Course: SOC207
Instructor: Matthew Desmond
F 2019

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

The objective of "Poverty in America" is to get an introduction to sociology and practice it first hand. The work done during the semester, including field work that the student sets up on their own, culminates in a written paper due Dean's Date. Various aspects of poverty are studied, including eviction -Prof. Desmond's study field-, job disparities, crime and punishment, survival. The course is centered around inequality and poverty, highlighting how one of the richest nations also contains some incredibly poor nuclei.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

Classrooms are twice a week at 9a.m, but are the types of lectures you want to wake up early to attend. Even if lectures might not be relevant to your specific project, they complement each other and help you understand poverty as a whole, with all its intricacies and connections with different institutions. These lectures have been the most rewarding for me as a senior students at Princeton, as I went in with your notebook and a writing utensil, I sometimes left having written nothing because I was so absorbed by Prof. Desmond's speech that forgot to take notes. Guests are brought to the classroom, which helps to diversify learning sources. These include speakers from other universities and, most enriching, former homeless, incarcerated, and paperless citizens. There is mandatory precept once a week, in which readings are discussed, plus a Blackboard discussion forum with your precept classmates. Precept is a good place for debate and clarification.

Learning For and From Assignments

A couple of articles / books must be read prior to every lecture, and discussion forums must be posted the day before your precept by 5 p.m. As with many Princeton classes, it is not crucial to complete all readings to understand lecture and to be prepared for precept. Skimming the materials, though, is necessary, and is more difficult to get away with the books. Evicted is one of the required books, written by Prof. Desmonds, and a must, not only for the class, but for your knowledge about the eviction crisis in America. 

The other assignment, starting a couple of weeks before fall break, is a weekly visit to a fieldwork site of your choice. This can be a place with which Princeton has a convenience to send its students -Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Baptist Church , etc.-. You are awarded $60 for travel (reimbursed on Concur) so are encouraged to travel with peers if you are going to the same field site. Your learning from the field site visits is monitored by your various submissions and updates to your preceptor, and is the greatest experience in the course. Eventually, it will be a submission in which you are to combine papers read for class with your own thesis from field work.

External Resources

Matthew Desmond is available for office hours, and your preceptor should also be. Anne Kat Alexander helps to put together the logistical aspects of the course, as well as to make sure that each student gets properly reimbursed and is conducting proper research in a safe site. She is also a great resource to reach out to. You should also send her an email if you have issues with your precept of class time.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

You will want to take this course while at Princeton. I was taking this course to satisfy a SA requirement, but it ended up being one of the most enriching courses I have taken during my undergrad. Keep in mind that you are encouraged to spend ~2 hours/week on your site conducting field work in addition to reading requirements and class time; otherwise, loadwork is very manageable. Don't be scared for 9 a.m. class if you are not "a morning person", as this class can easily help with your motivation to wake up early!
Poverty in America

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