Community Studies

2017-18 General Catalog

213 Oakes Academic Building
(831) 459-2371

Faculty | Course Descriptions

Program Description

Founded in 1969, community studies is the oldest interdisciplinary program at UCSC. The longstanding hallmarks of community studies are its focus on social justice and its distinctive pedagogy integrating classroom learning and extended field study. Community studies was a national pioneer in the field of experiential education and its civic engagement model has been emulated widely. Community studies was also a pioneer in addressing principles of social justice, specifically inequities arising from race, class and gender dynamics in society at large, and in critically assessing strategies for achieving social change.

The undergraduate major offers highly motivated and focused students the opportunity to pursue a rigorous course of study combining on- and off-campus learning. On campus, students complete a core curriculum enabling them to identify, analyze, and help construct strategies for social justice movements, nonprofit sector advocacy, public policy making, and social enterprise. The core curriculum works in tandem with topical coursework that develops expertise in specific domains of social science scholarship related to their field study. Off campus, students commit to spending six months immersed in a setting where they participate in and analyze the social justice work of an organization, with a goal of making a meaningful contribution to the organization’s mission. Students work independently but with active guidance from both campus faculty and an on-site supervisor from the field study organization.

The undergraduate core curriculum begins with the development of skills in social analysis and field observation/participation while deepening students’ knowledge of specific histories and theoretical perspectives essential to the study of communities and social transformation. Next, through the six-month full-time field study, students engage with specific communities through residence and participation in an organization with a social justice mission. This intensive and extended immersion is a distinguishing feature of the community studies major. Finally, students return to campus to analyze their field study experience and its relation to their ongoing classroom-based learning. The major culminates with a senior capstone integrating academic coursework, field study analysis, and original writing.

With the guidance of faculty and staff advisers, community studies students choose field placements related to one of the program’s areas of focus in health justice and economic justice. In the past, placements have been arranged with community health clinics, women’s and feminist organizations, immigrant-rights centers, media advocacy organizations, homeless resource and support groups, sustainable development projects, queer and transgender organizations, neighborhood or workers’ collectives, civil rights groups, community food security programs, legal clinics, community-based cultural organizations, programs for seniors, tenant or labor unions, HIV/AIDS advocacy groups, harm reduction programs, government agencies and the offices of elected officials, and still other organizations committed to and working for social justice. As political, economic, cultural and technological landscapes shift, so do the needs and opportunities for social justice organizing. It is a dynamic world and throughout its history Community Studies has been noteworthy for being attuned and responsive to innovative field study opportunities.

Community studies alumni have pursued a wide variety of professional careers in health care, K-12 education, public policy, social work, urban planning, higher education, and law.  According to a 2005 alumni survey, almost 100 alumni have founded non-profit social justice organizations and many more have served on non-profit boards and/or in executive director positions.

Program Overview

Community studies is a major with a sequential core curriculum. This means that core curriculum courses must be completed in a specific order:

Fall Quarter CMMU 10, Introduction to Community Activism
Winter (pre-field study) CMMU 101, Communities, Social Movements, and the Third Sector
Spring CMMU 102, Preparation for Field Study
Summer/Fall CMMU 198. Independent Field Study (15 units per quarter)
Winter (post-field study) CMMU 194, Analysis of Field Study

In addition to the core curriculum, students must successfully complete three topical courses to develop expertise in their designated emphasis (health justice and/or economic justice).  Students are required to take topical courses prior to their field study.

A list of approved topical courses will be posted in the program office and updated regularly on the program web site.

In sum, the program combines courses developing a substantive knowledge for field study immersion with courses offering instruction about methods relevant to conducting and analyzing the field study experience.

Transfer Students

The Community Studies program can easily accommodate students who transfer to UCSC for the fall quarter. To ensure a smooth transition, all transfer students should contact the Community Studies undergraduate adviser as early as possible to discuss course enrollment and declaring the major.

