As protests and demonstrations spread around the country in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, UCF students have the opportunity to enroll in a variety of courses that can help them better understand the calls for equality, reform and justice.
These 15 courses are a sampling of what is offered at UCF this fall in a variety of disciplines, including history, sociology, art, criminal justice, communication and more.
The instructors chimed in on their respective classes on how the course material applies in today’s society and what students can expect to learn throughout the semester.
Registration for fall classes is open through Aug. 23.
“Social change isn’t a choice between having a viral video or doing nothing, and it’s also not creating a whole campaign from scratch. Rather, social change means starting where you are, using what you have, asking for help and then just not stopping when the work gets harder.” — Instructor Vanessa Calkins ’12MA
Class description: Provides a broad understanding of the cultural, social, and political experiences that define the African diaspora.
Associate Professor Obi Nwakanma: “I have often tried to teach that the story of the African diaspora is not only about anguish, it is also about triumphs. It is an epic and heroic story. It is the story of survival and rebirth rather than merely of enslavement and perplexity. It is the story of the enormous power of memory to keep people alive and resilient.
“Every society is the product of powerfully shared memory. Those who wish to change the world must first understand themselves, and hear their own stories as part of the larger, continuous human story. Perhaps in teaching about an African past, we all will come to some understanding of its present; and as the famous African novelist Chinua Achebe said, learn ‘where the rain began to beat us.’ ”
Diversity and Social Issues in Sport Business Management (SPB 3603)
Class description: This course is infused with active learning strategies addressing the full continuum of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues through the lens of sport. While other American ethnic groups such as Latinos, Polynesians, Asians and whites will be covered, the emphasis historically will be on African American and Jewish Americans in sport and society. Implications of cultural diversity and inclusion being good business as well as a moral imperative are given context in a post-George Floyd world.
Jeffrey O’Brien, vice president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice: “As we are experiencing in our broader culture just now, diversity, equity and justice issues impact all areas of our social world. Sport has such a platform to amplify social justice, and through this course students are able to learn about these broader issues through the specific lens of sport. We ground this course with growth-mindset theoretical foundation and encourage students to be vulnerable and take risks to learn about themselves and others, to understand that all of us see the world through our own lens, and this lens has been formed by our individual life experience and journey.”
Class description: History of racism in the U.S. and around the globe, focusing on anthropological study of racism today, particularly as it impacts African diaspora.
Assistant Professor Nessette Falu: “Students must understand how systemic oppressions take shape over history into the present. We live in a world with constant exposure to systemic power and we must know how to recognize it. By the end of the course, the goal is that students will be able to articulate the meaning of racism and anti-Blackness constructions apart from how race is socially constructed. Students are exposed to mass incarceration, medical racism, food justice, arts and media, activism and other topics. Students also read an ethnographic book and learn how anthropologists study race and racism. Also, students develop a video by which they analyze a topic on race and social change. This project enables them to present a complex issue of their choice and dissect it from rooted problem to solution for anti-racist change.”
Psychology of Prejudice (SOP 3724)
Class description: Examination of literature relating to prejudice toward groups and individuals, development and maintenance of prejudice, and possible ways to reduce prejudice.
Associate lecturer Grace White: “It is important that students come to understand how prejudice develops, why it persists, and how to confront, or reduce, problematic prejudices. This knowledge can be the first step to helping students enact change in society at large. I take this approach because, oftentimes, trying to have meaningful conversations about prejudice is challenging. People frequently shut down when they feel attacked or singled out. However, prejudice is a human problem. We must address the source of the issue and root it out in all of its forms. Societies change when the majority of the individuals in that society become the change they want to see in the world. Hopefully, students in my Psychology of Prejudice course will start to become part of the push for society to change for the better.”
Class description: Theoretical analysis of the emergence, maintenance and disruption of patterns of racial and ethnic stratification.
Assistant Professor Jonathan Cox: “I think race is one of the most important social concerns we have, both presently and throughout history. I love helping students understand more about race, whether that is investigating their own racial and ethnic identities, exploring racial inequalities, or seeing how race has been used to maintain racial dominance and subordination since the beginning of the United States. More people than ever are debating the existence of racial disparities and racism in their many forms, and students who take this course will have a much increased capacity for reflecting on and engaging in informed discussions, as well as working to create positive change throughout society.”
Class description: Study of class, status and power, cultural variations in stratification systems, patterns of mobility and change.
Associate Professor Amy Donley ’02 ’04MA ’08PhD: “I want students to recognize the sources of social inequality in our society, and most importantly, to address these sources no matter what major they have chosen. This course focuses on the sources of inequality within a society including statuses such as race, ethnicity, class, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation and age. We discuss these different statuses and more importantly, examine the impact of them on people’s life experiences. The majority of the course has students connect current events to these topics. In the fall we will be examining such issues as heath disparities particularly as they relate to COVID-19, police brutality, political elections and social movements.”
Careers in Creating Social Change (SOW 2020)
Class description: Introduces students to the field of social services, with emphasis on the social work profession and other careers that create social change.
Lecturer Tiffany Lumpkin: “This course gives insight into social work careers that empower powerless people. Students understand that there is a great capacity in powerless people to become very powerful once there are collective works, sacrifices and risks. While our current climate seems insurmountable, social workers have the ability to change it. Course assignments and activities are intended to aid students to view social work as a helping profession that strives to make a difference by providing a range of services to individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities.
