social justice, quantitative data, pedagogy, economic security index
Under the direction of Professor Premilla Nadasen at Barnard College, the course “Mississippi Semester,” brings together a small group of undergraduate students in a collaborative action-driven project with Mississippi Low-Income Child-Care Initiative, an advocacy organization of women on welfare and child-care providers, based in Biloxi, MS. Students worked closely with members of Mississippi Low-Income Child-Care Initiative to develop an Economic Security Index for women in Mississippi which the organization will use to educate their constituency and to further their advocacy work.. We have partnered with the Barnard Empirical Reasoning Center to utilize census data and GIS to digitally map the information. We spent seven days in Mississippi to participate in community meetings to get feedback on the economic security index, conduct interviews with residents about their experiences with poverty, and meet with state legislators. Upon returning to New York, students engaged in post-trip recalibration of the index and prepare op-eds for publication. In addition to the history of welfare, students learned survey and interview techniques, GIS mapping, how to write op-eds and will develop a relationship with low-income women. This is an example of how collective community/faculty/student collaboration can equip students with concrete skills and teach them about public policy and community organizing, while simultaneously providing a service to an under-resourced organization. Though this course focused on the state of child care, race relations, economic inequality, and welfare in Mississippi, it offers a new pedagogical approach that can be used as a template for students and educators who desire to engage with contemporary social justice issues. This class flipped the traditional classroom because it was organized around the needs of the community organization rather than an academic research agenda and laid the foundation for a long-term campus-community collaboration. In addition to fostering greater understanding between those inside and outside the academy, it presents a horizontal and collaborative relationship between teacher and students, in which students took charge of and provided leadership around various components of this project. In this way, the course offered multiple approaches to contributing to a social justice agenda.
Nadasen, Premilla, Fatima Koli, Alisa B. Rod, and David Weiman. "Mississippi Semester: New Social Justice Approach to Teaching Empirical Reasoning in Context." Numeracy 12, Iss. 1 (2019): Article 3. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5038/1936-46126.96.36.199
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