In this writing-intensive first-year seminar, you will engage with the city of Boston through topics such as "Boston Childhoods," "Sustainability in Boston" and "Race and Sports in Boston." These courses emphasize the development of writing skills, information literacy and critical analysis and are taught by faculty experts. Boston courses include frequent field trips involving course-specific excursions into the city.
Sample Boston Courses
Phillis Wheatley's Boston
Faculty: Jessica Parr
This course will explore Revolutionary-era Boston through the lens of African-American poet Phillis Wheatley. We will discuss slavery and abolitionism in Boston through the writings of Wheatley and other Black anti-slavery activists. This course will also include field trips to Boston's National African-American History Museum and other historic sites.
Sustainability in Boston
Faculty: Erin DeCurtis
The course will introduce students to city, nonprofit and business efforts to support environmental sustainability in Boston. The primary focus will be on efforts of nonprofits and businesses, though city and state government support can facilitate their work, so some government context will be given. Students will complete a service learning project for a Boston-area nonprofit to apply what they've learned and support sustainability efforts in the city.
Speech Communities in the City: We're Talking Boston Here
Faculty: Janet Chumley
Our course uses field work/observations, outside speakers, videos and readings to explore what speech patterns reveal about life in Boston in particular and in our larger society as well, and how they vary along patterns of ethnicity, race, gender, class, and nationality. High quality academic writing is a goal. Students will use the T for field trips.
Text and Context: 19th Century Boston Writers
Faculty: Sheldon George
This course investigates issues of authority, voice, and persuasion in writing. It examines how an author's rhetorical choices and strategic self-presentations may be informed by location. Organized around works by famous antebellum and postbellum authors of the greater Boston area, the course focuses upon texts that often engage anti-slavery and women's rights issues. Some included authors are Nathanial Hawthorne, Harriet Wilson, Henry David Thoreau, William Wells Brown, and Louisa May Alcott.
Storytelling and Graphics: The Power of Art
Faculty: Chris Cormier Hayes
This class will examine storytelling and identity through three mediums: graphic novels, community murals and graffiti (street art). We will investigate the relationship between art, specifically in Boston, and either individual identity or neighborhood/community identity. Students will be asked to think about the implication art and identity have for their own lives.
The News Network
Faculty: Erica Moura
The course aims to introduce students to Boston’s rich history of news as well as its current state. We’ll look at TV, radio, print, online, and social media with a focus on the (im)balance in reporting. Guest speakers will include local reporters, columnists, producers and editors. Field trips will be taken to various newsrooms across the city.
Black Female Trailblazers in Boston and Beyond: From Maria Stewart to Combahee River Colle
Faculty: Theresa Perry
This course examines the lives and work of nineteenth and twentieth century Black women trailblazers, to include the work of Maria Stewart, an early abolitionist; Eliza Ann Gardner, a leader of the Underground Railroad; Charlotte Hawkins Brown, founder of the Palmer Instate a Black boarding School in North Carolina; Josephine St Pierre Ruffin; Lois Mailou Jones, sculptor, Dorothy West, a writer and The Saturday Evening Quill, literary society and journal. The course examines work and delves into the archives of twentieth century pioneers, Ellen S. Jackson, Ruth Batson, Muriel Snowden, Bobby Sikes, Melnea Cass and Combahee River Collective.
Faculty: Abel Amado
Boston is as a “Creolepolitan” city, attracting a number of Creole communities. This course critically analyzes four different Creole communities, namely Cabo Verdeans, Haitians, Dominicans, and Jamaicans. It explores the local history, culture and politics of these social groups, from both inward and outward perspectives. Through visits to the community and meetings with their leaders, students will learn about strategies developed by Creole communities to combat social invisibility and reinforce their unique identity.
Running These Streets: Boston Through its Sports Culture
Faculty: Anima Adjepong
The course will use the Boston Marathon as an entry point into understanding how sports have shaped the city’s historical and contemporary identity. Over the course of the semester, students will examine how sports take up physical space in the city, and simultaneously reproduce and contest divisions shaped by racism, dis/ability, and gender and class inequalities.
