Affirmative action is a set of policies and procedures designed to be inclusive of individuals who represent specific identities. Dr. Napoli’s PACE-C 200 Issue Forum: Affirmative Action class will give students opportunities to explore their own perspectives and gain skills that will help them handle difficult conversations with people who hold different opinions.
An interview with Dr. Napoli, Director and Senior Lecturer in the Political and Civic Engagement (PACE) program.
How does this course fit the theme of this year’s Themester?
Dr. Napoli: The topic for the Fall Issue Forum is affirmative action and that topic ties into the Themester because the policies and practices set by organizations are designed to be inclusive of individuals who represent specific identities.
The forms of identity can include gender, race, sexuality, or other areas.
Why is it important for students to take this course? What knowledge or skills do you hope they gain?
Dr. Napoli: Because it’s a well-liked, eye-opening, and popular course in the PACE program. Students who participate in the Issue Forum get a chance to earn credit for a daylong course by participating in democratic deliberation.
Participants enjoy the course experience, learn a lot about the topic, and gain skills needed to have difficult conversations with people who hold different points of view. Students practice leadership and get an opportunity to explore and develop their own perspective more fully.
What, to you, is the most interesting aspect of this course? What do you learn from teaching it?
Dr. Napoli: The most interesting aspect of this course is knowing that many students have transformative experiences by simply participating in conversations in a way they never could imagine.
Many students tell us that this is the first time they could have a conversation about a controversial topic and do so in a way where they felt heard and, at the same time, they learned new things by listening to others.
Every time I teach the class, I learn something new about the topic area and I also discover new significance about why this class and the skills taught are so important for students.
Are there any assignments that you are particularly excited about?
Dr. Napoli: The post-forum assignment is exciting to me because, in part, it asks students to consider the panel presentation of speakers. These experts, in the field of affirmative action, come to speak in the middle of the day at the Issue Forum and students have a chance to ask questions. The panel shares valuable information and, afterward, as part of the post-forum report, students write about it. It’s fascinating and insightful to read students’ reflections regarding what surprised them or what they thought about what the speakers had to say.
What type of students would you encourage to take this course?
Dr. Napoli: Campus-wide, any student is welcome to register for the PACE Issue Forum! I encourage Freshman and Sophomores, in particular, so they have a chance to learn about the PACE program by participating in the Forum. The class is repeatable, so students often take it several times in their undergraduate careers.
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