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Curriculum

NPEP is an interdisciplinary program of study. Courses offered in NPEP are credit-bearing and are taught with content and expectations equivalent to those at Northwestern.

2019-2020 Courses

Fall Quarter: Chemistry of Nature & Culture, by Andrea d'Aquino, Steven Swick, & Shelby Hatch

This course will explore the aspects of chemistry that intersect with everyday life. The basic concepts of chemistry and science are introduced as information necessary for understanding how chemical compounds impact our world. We will explore the chemistry of compounds such as sugar, salt, fats, oils and proteins, as well as chemicals designed for food production, cosmetics, fabrics, medical therapy, energy sources, etc. Special emphasis will be placed on food, fitness/health, and drugs, and how their chemistries impact our lives. How can we make informed decisions about these chemicals?

Fall Quarter: Chemistry Lab, by Andrea d'Aquino, Steven Swick, & Shelby Hatch

Students will learn chemistry laboratory techniques and apply those techniques to identifying chemical compounds, acid-base chemistry problems, and basic chemical reactions. The laboratory section will introduce students to the chemical analysis of samples using basic laboratory techniques and instrumentation.

Fall Quarter: Writing the Dramatic Television Pilot, by Professor Brett Neveu

Students in this intensive workshop will learn to write and analyze the dramatic television pilot with emphasis on dramatic pilot structure, character creation and organization, seeking mastery the creation of the modern dramatic pilot.

Lectures, reading assignments, discussion and in-class workshop of student assignments. Above all else, the environment will be a supportive one and students will be encouraged to participate in a community marked by an atmosphere of collaboration.

Writing assignments are arranged to mirror a writer’s creative process starting with ideas and culminating in the successful completion of an original pilot idea, pilot premise/synopsis, story map for the pilot and the first 10-15 pages of an original dramatic pilot for television.

Fall Quarter: Quantitative Reasoning, by Professor Ezra Getzler

Voting is how a group of individuals chooses among several options. For example, choosing who will represent them, or deciding among several proposals.

An example of the first: choose two student representatives of the class. An example of the second: should the class snack be pizza, ice-cream or hot-dogs.

In this course, we will study the mathematics underlying some of the different voting systems that have been developed. The voting systems used around the world are often quite different from the one we are used to in the USA, and we will analyze their properties, using simple mathematical ideas that we will learn, and practice, as we go.

The Constitution of the USA lays out, in Section 2 of Article 1, the rules governing the election of the House of Representatives, the first arm of government enumerated in the Constitution. The mathematics underlying the election of the House of Representatives is astonishingly complex, and we will study some of the mathematics underlying apportionment, gerrymandering, and ranked-choice voting.

As a group project, we will design an electoral system for an elected School Board for the City of Chicago (The School Board is currently appointed by the Mayor).

No background in mathematics is assumed: we will review such topics as mean, square-root, geometric mean, and binomial distribution.

The class will meet weekly for 2 h 30 min during the normal Northwestern fall quarter schedule. Sessions will be presented in lecture and discussion format. Assessment will be by weekly homework, in-class quizzes, contribution to class discussion, and the group project.

At the end of this course, students will have had the opportunity to practice mathematical calculations in the real-life subject of voting, and have gained an appreciation of how useful mathematics can be when applied in the social sciences.

Fall Quarter: Quantitative Reasoning, by Professor Florian Richter

This is a course in quantitative reasoning and mathematical literacy taught as part of the Northwestern Prison Education Program (NPEP). It is designed to help students develop the mathematical skills needed to analyze topical, real-life problems from a quantitative perspective.

The course reinforces qualitative aspects of reasoning, such as the responsible treatment of assumptions, biases, errors, and ethics. On the quantitative side, we review and develop the needed mathematical skills, which (depending on time) includes algebra, functions, graphs, units, scientific notation, logic, graph theory, probability and some statistics. The real focus, however, is the coherent assembly of all of these skills. This is learned through the extensive, worked examples in the text, in class discussions, and potentially through group projects.

The purpose of the course is to provide a wider perspective of applied mathematics, how it works, and why and how it is utilized in the real world. This is imperative to the student no matter the field of study and completes the mathematics requirement for several degree programs. The class will meet weekly for 2 h 30 min during the normal Northwestern fall quarter schedule. Sessions will be presented in lecture and discussion format.

