Gateway Course
Border Crossing: Leadership, Value Conflicts and Public Life (PPS 263)
Instructor: Alma Blount

This is the preparation course for students who plan to conduct community-based research in the summer through Service Opportunities in Leadership (SOL) or another research service-learning opportunity.  We have designed this course to provide you with theoretical knowledge and critical reflection skills for entering other cultures to work with community organizations.  You will receive training in basic research methods, and conduct a service project for a community partner organization.  You will also be introduced to a leadership framework for analyzing complex problem solving work that requires wading into controversy—and learning to work with it productively—in order mobilize groups, institutions and systems to do difficult work.

This course examines leadership as the art of working productively with value differences and value conflicts in groups, institutions, and social systems.  It is inevitable that you will encounter value conflicts when you enter a new culture, and some of the most important work of this course will be our mutual reflection on the meaning, uses and misuses of these value conflicts. We will investigate case studies that present a spectrum of viewpoints, and our work will include a rich array of readings, discussions, class exercises and a service project.  The purpose is for us to investigate ways that deeply-held personal values can either become impediments to public problem-solving efforts, or powerful resources for confronting systemic problems wisely and well.  Our time together will give us numerous opportunities to explore what Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (an author whose work we will read) calls the ethics of responsibility.

Capstone Course
Adaptive Leadership (PPS 415)
Instructor: Alma Blount

This is the capstone course for students in Service Opportunities in Leadership, a program that includes a preparation course in the spring and a community-based research project for a partner organization in the summer.  The capstone course explores leadership as the art of mobilizing groups to face complex, adaptive problems.  Through case studies of social and political issues, we will investigate the demands of public problem-solving work.

Adaptive work is about calling attention to problems that are difficult to frame and even more challenging to address.  As a result, groups may understandably resist doing adaptive work.  But when problems persist, and adversely affect the wellbeing of our institutions and communities, we need people who will take the plunge, helping us address the tough questions we can no longer avoid.  Raising difficult issues can be dangerous, yet when the work is effective, the benefits—including social progress and personal growth—can be enormously gratifying.  Throughout the semester we will pay careful attention to both the challenges and the rewards of engaging in adaptive work.

A central requirement of the course is the completion of a comprehensive research portfolio about a social issue that interests you.  This issue should be one for which you have a strong curiosity or persistent passion to explore in more depth.  In the portfolio we will ask you to produce a succinct essay about your topic, frame a policy problem connected to it, and provide an analysis of the adaptive challenges the problem presents to the organization(s) you are studying.