SLS Courses Highlight - Spring 2021 Registration

November 9, 2020

A new semester is upon us, one that will be impacted by the forces that shaped 2020—the interlocking climate change, racial justice, and economic justice crises remain powerfully relevant to our lives and studies.  As many of you seek to take positive action through educating yourself on issues such as the roots of systemic inequity, and collaborative ways to combat climate change, this is a good moment to survey the offerings of SLS-affiliated courses with an eye to classes focused on ecology, race, and economics.  Several courses affiliated with SLS embrace an aspect of one or more of these themes; great places to discover those courses are in the Social Justice Minor and the Sustainable Cities Minor, to name just two

As we did for this fall term, we have created a highlights list for Spring 2021.  We have also included a few courses which are not SLS-affiliated, but are exciting ways to engage and learn on these topics. The list below leads off with two terrific SLS Foundation Courses, open to all majors. The first, MGT 3770, is partnered with the Center for Sustainable Communities; the second, SLS 3120, is an exciting immersion in systems thinking and systems change! Both courses are great ways to grapple with key concepts undergirding sustainable communities research and project work. Read on for more on these courses and other compelling options for your spring schedule!

MGT 3770: Business Decisions for Sustainability and Shared Value

Ravi Subramanian

At the heart of the concept of business sustainability and shared value are interconnections among the economic, environmental, and societal dimensions of business performance. This course uses the World Economic Forum Global Risks Report and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as frameworks to establish the role of fundamental human needs (food, water, shelter, energy, wages, and community) in shaping long-term business value and overall economic progress. The course is multidisciplinary and experiential, and uses a variety of pedagogical approaches such as lectures on key concepts, cases, videos, talks by invited speakers, a career panel, and a real-world project.

Click HERE for an article on student projects in this course in 2019.

SLS 3120: Foundations of Sustainable Systems

Beril Toktay

How can we accelerate progress towards a more sustainable world? How do we create sustainable systems for the 21st century? This course discusses how to employ a systems framework to advance sustainability at multiple scales, including a community, a region, a supply chain, a company, or an entire nation. The course considers sustainability from its theoretical foundations to its modern-day practice, incorporating environmental, economic, and social dimensions.  Stakeholder views inform discussions of trade-offs between different dimensions of sustainability and how to create systems change.  We will discuss the value and limits of technological, policy and business solutions in the context of climate change, with a focus climate, energy, and community-based approaches to change. We will also explore the role of innovation – both technological and social – as an instrument of systems change. Students will have the opportunity to learn from a variety of guest speakers and to work on a project with a real-world partner. Students from every major at Georgia Tech would benefit from taking this course, as it is designed to deliver hands-on experience in enacting systems change in complex environments. Climate change is a multi-faceted, global-scale threat that will touch every industry, and every city and community within the coming decades, if it hasn't already. Solutions will come from every sector of the economy, with outsize benefits for those individuals, companies, and communities that provide effective, scalable models for systems change as early as possible.

Note that this course fulfills requirements in two SLS Signature Programs: Sustainable Cities Minor and Innovating for Social Impact.

The following three courses aren’t SLS affiliated, but they represent important opportunities to learn from the leading scholars in Black Media Studies on issues related to race, representation, and technology.

LMC 3206: Communication and Culture with Andre Brock

This course will be conducted remotely. We will use Canvas, Piazza, Perusall, and Slack to communicate, host course materials and assignments, and hold class discussions. This class is for those interested in expanding their knowledge of the Internet and new media. Using the context of Web-based applications, mobile applications, online multimedia, social media, and gaming this course covers topics fundamental to understanding digital media forms. These include an introduction to the operation of the Web, the Internet, Web development, search engines, digital formats, online media distribution platforms and networks, online communities, audiences, online advertising and user interfaces.

LMC 3306: Science, Tech & Race with  Joycelyn Wilson

LMC 3405: Media Culture & Society with Susana Morris

This course focuses on the significance of Blackness in print, broadcast, and emerging digital media in the 1990s. Focusing on a few key social moments—such as the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, Rodney King beating, trial, and subsequent protests, The O.J. Simpson trial, and the rise of mainstream hip hop—this course invites students to consider how Blackness was understood, shaped, and signified upon in the larger American imagination in the 1990s. To that end, we will examine a variety of media and literature to make sense of what these seminal events reveal about the 1990s and today.

SLS Affiliated Courses:

LMC 3258: Documentary Film

John Thornton

This is a production course that focuses on drawing connections between building healthy Black communities and Black economic empowerment. Within the framework of contemporary documentary filmmaking, students will write, produce, edit, and distribute a mini-documentary featurette on one of Atlanta’s hottest Black-owned eateries, book stores, wellness centers, urban farms, or book stores. The LMC Black Media Studies (BMS) cohort will feature selected mini-documentaries on the BMS website. The course will be taught through synchronous, online instruction and periodic in-person workshops. The class will be divided into two groups to maintain physical distancing for the in-person workshops. All assignments, homework, and exams will be assigned and submitted digitally through canvas.

