policy-focused internship. These experiences will be supplemented with a class built around discussion of shared experiences, as well as on the interplay between policy and politics. The primary goal is for 3 students to develop real world skills and a deeper understanding of how politics and policy intersect to create law, regulatory programs, and social change.

TCS 104-01PS 104-01

Seminar: New Media, New Politics

Instructor: Robin Liss, Lecturer

Research seminar on three media sectors: cable television, talk radio, and the political blogosphere. Analysis of the economic foundations of each, advertising, audience demographics, and program strategy. Students will conduct an original empirical study of new media.

TCS 193-03FMS 094-06CSHD 143-08

Creating Children's Media

Instructor: Julie Dobrow, Tisch College Senior Fellow for Media and Civic Engagement

What goes into writing a script for a children's television show? How do you pitch a great children's book as a movie? How do you write an ad for kids? How can you propose an educational app that someone will want to develop? This course will combine learning how children’s educational media products are developed with formative and summative research with a practice-based workshop approach to applying educational learning theory and principles in creative ways. We’ll discuss how and why creating quality children’s media is fits into ideas of media literacy, a 21st century civic skill. We’ll examine award-winning children’s media, hear from people who created it and craft our own. And we’ll take a workshop approach in developing scripts for children’s tv shows, learning what goes into pitching a book for film and building proposals for interactive media products. The course will include a field trip to WGBH to participate in a hackathon to design new media products for children.

TCS 167-01FMS 52-01CSHD 167-01

Children and Mass Media

Instructor: Julie Dobrow, Tisch College Senior Fellow for Media and Civic Engagement

Children have long been considered a “special” audience by broadcasters, advertisers, politicians, educators and researchers. This course will introduce you to the logic behind this designation, through a careful and critical examination of the theory and research on children’s mass media use, and the influence of media on children. We take a look at children’s media content across platforms (television, film, advertising, social media) and at different types of media content (from Sesame Street to Disney films and beyond), paying special attention to images of gender, race and ethnicity. We’ll examine the effects media have on young children, tweens and adolescents, look at the relationship between media violence and aggression and explore whether there’s a relationship between media images and body images. This is a project-based class, including one in which you’ll learn to make a remix.

TCS 141-01ELS 141-01AMER 141-01

Innovative Social Enterprises

Instructor: Julianne Zimmerman, Lecturer, Gordon Institute

Innovative Social Enterprises is structured to provide students a highly interactive exploration of core skills vital to social entrepreneurs.  We start with awareness (self, context, relationships) and move quickly to practicing requisite disciplines (asking questions; testing and reframing assumptions; forming teams and other alliances; identifying opportunities, risks, and resources; giving and critiquing pitches; making go/no-go decisions).  We will practice an iterative rhythm of weekly information gathering, sensing, assessment, and reframing, with emphasis on creating compelling value for multiple stakeholders.  Students will engage in individual reflection and pitching as well as three team pitch-offs.

TCS 94-01CHEM 94-01

Freshman Seminar: Science & the Human Experience

Instructor: Jonathan Garlick, Tisch College Senior Fellow for Civic Science

This small-group, first-year seminar allows students to reflect and share personal views about science issues that really matter. Through conversation and dialogue, we deepen understanding of all points of view, beliefs, identities, and values and share questions of genuine curiosity that enable learning about the science-based issues that impact our personal and civic lives.

No previous experience in the life/natural sciences is required. The course is approved for Natural Sciences distribution credit.
TCS 145-01WGSS 185-06VISC 145-01

Mass Incarceration & The Literature of Confinement

Instructor: Hilary Binda, Senior Lecturer in Visual and Critical Studies and Director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program

The Literature of Confinement will be run as an Inside-Out™ class composed of Tufts (“outside”) students and incarcerated (“inside”) students in equal numbers. All students who pass the class will earn credit. Together we will ask: How have writers from different historical periods, regions, cultures, and genders (for example, Frederick Douglass, Henrik Ibsen, James Joyce, Lorraine Hansberry, Suzan-Lori Parks) understood experiences of confinement and freedom? What are some of the effects on human beings of different kinds of confinement – economic, educational, legal, physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and social? Together, we will read, discuss, and write on literary texts directly and indirectly pertaining to the experience of confinement – understood in many different senses. What constitutes a confining circumstance? How is confinement imposed and by whom? How do these texts help us understand various forms of resistance? Through analyses of a variety of different literary works, students will study various discourses of identity and difference, including race, culture, economic class, and gender-sexuality, often in relation to the US criminal justice system. A weekly focus on engaged interactive learning across cultural, social, and literal barriers in addition to the regular practice of self-reflection through journal writing and creative writing assignments will enable students to develop a qualitative knowledge about power and possibilities in the face of social injustice and structural inequalities. This course aims to facilitate expanded literacy, widely defined, as well as learning about deep differences while also enabling the creation of bonds between people through shared acts of interpretation and imagination. At the end of the term, inside and outside students will work together in small groups to complete a project of the groups’ invention and design.

Program-Specific Courses

The following courses are open only to participants in Tisch College student programs.


Tisch Scholars Foundation: Civic Identity, Reflection, and Action

Instructor: Grace Talusan, Lecturer, Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning

Through this course, Tisch Scholars will explore the connections between identity and systems of privilege, power, and oppression, and will apply their learning directly to their fieldwork. Students will learn to apply an asset-based approach to community work, and will gain skills in dialogue and deliberation. The coursework will allow students to critically reflect on the service learning work they are engaging with at their partner sites, and share ideas on how to address social issues in the community. Each semester that they participate in the program, Tisch Scholars will work eight hours per week at a community-based placement. Scholars will continue learning about Tufts partner communities and forge meaningful, reciprocal partnerships with community members through service and collaboration.

This course is exclusive to participants in the Tisch Scholars program

Tisch Scholars Fieldwork Practicum

Instructor: Sara Allred, Scholars Program Administrator, Tisch College

Each semester that they participate in the program, Tisch Scholars work eight hours per week at a community-based placement. Scholars will continue learning about Tufts partner communities and forge meaningful, reciprocal partnerships with community members through service and collaboration.  Scholars will meet several times per semester with their peers in the program to critically reflect on the work and learning they are engaging with at their partner sites, and share ideas on how to address social issues in the community.

This course is exclusive to participants in the Tisch Scholars program
Tufts 1+4 Course

Tufts 1+4 Foundation: Communicating for Change

Instructor: Grace Talusan, Lecturer, Department of English

Students will study and practice approaches to change, both personal and social, through a variety of communication methods. This course is designed to develop writing, close-reading, and critical thinking skills for students on a bridge-year experience. In a blended learning format and through related readings, investigative data collection, guided exploration of social issues, and experiences with service placements and host communities, students will practice reflection, analysis, and effective communication. Students will create a learning community and consider how their bridge-year experience connects to their future academic interests and possible impact on campus life once they return to campus.

This course is exclusive to participants in the Tufts 1+4 Bridge-Year Service Learning Program.