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Social Impact Design Minor

Interested in learning how to use your skills and education to make the world a better place?

Join the Social Impact Design minor, open to students from any major! Social Impact Design students work collaboratively with classmates and community partners to address critical social justice issues, from gun violence and mass incarceration, to climate change. Every class in the minor emphasizes real-world, experiential learning. Through hands-on projects, you will be invited to explore your creative skills and passions for social impact, collaboratively applying art, storytelling and creative thinking to transform unjust systems.

Preview thumbnail image for  Social Impact Design Minor  introduction video.

Curriculum Facts

  • The Social Impact Design minor is 16 credits.
  • Open to students from any major with at least a sophomore standing
  • 4 credits: SI200 Co-Design Studio (prerequisite or corequisite)
  • 12 credits: your choice of three SI300 Social Impact Studios

You begin the minor with the Co-Design Studio, an immersive course on the methods of collaborative design, in preparation for effective and equitable engagement with a variety of stakeholders in the creation process. Then you can choose any three Social Impact Studios. Social Impact Studios are multidisciplinary courses where you work with community partners to understand root causes and effects of critical social issues and co-create interventions through arts, media, and communications. You will be contributing to real social change while building your own knowledge and skills.

Required Course

SI200: Codesign Studio

Spring Semester

Instructor:  Eric Gordon, Ph.D.

The CoDesign Studio is an immersive course on codesign methodology and theory intended for students interested in equitably engaging with a variety of stakeholders in the creation process. The course will equip students with the design concepts, methods, and project management tools to effectively collaborate with partner organizations such as municipal government, nonprofit organizations, and grassroots community groups. It will introduce students from a range of academic backgrounds to the theory and practice of collaboration, the importance of power and positionality, and the value of dynamic and engaging design methods. Case studies, interactive in-class group activities, and group work will compose the experience.

The course will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 to 11:45 AM.

Please contact Eric Gordon at eric_gordon@emerson.edu for more information.

2022 - 2023 Studios

VM300: Games for Social Change: Co-designing Play for Anti-violence in Boston

Fall Semester

Instructor:  Eric Gordon, Ph.D.

Students will be introduced to the fundamentals of game design as well as the theory and practice of how game experiences can be used to inform, motivate, build relationships, and inspire action. The course will involve the direct participation of Boston-area teens with first hand experience of gun violence and violence prevention, as co-designers of games. Students will work on project teams with partnering teens to create games that can be played by organizations or community groups in Boston to reframe violence in our communities and advocate for peace. Games can be analog or digital, depending on the interests and skills of students and partners. This course is being offered as part of the Transforming Narratives of Gun Violence Initiative, so all the games produced in the course will be publicly available on the initiative website.

VM495: Immersive Media: Codesign for Peace in Boston

Fall Semester

Instructor:  David Kelleher

Students will be introduced to the fundamentals of Virtual Reality and/or 360 Video production. They will explore how to tell stories and create experiences in immersive media environments that inspire people to action. The course will involve the direct participation of survivors of gun violence, as co-designers of the media experiences. Students will work on project teams with family members who have lost loved ones to gun violence to create immersive experiences for healing and empowerment. Final projects may be interactive VR or 360 video, depending on the interests and skills of students and partners. This course is being offered as part of the Transforming Narratives of Gun Violence Initiative, so all the media produced in the course will be publicly available on the initiative website where organizations throughout Boston will be encouraged to use them.

TH495/TH667/SI300: Partnered Studios: Transforming Narratives of Gun Violence Through Performance

Spring Semester

Instructor:  Dana Edell, Ph.D.

In this unique course, students will learn and use a variety of applied theatre techniques to partner with local community-based, anti-violence organizations in order to transform the dominant narratives related to gun violence in the United States today. Students will learn how theatre artists have used their skills and creativity to address root causes of gun violence, such as systemic racism, poverty, and toxic masculinity. We will study and practice a variety of applied theatre techniques, including Theater of the Oppressed, devised performance, and theater in education. Through arts-based research, applied theatre activities, community participant interviews, personal reflection, and a long-term devising process, students will write, create and perform original, trauma-informed, collaborative theatre. This course requires students to be flexible, creative, and patient as we respond to the needs and desires of our partners. The syllabus and class projects might evolve and shift throughout the semester as we foster deeper connections with our community partners in order to create and implement mutually beneficial projects.

The course will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 to 1:45 PM.

Please contact Dana Edell at dana_edell@emerson.edu for more information.

VM331/SI300: Collaborative Documentary Studio: Transforming Narratives of Gun Violence in Boston

Spring Semester

Instructor:  Reggie Life

The Collaborative Documentary Studio invites students to co-create a non-fiction story about the impacts of violence on communities of color in Boston, in collaboration with formerly incarcerated men connected to the organization Boston Uncornered. Members of Boston Uncornered will join the class each week and work alongside Emerson students to tell powerful, authentic, and purposeful stories that can impact policy and decision-making.

The Documentary Studio Workshop VM 331 will meet weekly on Tuesdays from 4 to 7:45 PM.

Please contact Theodore R. Life, theodore_life@emerson.edu for more information.

JR330-03/SI300: Topics in Advanced Reporting: Grassroots Journalism & Community Media

Spring Semester

Instructor:  Gino Canella, Ph.D.

This class is part of the Transforming Narratives of Gun Violence Initiative. Students will work with local journalists and community partners to produce multimedia stories about gun violence. We will discuss the ethics of reporting on gun violence, and learn how journalists can work with communities to develop solutions to the issue of gun violence in Boston.

The course will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 to 1:45 PM.

Please contact Gino Canella at gino_canella@emerson.edu for more information.


2021 - 2022 Studios

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