From Pumpsie to Papi: Race and Sports in the City of Champions
Faculty: Daren Graves
The realms of sports and sports entertainment have served as venues where US society has struggled with its conceptions, conventions, and policies with regard to race. In this course, we will use the landscape of Boston sports and sports entertainment as a means to begin to critically analyze the construct of race and the dynamics of racism.
Deconstructing Beantown: What (and How) Boston Signifies in Film and TV
Faculty: Ellen Grabiner
Students are introduced to semiotics; the ways signs indicate specific meanings in visual media. Focusing on films that feature Boston, or in which Boston points to particular narratives, students come to understand and decode basic semiotics, including metaphor and metonymy. Field trips to neighborhoods that figure in selected films.
Busing: Can Racial Integration Be Forced?
Faculty: Janie Ward
Students in this class will study the desegregation of the public schools of Boston, an effort that led to the Boston Busing Crisis in the 1970s. Did court-ordered busing achieve the goal of racial integration in Boston? What lessons were learned about power, freedom, community rights, identity, and human behavior? How can social activists who are addressing inequality and discrimination today build on the lessons of the past?
Faculty: Kris Erickson
This course, more broadly, combines introductory theoretical and practical approaches to the understanding of how emerging communication technologies mediate and help construct the urban experiences. We explore, specifically, how smartphone apps, virtual tours, civic technology, social media, and online maps affect our understanding of and engagement with historical and present-day Boston.
Boston Childhoods, Real and Imagined
Faculty: Lauren Rizzuto
This course considers the ways Boston landmarks and literature imagine the real lives and concerns of young people in the city. By visiting and theorizing places, such as the iconic Ducklings sculpture in the Public Garden, and (re)reading books for/about children, we’ll investigate how art imitates life, and vice versa.
Class, Gender, and Ethnicity in Boston through Film
Faculty: Lena Zuckerwise
This course aims to introduce students to issues of social identity in Boston, using film. From mid-century Film noir to the present, we explore representations of class, race, gender, and ethnicity, and consider ways these reflect the politics and culture of the city.
Food is Love: Exploration in Food, Culture, and Identity
Faculty: Lisa Brown
Food is closely tied to identity. From our self-created identity rooted in current popular culture, to our family’s traditional identity, food reflects many aspects of who we are. This course will explore the role of food in development of identity, highlighting journeys of Boston immigrant populations spanning the city’s history.
Faculty: Rich Gurney
Chemicals provide the function consumers demand in everyday products. Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients before cosmetics are sold. The potential unintended consequences of such hazardous chemicals are disproportionally impacting children and adults in low income, minority neighborhoods. This violates our definition of social and environmental justice where all people, regardless of race or economic status, have the right to live, work, play and learn in healthy, safe environments. The course will focus on: (1) key issues of social disparities related to exposure to hazardous chemicals; (2) how the field of green chemistry might offer solutions to achieve social and environmental justice; and (3) how to bring about awareness and change through education and outreach in Boston in collaboration with the Silent Spring Institute, the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry and the Beyond Benign Foundation.
Female Political Leadership in Boston: One Step Forward, Two Steps Sideways?
Faculty: Leanne Doherty
January 2018 saw the first female majority take control of the Boston City Council, well behind the curve of many comparable cities. This course will discuss the slow progress female politicians have made in Boston specifically and Massachusetts in general. It will focus on a brief history of political leadership in Boston, issues specific to female candidates and office holders, and the unique paradoxes that shape the political culture of Boston, which one could argue has been less that hospitable to all under-represented candidates seeking public office.
A Field Guide to Art
Faculty: Helen Popinchalk
A Field Guide to Art in Boston visits Boston’s world-class institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Gardner Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art, university and contemporary galleries. The course is about learning to look and express visual concepts through writing and analysis. The study of different times and cultures will enrich understanding of art of our own time.
Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Creation of a Culture Palace
In this course, we will explore the amazing Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on a number of different levels. You will read about the founder, Isabella Stewart Gardner, and the Boston she encountered when she moved here in 1860, the artists, writers and musicians who were her friends and how she came to believe that she needed to build a museum for her city. The class will also look at how the museum functions today, and in particular, how it has chosen to provide different kinds of programs to diverse audiences. We will look at the musical program and attend a concert. We’ll discuss the Gardner’s relationship to Boston schools as well as other public programming. We’ll meet some of the Gardner staff and learn more about what they do behind the scenes at the museum.