Upon successful completion of this course the students should be able to:
(1) Solve a variety of mathematical problems using techniques presented in the course.
(2) Demonstrate the ability to use mathematical methods in making everyday decisions
(3) Demonstrate an ability to use mathematics to interpret and analyze data and use critical thinking skills appropriate to a college level mathematics class.

Fall Quarter: Violence Reduction & Transformational Change in Justice Systems, by Professor Sheila Bedi

This seminar-style course meets at the Stateville Prison. Students will include both law students and people who live at Stateville who will enroll in this course for college credit. Students will learn about the legal, statutory and regulatory framework that shapes governmental efforts to prevent and address crime and violence. This course will also require students to work in teams (comprised of two Stateville students and two law students) to work on two separate projects: 1) a rewriting of a landmark court decision relating to some aspect of the justice system—and the rewriting should be focused on ensuring an outcome that is just, fair and contributes to a reduction in violence; and 2) a policy platform package. Groups will draft legislation, regulations and/or ballot initiatives, and also produce op-eds/advocacy materials supporting their platform. The class will culminate in mock legislative hearings during which students will present their solutions to a panel of guests. 

Students will carefully examine governmental efforts to address crime and violence. Through readings, lectures and class discussion we will examine our system of crime and punishment. We’ll evaluate the outcomes of various approaches—and identify the assumptions about the perpetuators and victims of violence that animate various approaches to crime and punishment. 

2018-2019 Courses

Fall Quarter: Violence Reduction & Transformational Change in Justice Systems, by Professor Sheila Bedi

Course Details

This will be a seminar-style course where students will spend the first half of the course learning about the statutory and regulatory framework that shapes governmental efforts to prevent and address crime and violence. During the second half of the course, students will work in teams of four (comprised of two law students and two Stateville students) on their own policy platform package. They will draft legislation, regulations and/or ballot initiatives, produce white papers identifying the problem their proposal aims to address and also produce op-eds/advocacy materials supporting their platform. The class will culminate in mock legislative hearings during which students will present their solutions to a panel of local and state elected officials.

During the first half of the quarter, students will together learn the mechanics of statutory interpretation and rule-making and explore the policy implications of various statutory/regulatory initiatives. Students will also carefully examine governmental efforts to address crime and violence. Through readings, lectures and class discussion we will examine the statutes, ordinances and regulations that create our system of crime and punishment. We’ll analyze the authority state, federal and local governments have relied upon to create and fund crime prevention programs. And we’ll evaluate the outcomes of various approaches—including identifying what are the assumptions that animate the various legislative/regulatory schemes about the perpetuators and victims of crime.

Expected topics to be addressed during this part of the quarter include:

Government Created and Funded Crime Prevention Efforts

  • Federal Violence Against Women Act
  • Illinois Hate Crimes Act
  • US Department of Justice Byrne Grant Program
  • Volunteers in Police Service Program (funded by the US Department of Justice)
  • Neighborhood Watch (funded by the US Department of Justice)
  • Community Development Block Grant Program (funded by US Department of Housing and Urban Development)
  • White papers on various crime suppression programs

Defining Crime and Punishment

  • Illinois Criminal Code (focus on quality of life offenses and violent offenses)
  • Federal Criminal Code (same focus)
  • Federal Sentencing Guidelines
  • Local ordinances that have decriminalized marijuana possession as well as empirical data around the consequences of decriminalization
  • Ballot initiatives around sentencing and decriminalization
  • Statutes that resulted in de-incarceration
  • Campaign plans related to de-incarceration efforts

Arrest & Pre-trial proceedings

  • Various Police oversight ordinances/models
  • Illinois Jail Regulations
  • Atlanta Cash Bond Ordinance
  • Seattle Pre-arrest Diversion Program Ordinance and Regulations, and one-pager
  • Excerpts from Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure related pretrial proceedings

Punishment and Rehabilitation 

  • Prison Litigation Reform Act
  • Illinois Statutes regarding Parole and Mandatory Supervised Release
  • Statues and Regulations related to alternatives to imprisonment
  • Statutes and regulations related to re-entry and incentives to hire the formerly incarcerated.

