Emorys first group of Kenneth Cole Fellows have begun their
three-semester exploration of how they might make a difference in
The 20 undergraduatesmostly juniors, with a few sophomores,
all recently selected for the new Kenneth Cole Fellowship in Community
Building and Social Changeare spending this spring enrolled
in a primer course on the task ahead: POLS 385, or Community
Building and Social Change: Introduction to the City, taught
by Michael Owens, visiting assistant professor of political science.
Owens course is the first in a three-part sequence that places
the fellows in the field this summer for a hands-on practicum,
then brings them back to campus for a followup course in the fall.
Owens class serves to educate the fellows about the interconnections
among demography, culture, economy and polity, and the global, national,
state, regional and neighborhood forces affecting communities,
according to its syllabus. The course also features a lab component
to teach the students certain skills they will need once they hit
the field this summer.
Nothing as specific as this, Owens replied when asked
if hed ever taught a class like POLS 385. Ive
taught courses in urban policy and local government, where some
of these issues have been addressed, but never on such a large scale.
For weeks we will immerse ourselves in these very specific questions,
[such as] collaboration and how public problems get solved, trying
to link up sectors of society, [and] how to forge consensus.
Owens said this first batch of fellows is a mixed bag,
in terms of their hands-on experience with service work. Some have
done extensive work with specific projects or programs, while others
have shown a serious interest in a commitment to building
community and addressing social change.
In addition to course readings on everything from coalition building
to traffic congestion, Owens students will be learning specific
skillssuch as taking notes and conducting interviews in field
research, strategic assessment and planning, and effective communication
techniquesvia the required, outside-the-classroom labs.
Those skills will come in handy once the fellows are dispersed
in small teams to community, government and private organizations
this summer. The Kenneth Cole Program has not finalized which organizations
it will be working with, but Owens said the goal is to identify
groups that approach similar societal problems but from different
So if were talking about affordable housing production
as a problem, in terms of trying to meet the needs of homeless people
in Atlanta, what wed like to have is some fellows placed,
say, in the citys housing department, getting the governmental
perspective, Owens said. Then wed like to place
another group with a homeless task force to get the advocates
perspective, then maybe place another group with for-profit housing
developers to get their understandings.
After spending time with their respective organizations, the teams
would regroup and discuss how collaborations could more effectively
address a given problem.
In the fall, when theyre enrolled in Community Building
and Social Change II: Evaluating Community Initiatives, (to
be taught by Michael Rich, director of the Office of University-Community
Partnerships), the students will review their summers work
and study examples of similar collaborationsboth successful
and unsuccessfulfrom around the country.
Theyre very upbeat, Owens said of the 20 students
who are blazing trails for the groups of Kenneth Cole Fellows to
follow. When I first walked in the classroom, I felt like
there was this electricity in the airand I mean that for real.