The Course

Syllabus Stem Cells and Social Justice (Acrobat (PDF) 331kB Jul21 11)

A one-semester non-majors biology course using a social justice frame and information design has been developed to explore the field of stem cell research and cater to the learning approaches of liberal arts and art/design students while helping students develop the cognitive flexibility necessary to address capacious problems. The course is centered around six modules that can be used together as they are in this course, or parsed out and used in a stand alone format in courses that have stem cell research as one topic of many. A central theme in the course centers on cell potentiality and the connection to stem cell procurement- how does the source relate to the degree of potential, and how does the method match society's values, and how do we shape social policy when values clash? The two major assignments in the course include cases studies and outreach projects. The case studies are based on real world events, involve role-play, and are designed to become progressively more challenging by moving from historical examples (HeLa) to more contemporary issues such as an exploration of how regulatory and advisory boards to address oocyte procurement are composed, and what governs their operation. The outreach projects are student-designed projects that inform the public about stem cell biology or a stem-cell related phenomenon and span a variety of formats including information design, audio, video, and print. The curriculum development is the result of a collaboration among faculty spanning 7 disciplines, is supported by external funding from NYS DOH, and the pilot course described here is designed to provide a testing ground for the modules and inform the scale up of this course for approval as a University Course that would address core competencies for general education.

The syllabus takes two forms: a short two-page syllabus that provides an overview on page 2 and a longer form beginning on page 5 in which the weekly readings are preceded by 1) a short 200-word framing paragraph 2) artists' works focused on cell and biological research, and 3) Short Media Clips to engages the students in the topic at hand. In addition to this syllabus there are ancillary materials such as review questions for readings and, in the future, info graphics to help students see the interrelatedness of concepts and events.