Practitioner Speakers

Students learn about Boston, urban life, and social change from guest lectures by local practitioners in the policy, business, and nonprofit sectors.

Goal/s:
  • Provide students insights into how individuals shape their urban environment by engaging them in conversations with key actors in Boston government policy, community organizing, entrepreneurship, non-profit sector work, etc.
  • Teach students about Boston history and contemporary challenges.
  • Equip students to be invested members of urban communities by teaching them skills for understanding their urban environment and being civically involved. 

Class:

United States in the World 24: Reinventing Boston: The Changing American City

 

Background:

This course introduces students to Boston and the study of urban life through readings, discussions, guest lectures from practitioners, and visits to four neighborhoods in Boston. Students learn to utilize quantitative and geographical information to understand the city, and to conduct their own research through careful observation and interviews. Throughout the course, the instructors invite local practitioners to share insights into Boston’s history and future. Examples of speakers include:

  • Directors of local nonprofits and community organizations
  • Boston Globe journalists
  • Prominent entrepreneurs involved in creating entrepreneurship initiatives in Boston
  • Advisors to the Mayor
  • Executives of the Boston 2024 Olympics committee

Procedure:

  • One of the instructors typically sets up a phone call a week before the class with the speaker, and lunch right before class.  This helps orient the speaker to the logistics of their visit, the topics being discussed in the course during that part of the semester, and students’ background knowledge concerning the topics.
  • Students are presented with readings or videos that relate to the topic discussed by the speaker, as well as a few paragraphs on the course website, written by course instructors, introducing the speaker and topic.
  • Students are expected to submit 1 question per quarter about the readings. These are due at 5 PM on the day before the class the students are interested in. This allows the instructors to integrate them into their lecture and section discussions, as well as to pass them on to guest speakers. In this way, speakers can get a sense of what students are thinking about and interested in.
  • Speakers may use a variety of teaching practices during their time with the class, but should leave time for questions.

Comments:

While many courses utilize guest lecturers on particular academic subjects, USW-24 is unique in its focus on exposing students to practitioners currently involved in pressing Boston issues, from journalists to entrepreneurs to members of the mayor’s staff. Thus, it is very helpful for the instructors involved in the course to have ties to many individuals in the community whom they can invite.

One challenge of utilizing guest speakers is that this practice can make it difficult to maintain a coherent arc to the course and to ensure that topics aren’t repeated. Thus, preparing speakers and orienting them to the subjects that have been discussed in the class is essential.

Materials/Resources:
  • Attached is a sample page from the course website of the reading and viewing assignments for a class including a guest speaker.

  • Students read academic scholarship on the topic, read articles, and view multimedia  related to the particular Boston organizations and issues being discussed.

Submitted by David Luberoff, Lecturer in Sociology, Instructor 

usw-24_sample_speaker_preparation_reading_assignments.pdf188 KB