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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Ronald Stanley Krabill
BIS 304
Bothell Campus

Institutions and Social Change

Explores the patterns of power that create our social world and how those patterns can be challenged or modified. Examines cultural, institutional, and interpersonal ways that people gain, challenge, and are affected by power and considers how and whether to bring about social change.

Class description

Winter 2009

Institutions and Social Change seeks to explore the patterns of power that make up our social world, as well as the ways in which those patterns can be challenged or modified. We will examine the cultural, institutional, and interpersonal ways that people gain and maintain power, and critically analyze how these patterns of power affect the social fabric. We will examine a variety of social theories, paying special attention to how those theories enter into popular discourse. We will also consider the ways in which these theories, either explicitly or implicitly, shape our everyday choices regarding the seemingly mundane (e.g., Should I buy that cheeseburger?) to political allegiances (e.g., Who should I vote for?) to expressly moral and ethical decisions (e.g., Is abortion wrong?). In so doing, we will also consider debates surrounding how and whether to bring about large-scale social change. This course is one of the SEB Core courses.

This course centralizes the concept of power in understanding human behavior. Specifically, the course addresses how power differentials between people are created and reinforced by social institutions (education, work, politics, media, family, religion, the justice system), social status (race, sex, class), as well as through everyday norms of social interaction. The course emphasizes the socially constructed nature of these institutions, statuses, and interactions, and thus problematizes “essentialist” understandings of human behavior and cultural norms.

Upon completion of this course, students should have an enhanced understanding of how institutions, culture, and personal behavior are interrelated in ways that create, reinforce, and occasionally subvert power differentials. Students should be able to trace their behaviors and attitudes to their institutional ties and social statuses, and to identify themselves within larger social patterns. Students should leave the course with a more developed “map” of the patterns of the social world and a set of analytic tools with which to understand and critique the social processes that perpetuate unmerited privilege and discrimination. Students will be evaluated on their ability to clearly articulate key concepts, analyze issues from a critical perspective, and creatively integrate these concepts and this perspective with empirical case studies, including their own life experience.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

The format of the course will be discussion-based, with extensive collaborative group work involved. There will also be opportunities to complete a community-based project with your group.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Each week, these themes are explored in the form of articles as well as occasional media sources. A number of short writing assignments will be assigned throughout the course, in order for students to demonstrate both their comprehension of and, more importantly, their ability to interrogate the readings.

Students will also be asked to complete a larger project focusing on a theme from the course. The project will involve further research, applying social theories to the topic, and facilitating course session(s) on the chosen topic.

Some quizzes and tests may also be assigned as necessary.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Ronald Stanley Krabill
Date: 10/02/2008