Declaring the Major

Students qualify to declare the community studies major by satisfactorily completing CMMU 10, Introduction to Community Activism, and at least one upper division topical course from the approved list of courses. Satisfactory completion is defined by a grade of C or better in any major qualifying course.  Major qualification courses must be taken for a letter grade. Students must declare prior to enrolling in CMMU 102, Preparation for Field Study.

As part of the declaration process, students meet with the program director and/or staff adviser to review their academic plan for the major, including discussion of field study possibilities and appropriate courses to meet topical requirements. Students must submit their approved academic plan and declaration petition to the Community Studies staff adviser. Any change to the student’s academic plan must be approved by the program director.

Major Course Requirements

Satisfactory completion of all major course requirements is defined by a grade of C or higher.  All courses in the major must be taken for a letter grade.

10, Introduction to Community Activism

This course introduces students to different approaches to community activism including charity, volunteering, labor and community organizing, non-violent resistance, non-profit sector involvement, and media advocacy.

101, Communities, Social Movements, and the Third Sector

This course critically engages with concepts central to the major including constructions of community in social-change efforts and the institutionalization of social movements in third-sector organizations. It is designed to deepen students’ understanding of the opportunities and obstacles embedded in various avenues of social action.

102, Preparation for Field Study

This course examines participatory and other social-research methods including participant observation, conducting interviews, writing ethnographic field notes, and collecting descriptive data. Students receive practical experience with developing research questions, methods, and writing field notes. The course also addresses ethical and logistical issues of community-based research. The final project is a literature review completed in partial satisfaction of the disciplinary communication (DC) general education requirement.

Topical Requirements

Students must complete three upper-division courses in the topical area of health justice and/or economic justice from available approved courses listed below. The program director also may approve other courses, as appropriate. These courses are an essential component of the community studies major because they define the focus of students’ overall academic plan and their work on full-time field study. The topical requirements also permit students to work across academic disciplines by enrolling in the many fascinating topical courses offered by community studies affiliate faculty. Note that not all topical courses are offered every academic year. Check the program website for current year offerings.


Lower-Division Courses

CMMU 10, Introduction to Community Activism

CMMU 30, Numbers for Social Justice

Topical Courses

Community Studies

CMMU 132, American Cities and Social Change

CMMU 134, No Place Like Home

CMMU 141, Political Economy of Inequality

CMMU 143, Walmart Nation

CMMU 145, Globalization and its Discontents  

CMMU 149, Political Economy of Food and Agriculture

CMMU 156, Politics of Food and Health

CMMU 157, Ageism and Activism

CMMU 160, Public Health

CMMU 161, Gender Health and Justice

CMMU 162, Community Gardens and Social Change

CMMU 163, Health Care Inequalities

CMMU 186, Agriculture, Food and Social Justice


ANTH 134, Medical Anthropology: An Introduction

ANTH 136, Biology of Everyday Life

ANTH 153, Medicine and Colonialism

ANTH 194P, Space, Place, and Culture


ECON 180, Labor Economics

ECON 189, Political Economy of Capitalism


HIS 115A, U.S. Labor History to 1919

HIS 115B, U.S. Labor History 1919-present

HIS 115C, Learning from the U.S. Great Depression

HIS 123, Immigrants/Immigration in U.S. History

HIS 190S, Women and Social Movements in the U.S.

Latin American and Latino Studies

LALS 166, Latino Families in Transition

LALS 175, Migration, Gender, and Health


POLI  120C, State and Capitalism in American Political Development

POLI  122, Politics, Labor, and Markets in the U.S.

POLI  124, Politics, Poverty, and Inequality in America

POLI 190L, Poverty Politics


PSYC 147A, Psychology and Law

PSYC 147B, Psychology and Law

PSYC 149, Community Psychology: Transforming Communities

PSYC 153, Psychology of Poverty and Social Class

PSYC 155, Social-Community Psychology in Practice

PSYC 159H, Community-based Interventions


SOCY 122, Sociology of Law

SOCY 127, Drugs in Society

SOCY 131, Media, Marketing, and Culture

SOCY 176A, Work and Society

SOCY 177, Urban Sociology

SOCY 177E, Eco-Metropolis: Research Seminar in Urban and Environmental Studies

SOCY 177G, Global Cities

198, Full-Time Independent Field Study 

During the full-time, six-month field study, students are enrolled at UCSC and receive full-time university credit. Students are required to submit field notes and several analytical essays during the field study. Students are guided by a campus faculty adviser and on-site organization supervisor.

