Claremont McKenna College

Down on CMC

New Courses Focus Lens on Current Issues

The problems we face in the world today call on the full power of our liberal arts minds to contribute responsive, effective solutions. In these ways, now more than ever, we draw on the core values that distinguish CMC, the singular strengths that propel us forward, the learning commitments that help us persevere when it is difficult to carry on.

We are doubling down on what CMC does best – problem-based learning opportunities; new, topical courses; smaller, personalized classes; tutorials and immersive, applied research projects as well as expanded opportunities at institutes, centers and labs.

The new classes described below offer timely, only-at-CMC opportunities for students to become immersed in some of the most important topics of our time:  racism and human rights abuses; race, gender and identity through an international lens; and policing the American city, to name a few.

New classes will be added; please bookmark this page and check back often.


Professor Wendy Lower
Racism Today and Human Rights Abuses, Historical Dimensions and Redress

In this course, students will develop a deeper historical knowledge of the ideas and practices of racism in order to better understand the challenges facing people of color around the world and especially black communities in America today. They will have the opportunity to directly apply this knowledge toward possible redress and reforms. In addition to weekly readings and discussions on the history of racial violence and injustice, students will be divided into research teams assigned to collect data for current legal investigations of police brutality, and to present research on historical crimes that have not been redressed such as slavery, the pattern of race riots (massacres) in Tulsa, Harlem, Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, and the 2020 response to the murder of George Floyd. With the additional involvement of human rights lawyers affiliated with the Mgrublian Center, students will learn about qualified immunity, bodycam regulations and other hindrances to exposing and prosecuting violators. Campaigns led by BLM and the Innocence Project on the prison-industrial complex and other forms of institutionalized racism will be evaluated and students will be encouraged to analyze individual prisoner cases. As part of this investigative approach to contemporary events, students will also virtually meet and interview prominent and local witnesses, such as the eminent black photojournalist Eli Reed.

Professor Diana Selig
Readings in Modern Feminism

In this course, we will read and discuss texts that have shaped feminist thought in the United States from the 1960s to today, with particular attention to ideas about gender, race, and political action.  We will also encounter some influential anti-feminist works. Authors might include Betty Friedan, Phyllis Schlafly, Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Cherrie Moraga, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Merle Woo, Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem, bell hooks, Eve Ensler, Christina Hoff Sommers, Kate Bornstein, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Rebecca Solnit, Roxane Gay, Patrisse Cullors, and Mikki Kendall.

Professors Hilary Appel and Jennifer Taw
Race, Gender, and Identity in International Relations

This by-application course has three components. Students will attend seminar discussions and guest lectures on issues of race, gender, and identity in the study, practice, and institutions of international relations. They will also be assigned to a mentor, a member of the 5C alumni who can speak to them about real world experiences with these issues. Each student will work independently or in a small group on a project they develop with their faculty reader. Students will be exposed to broad issues of race, gender, and/or identity in International Relations; deepen their overall understanding of the discipline and the applications of its tenets and theories; develop expertise on a select issue within the topic area; hone their research, analysis, and writing skills; be introduced to the nexus of academia and policy; and receive support and advice from practitioners. 1CR

Professor Jon Shields
Policing the American City

In the wake of George Floyd’s vicious murder, Americans are once again debating policing. While critics see a policing system riddled with systemic racism and call for the defunding of police departments, defenders stress other problems and fear that defunding campaigns will undermine the critical work police do to protect citizens in disadvantaged communities. As a half-credit special topics course, this class will meet semi-regularly to discuss some of the best social science research on policing in American cities. In particular, the course will explore the social role of the police and the factors that shape police behavior. Answering these questions will help us think more deeply about the best way to reform American policing.

Professor Peter Uvin
Alternative Perspectives on Development

International development is one of the great intellectual, political, and financial endeavors of our modern world. Millions of people are active in it, whether as volunteers or as professionals, and tens of billions of dollars are spent on it. The overwhelming majority of the literature on development comes from major universities and think-tanks in the West, as well as from large multilateral institutions such as the World Bank or UNICEF. In this research seminar, students will produce an in-depth analysis of alternative, non-dominant perspectives on development. Most of the effort in the course consists of student research, closely supervised by me and with multiple opportunities for feedback from the other students. Groups of students will work on non-dominant perspectives on development and deliver, at the end of the semester, a lesson to each other in which they describe the origin, content, context, and implications of their alternative to mainstream development.

Professor George Thomas
Race and the Constitution

Questions of racial equality and belonging have long been at the center of debates about the American Constitution. From disputes about slavery at the Constitutional Convention to current debates about police violence and hate speech, this course takes a close look at how race has been treated in constitutional argument. We will focus largely on U.S. Supreme Court opinions that address these questions, including topics around citizenship, immigration, education, voting rights, policing, public accommodations, rights of association, and issues of free speech. Students will meet weekly to discuss the readings, meeting every other week with the professor. Primary readings will be Supreme Court cases. CR/NC.

Professor Rima Basu
Interdisciplinary Seminar: Structural Injustice

What if the American Dream is a lie? What if our society is built in such a way that for some people, they’ve been set-up to fail? In a world like this, the search for happiness seems a fool’s errand. As Toni Morrison writes at the end of The Bluest Eye, “The soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live.” The purpose of this interdisciplinary course is to investigate the degree to which the soil of society has been poisoned, making it impossible for some to flourish, and to identify the interventions needed to ensure the flowers can grow. Specifically, we will interrogate the ways that structural and institutional forces perpetuate inequality. From the environmental racism of LA’s freeways to the exploration of capitalism in Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, we address systematic social ills that stem not from the overt racism or sexism of particular individuals, but rather from structural forces that would continue to perpetuate systems of injustice in the absence of any overt ill-will or prejudice.

Professor Bill Ascher
Addressing the Challenges of Global Climate Change

This interdisciplinary team-taught course directs small student teams in addressing multiple challenges and strategies related to the growing risks of global climate change. The range of specific topics, to be selected by the instructors, will include: human rights of “environmental refugees”, international cooperation to address climate change, mobilization strategies to promote more effective mitigation, economic and technical opportunities and obstacles posed by climate change, and the psychological aspects of climate change awareness. Group and individual assignments will be selected by the participating instructors.

Students on each team will gain mastery over the literature on the group’s topic, examine relevant cases, models, or data, apply the appropriate analytic tools to understand both the challenges and potential approaches to address these challenges, and write reports reflecting the breadth of the factors relevant to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Professor Shana Levin
Confronting Prejudice and Discrimination: Psychology Research in Action

Psychology Professor Shana Levin’s new directed research course, Confronting Prejudice and Discrimination: Psychology Research in Action, helps students become well-versed in the theory, research, and practice of confronting prejudice and discrimination. Students will debate key findings in the literature, and design their own research proposal to test novel research questions. Throughout the semester, Prof. Levin will discuss the important new book Confronting Prejudice and Discrimination: The Science of Changing Minds and Behaviors (Mallett & Monteith, Eds., 2019).