ARCH 4227/6227: Architecture & Ecology

Fred Pearsall

In our time of climate change, this course brings together people and discourses from many disciplines in pursuit of more resilient social-ecological systems within our built environments through dialogue, interdisciplinary research, design, and action. The course provides introductions to design research methodologies, critical theories and practices of ecological science and thinking, and those of sustainability through readings and dialogue with distinguished researchers working in these areas. Each student develops, in dialogue with the seminar, a line of research investigating interrelationships between natural and cultural spheres and the design of the built environment—ones relevant to their individual interests and the world at large. In the process, students develop the following types of knowledge and skills during the course: understanding of key ideas and principles of ecological thinking, their historical construction and embedded values; understanding of dynamic interactions between natural and built environments and their implications for design; understanding of key global paradigms of ecological design--their key arguments, values, ethics, and impacts; understanding of current ecologically-oriented design research problems, methodologies, and applications; ability to develop and communicate new lines of ecologically-oriented research and creative problem-solving course procedure & organization. The course is structured as seminar with 4 parts: Part I: Seminar members unpack and present readings that explore ecology as historically-constructed ideas and principles that can be applied to the research and development of an interdisciplinary knowledge-base. Part II: Seminar members facilitate dialogues with distinguished researchers in different areas of research involving diverse interrelationships between natural and cultural systems within the built environment. Part III: Seminar members formulate their own ecological design research topic, questions, and methodologies, presenting them for feedback from the seminar. Part IV Seminar members conduct their ecological design research and construct proposals of new principles and/or design applications when appropriate, and present them for feedback from the seminar and invited guests.

MGT 4803: Social Impact: In-depth Exploration and Design

Dori Pap

This course is for those curious (maybe even passionate) about social and/or environmental issues, who want to understand the root cause of those issues, and the challenges of providing evidence-based solutions. You will explore topics and master tools like: Impact Gap Canvas, Asset-Based Community Development, Human-Centered Design, systems thinking, social impact assessment, customer discovery, Theory of Change, and more. A series of hands-on workshops and class discussions, complemented by conversations with experts from the frontlines, will equip you with broadly applicable problem discovery tools and skills that you can apply in any field and career.The final deliverable is a deep-dive presentation (which could include suggestions for possible solutions) on a specific societal issue given to a panel of practitioners from the social sector (at the Ideas to Serve Competition in the spring semester, or in-class for fall semester course). This course fulfills two requirements of the SLS Innovating for Social Impact Program: the Dive and the Final Deliverable. It is also a Design Bloc affiliated course.  Everyone with a passion for improving the human condition is welcome! If you have questions - please email Dori Pap (lead instructor).

Vertically Integrated Project: Building for Equity and Sustainability

Jennifer Hirsch, Juan Archila, Justin Biddle, Jeremy Brown, Jimmy Mitchell, Anne Rogers

This VIP takes as its main focus Georgia Tech’s new Living Building – the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design – and its efforts to advance social equity as a key part of building and operating a sustainable building. The team will also explore equity and resilience in sustainability projects in partner communities in Atlanta and Georgia. Our research team includes GT students, faculty, and staff. This VIP is affiliated with Serve- Learn-Sustain (SLS), and we will work with them to collaborate with community and industry partners. We have four initial goals: 1) Incorporate equity as an important objective in engineering and architecture design practices at Georgia Tech; 2) Work closely with the Living Building Equity Champions to fully engage underrepresented students in The Kendeda Building and to use the building to advance the Institute’s diversity and inclusion goals; 3) Codevelop with communities design solutions to increase equity, resilience, and sustainability in the built environment; and 4) Influence the sustainable building sector nationally and internationally to more thoroughly incorporate equity as a goal in their rating systems and programs.  Visit our VIP page for more information.

PUBP 3320: Climate Policy

Jairo Garcia

This course aims to address the whole complexity of climate change, by bringing together the science of climate change, the analysis of impacts, and the economic and engineering strategies to reduce emissions.  In this class, students will be actively engaged in exploring the scientific and economic issues underlying the threat of global climate change and the institutions engaged in negotiating an international response.  Students will also work directly on the City of Atlanta Climate Action Plan through different steps: (i) Assessing the current state of the plan; (ii) Updating mitigation strategies for meeting emissions reduction targets and assessing the feasibility, mitigation contribution, and costs; (iii) Estimating Atlanta Policy cost and overall contribution to the global climate issue.

MGT 3101: Organizational Behavior

Tiffany Johnson

Organizational behavior (OB) is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand human behavior within organizations. It imports, integrates, and expands upon theory and research from areas such as psychology, sociology, economics, political science, anthropology, and communication. It places an emphasis on putting what we have learned from these fields into the context of the workplace. So, it is an “applied social science.” As it relates to the ‘real world,’ organizations are consistently interested in two particular human behaviors: job performance and organizational commitment.In this class, students discuss and learn how to drive job performance and organizational commitment in large corporations, non-profits, and social enterprises in such a way that they are also contributing to more sustainable communities.