“At the end of our course discussions and assignments, students must voice and identify ways in which they intend to help dismantle unjust systems moving forward. The leadership we all keep looking for is right here, in the classroom. These students are giving me hope and strength. They are vital to the fight.”
Class description: Examination of the social justice mission of the social work profession. Addresses professional values, the rights of populations served, and justice within practice fields.
Lecturer Tiffany Lumpkin: The course material is presented in the context of the social work profession’s mission, which is to combat the oppression of vulnerable populations and support the realization of human rights through the creation of a just society. I enjoy teaching this course because I wish to shape the minds of future social workers. It is imperative that we teach all facets of oppression and it’s underpinnings. Humans are hardwired to identify with folks whom they seemingly believe to be “like” themselves — even at the detriment of society. I believe people are for justice or they are not, and it is important that future social workers be deployed as soon as possible to educate, ameliorate and alleviate while fighting these issues of injustice. The time is now to shape policy and practice in ways that will have a sustainable and equitable impact.”
Class description: Explore how the criminal justice system, criminals and crime are portrayed in the media and its impact on society and the criminal justice system.
Professor Raymond Surette: “The course teaches students to better understand how they interact with the media and how media-supplied information influences how they see crime and justice issues. The media isn’t a monolith and different sources put out different content. Much content isn’t meant to be accurate but simply to entertain; other content looks to inform but focuses on the rare and often violent event; some content is meant to mislead; and some aims to be objective and unbiased. The trick is determining which fit in the last group and realizing that it may not be a source you agree with.”
Course description: The viability of community policing. The theoretical basis for community interventions are related to the daily operations required by community policing.
Adjunct Bill Cail ’00 ’04MS: “I hope students use this opportunity to see how it is important for the police and the community to understand each other and work together to reduce crime. During the past few months the disconnect between some police departments and the communities they serve has been brought into the forefront of public discussion. Now that the topic of police reform is a national conversation, it is important to understand the need of all stakeholders to be involved in discussions about how policing should be done.”
Class description: Exploration of communication factors that contribute to the development of conflict across groups, cultures and societies.
Denise Lowe, digital learning senior instructional designer and adjunct lecturer: “My hope in this course is that students will become more aware of their own cultural lenses, as well as the lenses of others, and how their own viewpoints toward societal structures are shaped largely by the culture to which they identify. By engaging in various discussions related to these structures, along with video examples of interactions that are affected by cultural differences, the students have a chance to observe and identify what/why certain approaches may be offensive to others. By reflecting upon issues that might make them uncomfortable, they can learn how to constructively dialogue with others in ways that enhance learning, challenge perceptions, and increase communication rather than further create defensive walls that guard our perceptions.”
Class description: The role of the media and media imagery in culture and society.
Associate Professor Laine Wyatt: “I developed this class because I felt the need to, within the program, address/investigate topics like race, religion, sex/gender politics, money, power, nature, art, and personal involvement through the lens of photography. By the end of the semester students have absorbed the notion that photographing is a political act. They have constructed a small portfolio of photographic images that are issue based and personal to the individual. One of the things I enjoy about teaching the class is offering students the opportunity to express their own feelings and opinions about today’s controversial issues and hear firsthand from their peers, conflicting or corroborating thoughts, nuanced or blatant as they may be. These exchanges offer everyone appraisal and/or reappraisal of personal belief systems which may have been carefully constructed or simply accepted via parental or familial structures. This is critically important since photographs are made through the prism of the individual’s belief system.”
Intercultural Communication (COM 4461)
Class description: Study of variables affecting messages and participants in intercultural contexts.
Lecturer Renata Kolodziej-Smith: “Cultures vary significantly in terms of their members’ values, beliefs and attitudes. One of the major concepts that we talk about in class is the formation of stereotyping and prejudice. Prejudice is a learned behavior that can be unlearned. I think that by gaining knowledge about how we process information and how we form perceptions of people with cultural backgrounds different from our own, we can understand today’s society better and make better, informed choices in our everyday life.”
Class description: Literary representations of New World slavery in the past and the present.
Associate Professor Lynn Casmier-Paz: “The autobiographical writings of African Americans stretch back to the 18th century, and as such they offer insights into the origins and beginnings of the racism, oppression and brutal violence that have been at the foundation of American history since the colonial era. The genre of American literature called “Slavery Narratives” can help students frame current socio-political tensions within their historical contexts. Whether the U.S. will recognize that Black Lives Matter has been an issue since the first Africans came to the colonies in the 17th century. The issues of racism and violence against black and brown people are addressed in the autobiographical narratives of slavery. The stories remind readers that this has been a long struggle, but through the centuries, African Americans have remained resilient, courageous, strong and uniquely American in their unwillingness to give up on the original promise of the powerful nation they and their ancestors were forced to build.”
Class description: Study of how activist writing and other symbolic action can be used to mobilize social or policy change around contemporary controversial issues.
Instructor Vanessa Calkins ’12MA: “I like to think this course doesn’t just teach our students about being stronger writers, but also about being stronger people. I think the big takeaway for a lot of students that applies immediately is that they already are the kind of people who are willing to stand up for what is right. This course helps them see that it’s okay to prioritize that in their lives, education, work, etc., through small, consistent actions while they work toward big audacious goals. Social change isn’t a choice between having a viral video or doing nothing, and it’s also not creating a whole campaign from scratch. Rather, social change means starting where you are, using what you have, asking for help and then just not stopping when the work gets harder. From my perspective, those lessons apply to anything meaningful we do as humans.”