Posts tagged ‘SOC 119’

Getting an Earful with World in Conversation

It’s a safe bet that nearly every student who has spent time at University Park in the past 20 years or so is at least somewhat familiar with the work of Sam Richards and Laurie Mulvey. Many thousands have taken the SOC 119: Race and Ethnic Relations course that Richards first began teaching in the early 1990s, and many more have been reached by the vision that he and Mulvey ’94g have expanded well beyond that one famous undergraduate class. It was a treat to be able to dive into their work for a feature in our September/October issue.

In “Taking the World by the Ear,” we highlight Penn State’s World in Conversation, the “student-driven public diplomacy center” that grew out of the often brutally honest class discussions that have made 119 the most buzzed-about elective at University Park. The center’s reach is now truly global, thanks to Sam and Laurie’s vision, the dedication of a small but hard-working staff, and an army of student “facilitators” who lead the WiC dialogues—small, intimate conversations on the most sensitive topics imaginable. The video below gives a feel of the World in Conversation approach:

A personal highlight of working on this story was having an excuse to crash SOC 119 a few times last year. I took the class as an undergrad back in the mid 1990s, and it’s only grown more daring—and, I’d argue, more vital—in the two decades since. And while World in Conversation has grown at an incredible rate, the center is still very much rooted in 119’s philosophy of critical thinking and honesty above all else. A taste of Sam’s approach to the class can be seen in the popular TEDx talk he gave in 2010:

Sam and Laurie are now neighbors of mine, and it’s been very cool to be able to engage with them as an actual grown-up. Working with them to wrap up fact-checking on this story a few weeks back, they shared some very cool news: SOC 119 will be live-streamed this semester. Whether you’re an alum with fond memories of the course, or one who never had the chance to take it, it’s recommended viewing. If you’re interested, tune in to the SOC 119 channel on twitch.tv Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:35 p.m.

And of course, we hope you’ll check out the feature in our new issue, hitting Alumni Association members’ mailboxes any day now.

Ryan Jones, deputy editor

August 25, 2016 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

Wanted: Your Best Classroom Memories

The professor who surprised, challenged, terrified, or inspired you. The classroom where you did your best work—or where you hope never to set foot again. The partner from your lab or study group who drove you to distraction or became a life-long friend.

We know you’ve got stories. We want to hear ’em.

For our next “interactive” feature, we’re looking for your most compelling classroom memories. You can tell your story in the comments below; send submissions (no more than 250 words) to heypennstater@psu.edu; or mail them to: The Penn Stater magazine, Hintz Family Alumni Center, University Park, PA, 16802. All submissions are due by Dec. 6. We’ll use the best of them for a feature in an upcoming issue of The Penn Stater.

imagesWhat are my best classroom memories? Hey, thanks for asking. I only ever took one class where, on the final day of the semester, the entire room offered a spontaneous standing ovation for the instructor. That was Hist 143—History of Fascism & Nazism, with Prof. Jackson Spielvogel (right). The class was tremendous from start to finish—no doubt there are thousands of alumni who feel the same—but it’s the day that Holocaust survivor Kurt Moses ’11h came to speak to a rapt, standing-room-only lecture hall in Sparks Building that I’ll never forget.

Then there was Soc 119, taught by Sam Richards (below), who’d been on campus only a few years at that point and was, in the minds of many of us fairly straight-laced undergrads, some sort of enlightened hippie whose class was popular largely because it had the potential for fireworks. But there was so much more to it than that. As I learned over the course of a memorable semester, Sam’s whole thing was perspective.

2358380b51651c63cafd5fcc0ea3a9e94bcf032b_254x191And of course, it still is. Sam long ago cut his hair, but he’s hardly cut back on his approach to opening the eyes and minds of his students; in fact, through their World in Conversations program, Sam and his wife Laurie Mulvey ’94g have expanded their work to a global audience. Now, Sam lives right around the corner from me, meaning the unconventional professor who blew my undergrad mind is now the very cool guy who I occasionally get to talk about Important Stuff with over a beer at neighborhood gatherings. Who knew I’d be making classroom memories 20 years later?

Ryan Jones, senior editor

November 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm 3 comments

How Can We Support Sex Abuse Victims? A SOC 119 Perspective

Early in the second class he devoted to the Sandusky scandal and its aftermath, Sam Richards asked his SOC 119 students to react to this statement: I am feeling exhausted talking about this issue.

This was Nov. 15, only 12 days after the grand jury presentation was released. Less than a week after Joe Paterno had been fired and Graham Spanier had resigned, and nine days since the national media began to arrive on campus. Almost all of the 700 students, voting anonymously with clickers, chose “strongly agree” or “agree.” Imagine what the percentage would be now, with the TV trucks no longer parked on College Avenue and the football team’s regular season over.

Richards then asked students to pair off and kick around solutions to this question: What would it mean to support the victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse? The most common answers: donating money to organizations that support victims, and listening to anyone who wanted to talk about a similar experience.

And then Richards tied the two questions together: “What would it mean to support the victims? No. 1, it would probably not mean being tired of talking about it. After nine days. What is that? We have done a whole semester on race, and we’re not really tired of talking about race, but we’re tired talking about this issue after nine days.”

The way Richards sees it, (more…)

November 30, 2011 at 12:45 pm 5 comments


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