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BS Program Requirements and Course Descriptions

CourseworkRequirements, Options, and Descriptions

—for students enrolling after March 1, 2018:

Overall Degree Requirements:

Of the necessary 120 semester units, 40 Units of General Education, and 40 Units in the Major are required. Required courses are indicated with an *. Titles of courses in the major are underlined and those that fulfill general education requirements are italicized!

BS 101: Learning the WISR Way—Introduction to Transformative Learning for Professional and Community Leadership (4 semester units)*

BS 311:  Studies in Action-Research (5 semester units)*

BS 341: Contemporary, Issues and Ideas Regarding Social Justice (5 semester units)*

BS 351: History of Issues and Ideas Regarding Social Justice (5 semester units)[note: may count as either general education or major field]

BS 371: Inquiry and Writing  (5 semester units)

BS 402:  Building Bridges to One’s Future (5 semester units)

BS 441: Theories and Strategies of  Social Change (5 semester units)

BS 443: Methods and Practices in Community Leadership (5 semester units)*

BS 442:  Issues and Strategies of Multiculturalism (5 semester units)*

BS 446: Environmental Justice and Sustainability  (5 semester units)*

BS 471: Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (5 semester units)

BS 490:  Senior Thesis (6 semester units)*.

BS 491:  Supervised Community Practicum/Internship (1 – 25 semester units, no more than 10 may count toward the major field requirement)

BS 496:  Review and Assessment of Knowledge in One’s Field of Specialization (5 semester units)*

Commentary on the Structure, Outline, and Nature of Most WISR Courses . . .

Note that all WISR courses focus on “meta-competencies” important to learning at WISR that also necessarily enable the student to focus on their main interests.

Generally, WISR courses involve all, or most, of the following:

  • Required and recommended readings to choose from (both books and articles);
  • Action-inquiry projects, culminating in a written paper;
  • Sharing with others at WISR–notes, drafts of ideas, reflections on readings, one’s action-inquiry and practical community/professional involvements–for feedback and dialogue;
  • Regular mentoring and guidance from WISR faculty, on all aspects of the content and process of one’s learning;
  • The development of each student’s eportfolio;
  • Assistance and support from faculty in writing in one’s own voice, clearly, for oneself to further learning, and with one’s audience(s) in mind;
  • Written reflective analyses of what one read;
  • Written self-assessment of one’s learning accomplishments and personal insights from one’s learning activities and methods;
  • Opportunities to participate in small seminars, with other students and faculty–always both on site at WISR and by video-audio conference over the internet as well as by phone.

All WISR courses provide students with significant opportunities to personalize their studies and pursue their special interests–especially in the participatory action-research projects that are part of most courses, and which culminate in a substantial paper.

At the end of each course, there is an evaluation process by students and faculty which involves students making thoughtful comments to a series of self-assessment questions, including their evaluation of their learning (and the evidence of their learning) in relation to WISR’s meta-competencies across the curriculum, as well as in relation to the main objectives for the BS program and for each course. Faculty write a commentary on the student’s learning, and on the evidence presented in their completion of course assignments, the culminating paper and their end of course self-assessment. Faculty make comments on noteworthy accomplishments by the student and on the most significant evidence of student learning and accomplishments.

Students develop their own eportfolio of papers, and other evidence of their learning and accomplishments.  This eportfolio is valuable after graduation when students wish to demonstrate their capabilities, knowledge and experience to others in their community and/or profession.

Course Descriptions

BS 101: Learning the WISR Way—Introduction to Transformative Learning for Professional and Community Leadership (4 semester units)*
This is an introductory course, required of WISR students in all degree programs, except for the MS in Psychology (leading to the MFT and/or LPCC license), which is designed to enable students to progress more effectively toward the successful completion of the degree program at WISR, so that students can get the most from their WISR education—in pursuing their learning passions and career interests, in developing the core meta-competencies valued at WISR, in fulfilling the learning objectives for their chosen WISR degree program, and in building bridges for themselves to the next significant things they wish to do in their lives.

BS 311:  Studies in Action-Research (5 semester units)*

The course builds on Introduction to Action-Research (BS 111). This course will cover similar content, but in much greater depth, and with the goal of enabling the student developing the capability of independently designing and conducting his or her action-research projects, either on her or his own or with a lead role in collaborating with others. Further study of methods of action-research, including methods of qualitative research and participatory research. This course will explore a variety of ways in which research can be combined with action—for example, in reflecting on the effectiveness of one’s professional practices and community improvement efforts, including how to do program evaluations and community needs assessments, as well as the use of research in formulating new programs and policies. The course will involve an indepth and critical analysis of  key ideas in the logic of research design, including the concepts of validity and reliability—drawing and critically examining parallels between the criteria for rigorous research in the natural sciences and action-research used in professional practice and leadership in areas related to human services, education, community improvement and social change. Advanced study of methods of data gathering and analysis from participant observation, interviewing, story telling.