During the second half of the semester, students will begin working in teams to develop their proposed policy platform. The first half of every class will focus on a skill, and during the second half of each class period, students will have time to work on their projects with their team. The skills to be developed during this half of the semester include: legislative drafting, persuasive writing, drafting legislative testimony, and policy advocacy campaign planning. Student teams will present their proposed policy platform to the entire class for feedback. Each student team will be responsible for producing:

  1. Draft legislation, regulations, interpretive guidance and/or a ballot initiative
  2. A 5-10 page white paper in support of the policy platform
  3. A policy advocacy campaign plan that will include a plan to influence stakeholders to adopt the platform and at least two forms of persuasive writing (i.e. op/ed or a one-pager)

During the final class session, the teams will present their platform to various elected officials during a mock legislative hearing. Evaluation will be based equally on class participation, the legislative hearing “presentation” and the three deliverables described above.

Fall Quarter: The Sociology of Chicago, by Professor Mary Pattillo

Course Details

Chicago is not the largest city in the US by either population or land area, but it is the most studied city in American Sociology. What makes Chicago so interesting to sociologists? What do we learn by studying Chicago, and by studying it sociologically? Is Chicago really a good model for understanding other cities?  Chicago has been the laboratory for successive generations of sociologists dating to the turn of the 20th Century.  This course will introduce students to both classic and contemporary research on Chicago across a range of sociological methods – from ethnography to demography.  It will cover some of the major topics of interest, including: immigration, neighborhoods, racial and ethnic solidarity and conflict, crime, urban politics, education, and let’s not forget the music, literature, and art of Chicago. The two core principles of the sociological imagination are to “make the familiar strange” and to recognize the relationship between individual biography and the historical and social context.  With this background, it becomes clear that going beyond our everyday assumptions and routine experiences about Chicago to instead learn about its history, neighborhoods, politics, social organization, and economic structure is the key to understanding its residents and their lives. 

Winter Quarter: Border Literature, by Professor John Alba Cutler

Course Details

The US-Mexico border has been the site of intense cultural conflict since the mid-nineteenth century. It marks both the connection and the division between two nations, and many of our most fraught conversations concern whether the border should be a bridge or a wall. As an entry point into these conversations, this course will survey literature and film centering on the US-Mexico border. Students will become familiar with the history of the border, beginning with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848 and extending through NAFTA and up to the current political climate. Together we will consider how the border has become such a potent site for contemporary myth-making, a flashpoint for anxieties about race, labor, gender, and sexuality. 

Spring Quarter: Decision Making, by Professor H. David Smith

Course Details

Much of the focus of judgment and decision-making research has been on characteristic errors that are made in various contexts; gaps between what are known as descriptive and normative models.  These errors are reliably produced by psychological processes.  Our goal will be to gain an understanding of these processes and consider what they may reveal about judgment, decision making and human cognition in general.  Armed with a solid understanding of this material, students will learn how to avoid some characteristic pitfalls and make better choices and judgments in the future.

Spring Quarter: Introduction to Philosophy, by Professor Jennifer Lackey

In this course, students explore a broad range of philosophical questions, both traditional and contemporary. Students will pay particular attention to how these issues relate to our moral, social, and political values. Questions to be discussed include: What is the connection between belief in God and reason? Are there moral absolutes, or is morality relative? What should our view be on abortion, the death penalty, torture, and the status of nonhuman animals? The abilities to think, read, and write critically and to develop and defend arguments will be emphasized.

Spring Quarter: Writing the Short Play, by Professor Rebecca Gilman

In this class, students will learn the art and craft of playwriting.  Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to develop their own unique artistic voices in a collaborative, constructive, and supportive atmosphere.  We will begin by reading and analyzing both classic and contemporary plays as a means of learning how to write for the stage.  Students will then be assigned several short writing exercises designed to help them learn about dramatic structure, how to write dialogue and stage directions, and how to construct characters.  Each student will be expected to complete a 10-minute play as their final project.  We will workshop each play so that students may hear their work read aloud and learn how best to give and receive feedback on their writing. 

Summer Quarter: American Government and Politics, by Jacob Rothschild & Andrew Thompson

This course introduces students to the study of American government and politics. In other words, in this class we will study American government and politics not as partisan pundits, interested activists, or fans of political spectacle, but as political scientists. We will engage with some of the following questions: What are the patterns that structure politics at the institutional level and among citizens? Do these patterns change over time? Can they help to explain the current political moment? We will develop a set of analytical tools that allow us to discern the underlying structure and logic in the founding and the Constitution, branches of government, the actions and interactions of citizens and political institutions, and movements of political change.