194, Analysis of Field Materials 

This course is designed for students returning from their full-time field study and has two related goals: (1) to help students, both individually and collectively, analyze and gain perspective on their field experiences; and (2) to facilitate completion of the senior capstone requirement. Students work with their field material to develop findings and arguments and connect those to relevant theoretical literature(s). Then, in a series of discussion forums, they use their analyses to confront those issues that most forcefully challenge social justice work in the contemporary moment. The written work of 194 completes the DC requirement.

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy that major's upper-division DC requirement. The community studies program’s model of experiential pedagogy relies heavily on writing instruction to develop students’ analytical, reflexive, and communication skills. As stated, although students in the major develop disciplinary writing skills throughout the core curriculum, they fulfill the DC requirement with course 102 and course 194.

Senior Capstone Requirement 

In addition to the full-time field study, another distinctive feature of the major is the emphasis placed on the capstone. Each student must fulfill this requirement, either through a senior essay, a senior thesis or a student-directed seminar. For a thesis or student-directed seminar, the student must work directly with a faculty adviser, usually for two quarters.   

Senior Essay: All students complete a senior essay that incorporates field study observations and contextualizes their findings historically and theoretically. Most students pursue this capstone option. The minimum length is 25 pages, plus bibliography. The senior essay is completed entirely in course 194, Analysis of Field Materials.

Senior Thesis: Outstanding students may choose to complete a senior thesis, which is comprised of field-study observations, historical and theoretical contextualizations of the field study, and deeper analysis of the social justice issues at the heart of the field study. The thesis also involves post-field-study research; typical length is 40–50 pages, including bibliography. The senior essay completed during course 194 will become the foundation for the thesis, whether as a template to be elaborated or as one or more chapters of the completed thesis.

Student-Directed Seminar (SDS): The SDS capstone option is reserved for exceptional students. Under the direction of a faculty adviser, the student develops and teaches a Community Studies 42 course related to the student’s field study and academic coursework and submits a seminar completion report. Student-directed seminars need advance planning; a proposal for the SDS must be completed before beginning the field study.

Honors in the Major

Honors in the community studies major are awarded to graduating seniors whose performance, including coursework, field study, and the senior capstone, is judged by a faculty committee to have achieved excellence. Highest honors in the major are reserved for students with consistently outstanding academic performance.

Program Learning Outcomes

Community studies identifies eight Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) that together capture exciting cross currents within the major. The PLOs combine classroom and experiential learning related to the social justice domains of health and economic inequality. They also enumerate expectations for student achievement in social science research and writing and communication skills within a diverse society.

Critical Thinking

Students earning a B.A. in community studies will be able to:

  1. demonstrate deep knowledge of the history, causes, and contemporary manifestations of specific social justice issues related to health and economic inequality;

  2. deconstruct institutional power residing in private enterprise, government, the media, and/or the non-­‐profit sector;

  3. analyze how communities attempt to overcome problems associated with inequality, cultural stigma, prejudice, and discrimination;

  4. articulate research questions, methods, and findings appropriate to social science inquiry; and

  5. demonstrate analytical writing ability that effectively integrates theoretical and experiential knowledge about social justice.

Community Engagement

Students earning a B.A. in community studies will be able to:

  1. identify, analyze, and help to construct strategies for social change through participation in the social justice work of an organization;

  2. exhibit ethnographic observation skills by maintaining a regular record of detailed field notes;

  3. demonstrate effective communication with the diverse constituencies involved in social justice work.

Revised: 09/01/17