Multidisciplinary Courses

Urban offers several classes that span and blend traditional disciplines, encouraging students to connect and apply their skills and knowledge from a range of academic subjects. Many of these courses involve a significant field component, taking advantage of Bay Area resources, and all require substantive independent and/or collaborative projects. Assignments in these classes are frequently hands-on, and analyze contemporary problems in the Bay Area, California, the United States and/or the larger world.

California Studies is an intense course that focuses on a single issue that affects the state of California in economic, environmental, political and daily ways. The class meets during A and D periods throughout the term, spending two weeks away from campus in late May. In previous years, California studies has focused on forestry, transportation and agriculture; this year, the course will focus on water. Most of us know little about our water supply beyond what we see fall between the tap and the drain. Where does the water in San Francisco come from? This class will trace San Francisco’s water supply back to its source through indoor pipes, city streets, reservoirs, treatment facilities, tunnels, pipelines and along rivers to the snowpack. We will bike, swim, raft and backpack along these various water systems in our quest to understand the flow. We will attempt to comprehend the immense political and economic complexities involved in water use and distribution in the state of California. (Seniors Only) (Meets during two class periods)(1 credit)

Research and Action Project (RAP) (Senior Spring Seminar) allows Seniors to conduct deep research in an area of interest and then use their understanding in an independent action project, working with community members who are engaged in similar endeavors. Through specific assignments and scaffolding, students create a proposal around an abiding interest and delve into academic research in order to complete realistic and attainable projects. The RAP project culminates in a written and oral presentation for peers, faculty and community members outside Urban who are engaged in the area of focus. The RAP project has both a research and a community engagement focus. RAP projects require the approval of the 11th/12th Grade Dean. (Seniors Only) (1/2 credit)

Global Migration: Who, Where, Why examines current trends in the movement of people around the world. We will cover three themes—war and violence, poverty and climate change—and how each impacts the movement of people. The goal of this course is to humanize the immigration debate and offer a deeper context of push and pull factors in the movement of people. In case studies and in engaging with local community organizations in the Bay Area working on migration issues, students will achieve a deeper and more nuanced understanding of global migration trends, social issues impacting migration, and the practical efforts of local organizations that work on migration issues. In addition to academic study and research, students will partner with a local organization serving the immigrant community in the Bay Area. This course is multidisciplinary and also meets the requirement for the Senior Service Learning course. The course will start with introductory frameworks around global migration, including international standards for refugees and migrant workers. Students will then investigate three different case studies looking at historical contexts and root causes of migration, experiences of migration, and experiences upon arrival. Students will conduct a final case study research project on a topic examining migration from one of three perspectives: South to South, South to North, or internal migration. (Junior/Senior course) (1/2 credit)

UAS Rethinking Poverty looks critically at how different constituencies (artists, academics and activists, among others) have tried to recognize, define and understand poverty. From films like Slumdog Millionaire, to ads for Save the Children, to reports on “Living on $2 a day in America,” representations of poverty abound – as do prescriptions for addressing it. Through such varied lenses as film, ethnography, literature and economics, we will investigate the virtues – and limitations – of these representations. We will explore the origins of the modern concept of poverty and the ideology of development that has arisen alongside, as well as the metrics used to talk about both. The academic realm offers a variety of differing answers to some key questions: Who defines scarcity? What counts as deprivation? Where does inequality come from? In addition, we will apply a critical lens to our own investigation: Can poverty be defined from the remove of a classroom? How much and how well can we come to understand? How accurate and helpful are universal models and global standards in defining poverty? What assumptions do we bring to this study of what we’re calling poverty? And, finally, what can we actually do? (Junior/Senior course) (1/2 credit)