Making Your Voice Count in a 100-Level Course
– Pam Rooks, Sociology, University of Kansas
In SOC 161, Social Problems and American Values, Honors, my students completed a public project. The Coronavirus pandemic highlighted racial disparities in health care, slicing across topics we had planned to explore in the second half of the Spring 2020 semester. It was disappointing to have to move the class online, but the quality of students’ input remained high and by the end of the semester, I wanted to find a way to provide a wider audience for their perspectives. Given the stress of the pandemic, though, I also wanted to downsize the final project, which had originally been planned as a large research paper.
This project, Making your Voice Count, served both goals by asking students to write an op-ed article as a public sociology piece. They were required to provide six sources to support their argument and were prompted: “Choose a social justice concern and discuss how you think it will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The challenge, however, came in finding a way to make a public sociology project truly public. It became a group effort that could not have been accomplished without the creative endeavors of Melissa Wittner, the sociology department’s administrative assistant, who designed the web page and coordinated student permission forms; Lisa-Marie Wright, assistant teaching professor of sociology, who shared extensive, thoughtful guidance and resources for getting the project underway; and office manager Beth Hoffman, who provided ongoing support. I was also very grateful to the sociology department for letting us post to its website and Facebook page for students to see and share.