BS 341: Contemporary, Issues and Ideas Regarding Social Justice (5 semester units)*

This course addresses and studies such contemporary issues as: a) discrimination toward lower-income workers; b) the values and consequences of the myth of the meritocracy; c) the role of education in a democracy; d) oligarchic threats to democracy; e) economic injustice; f) racism, diversity and multiculturalism; g) the consequences and challenges of globalization; h) sustainability, climate change, and the role of politics and the economy; i) mass incarceration; j) human dignity and social abuse; k) a critical assessment of the society’s impact on self and family; and m) colonialism and its consequences.

BS 342: History Issues and Ideas Regarding Social Justice (5 semester units)

First, this course provides the study of historical perspectives on contemporary issues regarding social justice. Secondly, more broadly, the course includes a) the study of critical perspectives on American history, b) a consideration of social philosophy and ideology, and c) the study of people and leaders who have worked for social justice and change. [may count either for general education, or major field, requirements]

BS 371: Inquiry and Writing  (5 semester units)

Writing is taught across the curriculum at WISR—in each course and project that the student pursues. This course provides students with an opportunity to focus intensely on developing their skill and comfort in writing. There are several readings that will support this process. However, these readings are not primarily oriented to the rules of grammar and the techniques of producing a written product. Those rules and techniques will be discussed from time to time, but more emphasis will be on addressing the fears and inhibitions that impede one’s practice of writing. Emphasis will also be given to writing in one’s own voice, and to develop a level of comfort that will encourage the student to experiment with different styles and approaches to writing—ranging from technical to creative to narrative storytelling, among others. Consideration will also be given to one’s audience(s) and how to clearly communicate with your audience(s) in an engaging way that will capture their interest. This course also involves the study of the role of writing in inquiry, and the use of collaborative methods in learning and inquiry.This course is concerned with methods of collaboration—between individuals, and among a number of individuals in a group, organization or community. What are the qualities that go into collaborative work that is creative, productive and involves the active participation of all? What is the value of collaboration—what are its advantages and potential, as compared to isolated work of individuals?  What are different types of collaboration, for example, intentional collaboration where two or more people consciously embark on a project together, or as another example, where collaboration happens informally, and perhaps accidentally or even without explicit intentions on the part of all involved? The course provides students with opportunities to learn about writing, inquiry and collaboration, through interviewing those who have had successful experiences interweaving writing, inquiry and collaboration.

BS 402:  Building Bridges to One’s Future (5 semester units)

How this course relates to the entire learning experience at WISR . . .

WISR’s history is indeed the stories of our students successfully building bridges to the significant things they next want to do in their lives. Our alumni have used their academic projects at WISR to network with professionals and community groups, to create new programs and even new agencies, to carve out distinctive and well-recognized specializations and consulting practices, and to obtain professional positions that carry significant and meaningful responsibilities.

WISR aims to educate students to be self-directing learners able to envision and build bridges to endeavors that will allow them to pursue their interests, purposes and passion, and so that they may create a better future rather than unthinkingly conforming to existing options.  Because WISR’s curriculum is looking to create a better future, a better tomorrow, it will not neatly conform to the content of existing professions and disciplines. WISR draws and builds on knowledge from existing professions and fields of study, but also engage our students and faculty in creative action-inquiry that will often lead to new professional and career options, new practices and new knowledge, and new ways of using expertise for the social good.

  • Students will learn about conventional definitions of the professions—today and over the past hundred plus years, and they will consider the strengths and limitations of these definitions in the context of their commitments, values and aspirations.
  • Students will study current, and projected future, societal dynamics, and will develop a their own personal, and critically and imaginatively informed perspective, on the challenges and opportunities posed by these dynamics.
  • Students will develop a plan that lays out at least two options for themselves, regarding next steps, challenges and opportunities, and long-term goals for building bridges to their future, as well as plans for how to get more information and next steps for types of projects to pursue in their coursework at WISR—to aid the exploration and pursuit of this plan.

BS 441: Theories and Strategies of Social Change (5 semester units)

 This course includes a consideration of theories and strategies of social change challenges posed by: a)  the current trend in our society toward an oligarchy and increased inequality; b) how people’s personal troubles are intertwined with larger societal issues and dynamics; c) internalizing the consciousness of the oppressor and other difficult psychological dynamics; d) globalization; e) mass incarceration in a democratic society; f) by technology (as well as the opportunities created;  and g) racism and oppression. Furthermore, more broadly, the course engages students in a critical analysis of broader perspectives:  a) theoretical analyses and calls to action by social critics; b) analyses about socialism, capitalism and social justice; c) local strategies and alternative economics; d) the professions and social change;  and e) the larger challenges to work for sustainability and the preservation of the planet.

