Carnegie Mellon University

Grand Challenge First-Year Seminar: Reducing Conflict Around Identity and Positionality

Course Number: 66-139

Learning to reduce conflict requires understanding positionality and identities, and why and how societies build barriers in their populations. In this interdisciplinary course, students will learn how to talk to each other and strangers about identity: its defining characteristics and how our bias influences our judgments. The social sciences elements will stress Social Identity Theory, bias, stereotypes, and in-groups and out-groups. The humanities elements will include close-reading strategies and incorporate conceptual frameworks from cultural studies, literary studies, and narrative theory.

In addition to practicing the methodologies in these two disciplines, students will undertake two projects. In the first project, they will develop and implement a semi-structured interview protocol for their campus peers centered around belonging. In the second project, students will employ close reading techniques to analyze Young Adult novels that address complex questions of identity, isolation, bias, and rejection. Working with one novel and Project 1 data, each team of social sciences, humanities, and data specialists will create a website to highlight inclusive successes and challenges. This final cohesive ‘picture’ of themes pertaining to feelings of belonging on our campus will help guide the CMU community toward deeper understanding and acceptance practices.

Academic Year: 2023-2024
Semester(s): Fall, Spring