Additional Educational Programs

Reading Groups and Book Club

NPEP offers book clubs and reading groups throughout the year when classes are both in and out of session.

Previous reading groups are listed below.

  • February 5, 2019: Taylor Rogers, Epistemic Injustice Reading Group
  • February 20, 2019: One Book Event, The Handmaid’s Tail
  • March 5, 2019: Taylor Rogers, Epistemic Injustice Reading Group
  • April 2, 2019: Taylor Rogers, Epistemic Injustice Reading Group

Previous book clubs are listed below.

  • March 19, 2019: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates; Book Club organized and guided by Arielle Tolman
    Books were purchased using funds that were generously donated by Julissa Ortiz Muniz, Comunidad Latinx (CLX), Ruth Martin, and the Center for Civic Engagement.
  • June 11, 2019: An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz; Book Club organized and guided by Arielle Tolman
    Reading group followed by a discussion and book signing with Dr. Alex Kotlowitz.
  • August 5, 2019: Jim Crow Wisdom Memory & Identity in Black America since 1940 by Jonathan Holloway
    Reading group followed by a discussion and book signing with Dr. Jonathan Hollaway.

Speaker Series

NPEP speaker series offers students the opportunity to engage in discussion with a visiting scholar. Visiting scholars come from diverse backgrounds and are experts in their field.

Previous speaker series events are listed below.

  • January 29, 2019: Professor Daniel Immerwahr, “Black Internationalism: From W. E. B. Du Bois to Martin Luther King Jr.”
  • February 19, 2019: Professor Sanford Goldberg, “Hate Speech”
  • March 12, 2019: Professor Thomas Ogorzalek
  • March 26, 2019: Professor Teresa Woodruff, “Oncofertility: From Bench to Bedside to Babies”
  • May 7, 2019: Sarah Wake, “Discrimination, Harassment, and Title IX”
  • June 4, 2019: Professor Andrew Papachristos, “Who’s Next? The Social Contagion of Gun Violence in Chicago”
  • June 18, 2019: Professor Karen Daniel, “How to Be Your Own Best Advocate”
  • July 9, 2019: President Joianne Smith and Provost Ileo Lott, Oakton Community College
  • July 23, 2019: Meredith Martin Rountree

 

Educational Workshops

NPEP aims to enhance and supplement credit-bearing courses with additional educational workshops. These workshops are held throughout the year, and hosted by experts in the field. 

Previous workshops are listed below.

  • January 8, 2019: Improv Workshop by Grace Kessler Overbeke
  • January 15, 2019: Martin Luther King Jr. Workshop by Marlon Millner
  • February 26, 2019: Yoga Workshop by Professor Lane Fenrich
  • August 13, 2019: Active Listening by Madisen Hursey
  • June 3, 2019: Mindfulness Workshop by Sophie H. Ruark

Math and Science Study Groups

Math and science study groups help build student confidence in fundamental math and science skills, while also fostering an appreciation for these subjects in students’ everyday life. These workshops not only prepare them for their upcoming STEM coursework, but also help build a foundation for future quantitative and analytical careers.

Previous study groups include:

  • Pre-algebra and algebra toolkits, guided by Andrea d’Aquino and Steven Swick
  • An introduction to the biology of genetics, guided by Anne d’Aquino
  • Basic Chemistry, guided by Andrea d’Aquino and Steven Swick
  • Environmental chemistry, guided by Andrea d’Aquino and Steven Swick

One Book One Northwestern

One Book One Northwestern is a community‐wide reading program hosted by the Office of the President. It aims to engage Northwestern campuses in a common conversation centered on a carefully chosen, thought-provoking book. It began in 2005 for students in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and has since evolved into a community-­wide program involving students, faculty and staff from all majors and departments. NPEP has brought One Book One Northwestern to Stateville, where students read and discuss the chosen book. 

Previous One Book Events with NPEP:

  • February 20, 2019: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Study Hall

NPEP Study Hall is an opportunity for students to get one-on-one tutoring in their course work. Tutors are undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral trainees in diverse fields within Northwestern. Study Hall is held weekly throughout the year, and provides students with an opportunity to have tutors edit their writing, assist with math problems, and answer any questions surrounding their class work.