BS 443: Methods and Practices in Community Leadership (5 semester units)*

This course addresses such leadership issues and methods as: a) participatory and inquiring leadership—theory and practice;  b) creativity and innovation; c) the role of feminism; d) psychological/emotional transformation and awareness, cognitive framing, and leadership for social change; e) the role of communication and collaboration in leadership and social change.  This course also includes the study of f) models/examples/stories of leadership, and g) strategies of community involvement and community organizing.

BS 442:  Issues and Strategies of Multiculturalism (5 semester units)*

This course involves the study of: 1)  issues and practices pertaining to racism, bigotry and prejudice, as well as by contrast, multiculturalism, as manifested in everyday behaviors in today’s society as well as in systemic dynamics and patterns; 2) the history US ethnic groups in our multicultural society; 3) “bigger picture” perspectives on social change as related to racism, feminism, diversity, and multiculturalism; and 4) past, current, and proposed efforts to create a more just, equal and multicultural society.  This course involves also the study of societal and institutional arrangements and systemic patterns that promote or impede multiculturalism, including meritocracy, oligarchy, imperialism, colonialism, and democracy.  Finally, the course engages students in active reflection on developing solutions to problems and alternatives to existing practices and institutionalized patterns. (Prerequisite:  BS 242, 60 semester units, or permission of instructor.)

BS 446: Environmental Justice and Sustainability  (5 semester units)*

This course explores issues, studies and possible solutions regarding the environmental crisis, and prospects for sustainability and social change. It draws on current issues and trends, scientific research, and social/political/economic analyses. Study of possible solutions and varied facets of the environmental crisis, with emphasis on the importance of developing  an integrated, holistic analysis and strategy. The course examines these issues at the global, national and local levels, and gives special emphasis to studying the interconnections between environmental concerns and issues of social justice.

BS 471: Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (5 semester units). 

Introduction to some the dynamics of dignity—and its violation through individual and systemic forms of humiliation—is crucial in today’s highly interconnected world. Growing awareness of these dynamics brings to the forefront the realization that past social, political, and economic practices, once accepted and considered helpful, may now be perceived as deeply humiliating.

This course will explore how today’s rapidly changing social, political, and environmental conditions require us to dramatically alter how we participate in relationships. It proposes that escalating social instability, political unrest, violent conflict, economic injustice, and climate change can be the impetus to design innovative, sustainable, and mutually dignifying solutions to these problems. In particular, this course will examine how cultivating systemic dignity—at home and around the globe—creates space for mutually beneficial arrangements of relationships to emerge, relationships that provide for the full participation, growth, and development of all people while we seek sustainable solutions to global crises.

BS 490:  Senior Thesis (6 semester units)*

 The Senior Thesis is an in depth study of a topic of strong interest to the student, and one that generally helps the student build bridges for him/herself to the next important things she or he wishes to do with her/his life—as a community and professional leader. The student makes use of what he or she has learned at WISR about action-research methods to do a serious and substantial inquiry, and an inquiry that is based on action and/or that has action implications of some significance to the student and/or others. In most cases, the Senior Thesis provides students with the opportunity to build on, to critically reflect on, and to synthesize, many of the thing they have previously learned.

BS 491:  Supervised Community Practicum/Internship (1 – 10 semester units)

This course provides an elementary introduction to some contemporary issues and ideas about social justice, including issues of economic justice, rights for and inclusion of marginalized groups, and ideas about opportunity in a meritocracy, among others. Students explore some of the variety of issues, ideas and current discussions and debates about social justice. This exploration is relevant to students who eventually aim to assume positions of community leadership, jobs in community agencies, as well as for those aiming to do continuing studies and preparation for the helping professions or for grassroots activism. The course will expose the student to some historical perspectives on issues and ideas of social justice, as well. (Open only to students with more than 60 semester units of credit; students with less than 60 semester units should enroll in BS 291. Students may enroll in BS 291 and/or BS 491, more than once, up to a maximum of 20 semester units of credit).

BS 496:  Review and Assessment of Knowledge in One’s Field of Specialization (5 semester units)*

This course gives students the opportunity to do extensive, in depth study of a topic that is of great interest to them, and that relates to this interdisciplinary major of Community Leadership and Justice. Students will review the literature in their field of specialization, and/or survey and study existing practices in the field. These in-depth studies may include, among other methods of learning, library and online research, as well as interviews and observations in the community and other practice settings. The student may also write analytically about insights from their previous experiences and studies related to the topic.


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