Vertically Integrated Project: Living Building Science

Jennifer Leavey, Kim Cobb, Emily Weigel, Meg Grantham

You don't have to be Matt Damon on Mars to realize that now is the time to science the sh** out of this planet. In order for the almost 8 billion on earth to lead comfortable lives without ruining the Earth forever, we are going to have to start living sustainably. Georgia Tech just opened the Kendeda building, which seeks to satisfy the Living Building Challenge which includes being net energy positive, net water positive, and zero waste. What is the impact of this building on the external environment? What is the quality of the air and water inside the building? The Living Building Science VIP seeks to answer these questions and more, while conducting our experiments in the most sustainable way possible.

ML 8803/ PERS 3813/ ML 2500/ LMC 3813/ HTS 2813: Reel Cities: Public Spaces and Social Issues

Ayda Melika

The Reel Cities: Public Spaces & Social Issues is a course where students learn about the urban sociology of the Middle East through movies. This class has the following four goals. First, it trains students to become participants in debates about mediated representations of the Middle East, global violence, urbanism, poverty, and inequality. In doing so, it introduces students to dominant paradigms of urban development, sustainability, and social welfare and situates such paradigms in the 20th and the 21st century history of the Middle East. Second, it examines some key films and directors— both associated with the national and local institutions and those that are independent filmmakers. Students are encouraged to understand the styles and methodologies in addition to the strengths and limitations of various directors in representing the Middle East to both local and the international audiences. Third, the course is concerned with representations of war and revolutions in the Middle East as it relates to urban socio-political and cultural movements. Concerned with orientalism and postcolonial philosophies of global justice and the ethics of global citizenship, the course encourages students to critically reflect upon their own aspirations for social change and their own engagements with the urban Middle East. Finally, the class adopts a global approach to the analysis of poverty, violence, and inequality within urban culture and cinematic representations of the Middle East, both fiction and non-fiction. While the emphasis of the class is on the experiences of the urban Middle East, it is equally concerned with structures of inequality in the West, as the two are inextricably intertwined. In this sense, the class disrupts the comfortable perception that inequality, war and poverty exist elsewhere and can be contained at a distance. This course is open to all undergraduate and graduate students at Georgia Tech. Students do not have to be enrolled in any minor in order to participate in this class but can get credit towards the undergraduate MENAS minor or PhD minor in Iranian Studies if they chose to do so.

Vertically Integrated Project: 21st Century Global Atlanta

Sebnem Ozkan and Jenny Strakovsky

This VIP course brings together students of diverse backgrounds and disciplines to tell the story of Atlanta as a global city, and to increase access to global citizenship at Georgia Tech and nationally. We document and connect with the individuals and communities that are transforming Atlanta into a global metropolis, such as heritage and immigrant communities, foreign-born residents in a variety of professional fields, and thought leaders engaged in the global community. We document their everyday contributions and journeys through documentary film, multimedia, digital archives, writing, and research presentations. We also welcome students who want to do creative work such as graphic novels and photography. Students also apply their findings to expanding global education at Georgia Tech by engaging in program development at the Atlanta Global Studies Center, which provides them with training in human-centered management, community engagement and public outreach, culture creation, and instructional design. Students participate in all aspects of background research, multimedia/creative production, and public outreach efforts of the VIP course.

SCARP Short Course Opportunity!: The Building Blocks of ABCD

Spec Top-Cty&Region Plan - 35268 - CP 8881 - C1 and CP 4813 - C1

Jennifer Hirsch and Ruthie Yow

The Building Blocks of ABCD is a short course focused on the origins, successes, and uses of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approaches.  You will learn how to engage ABCD in a variety of project contexts and explore how an orientation to gifts and assets instead of problems and deficits can positively change both the processes and outcomes of your collaborations with communities.  Contingent on safety and consistent with CDC guidelines, the course will include an in-person site visit with community partners, pairing up for asset-mapping exercises that engage your new skills, and guest speakers with decades of experience in ABCD approaches. The course is taught by Jennifer Hirsch (Director) and Ruthie Yow (Service Learning and Partnerships Specialist) of Serve-Learn-Sustain. Course Dates: (Total of 15 hours over 6 sessions) Thurs, March 11th and Fri, March 12th: 6:30pm-8:25pm, Sat, March 13th: 9am-12:25pm (site visits); Thurs, March 18th and Fri, March 19th: 6:30pm-8:25pm, Sat, March 20: 9am-12:25pm.  Please note that course dates are represented as a range in OSCAR; actual dates are those listed here. Please contact Ruthie Yow - -  with any questions about the course. 

Special Topics Course Opportunity!  Think Global, Act Local to Advance the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Special Topics - 35519 - GT 4803 - SDG

Jennifer Hirsch, Mike Best, Amy Henry, Sebnem Ozkan, Ravi Subramanian, John Taylor

Interested in the SDGs?  Want to learn more about them?  Want to help Georgia Tech develop a model for virtual courses on the SDGs that bring together college students from around the world to learn together and advance them in their own communities?  This seminar course will bring together small groups of students and faculty from approximately seven universities around the world to form a learning-and-action community focused on the U.N. SDGs.  For more complete information, click HERE to view the course description and application information.