Pre-College Programs
Leadership Institute

« Return to Course Catalog

Mind the Gap: Leadership in an Unequal World

One Section Available to Choose From:

Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
July 07, 2014 - July 18, 20142M-F 9A-4POpenMeghan Caven10676

Course Description

Income inequality in the United States, which has been rising since the 1970s and is now among the highest of all developed countries, has recently been called “the defining challenge of our time” by President Obama and “a quiet crisis” by newly elected New York City mayor de Blasio. But what explains this inequality, and what are some of its effects? Is it necessarily a bad thing? What challenges do leaders face in contexts of significant inequality?

This course explores the debates on the causes and consequences of high income inequality in the United States, focusing on the relationship between inequality and poverty. Students will learn about some of the major economic, political, and cultural factors that are thought to lead to inequality and associated poverty. Through a series of locally-based and contemporary case studies, students will examine and see first-hand how leaders make sense of and address inequality and poverty at local, national, and international levels. Students will explore some of the realities of poverty, such as the challenges of living on minimum wage, food and housing insecurity, social exclusion, and spatial segregation based on race and class. The course will consist of in-class guest speakers and Providence-based field trips in order to give students opportunities to talk with and learn from engaged citizens, leaders from civic organizations, and elected leaders in Rhode Island.

Through these experiences with the local community, role-playing, interactive group work, and nightly reading, students will learn to think critically about income inequality and poverty. They will learn how well intentioned efforts to create positive social change may actually reinforce existing inequalities, and how they, as leaders, can be more conscious of the realities of inequality and poverty as they develop Action Plans to responsibly address social problems in their home communities.

There are no prerequisites to the course but students are expected to come to the course ready and willing to claim a stake in what we teach and learn together. At times this might mean moving beyond your comfort zone, sharing experiences, opinions, and thoughts that may challenge others or yourself. This also means creating a classroom space that respects the diverse ideas that students and facilitators bring to the group.