New Century CollegeFall 2001
NCLC 304: Social Movements and Community Activism
Tuesday and Thursday, 9:00-10:15 a.m.
Krug Hall, Room 210
Prof. Lisa M. Gring-Pemble Prof. Rebecca Romsdahl
New Century College New Century College
Enterprise Hall 434 Enterprise Hall 416
703-993-1337 703-993-3891
Office Hours: Tues./Thurs., 10:00-12:00 p.m. or by appointment Office Hours: Thursdays, 12:00-2:00 p.m. or by appointment


This course examines how citizens (individually and collectively) accomplish social change in our society. Using several historical and contemporary movements as case studies, we will consider the advantages and limits of various social change strategies from communication and social movement theory perspectives. For example, we will study how leaders maintain movement momentum in the face of opposition, how movements use slogans, symbols and music to inspire followers, and how participants construct persuasive media campaigns and political arguments to effect policy change. We will also attend to the strategies citizens use to oppose and resist social change. Further, through experiential learning opportunities, we explore our roles as social advocates and effective citizens within the context of our community.

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

~ critical thinking
~ valuing
~ communication
~ social interaction
~ effective citizenship

Writing Intensive Requirement: This course fulfills the Writing Intensive Requirement by requiring one experiential learning assessment paper (minimum 1700 words) and 4 short reflective essays, each of which is a minimum of 450 words (minimum 1800 words). The experiential learning paper will be completed in a draft/feedback/revision process. The first draft will be due on October 23. Both instructors will read and provide constructive comments on the drafts, and the revised draft will be due on November 20. Students will also engage in peer writing critiques with one class day devoted to a peer read around of a short reflective essay.


One of the benefits to many NCC courses is your opportunity to work with two or more instructors. In this course, as your teaching team, we will confer about all decisions pertaining to course content, assignments, evaluation, and final grades. As such, we encourage you to establish a working relationship with both of us throughout the semester.


Stewart, Charles J., Craig Allen Smith, and Robert E. Denton, Jr. 2001. Persuasion and Social Movements. 4th ed, Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.

Course reader available for purchase from the University Bookstore.


You have the opportunity to earn 1000 points in this course through a combination of individual and group work. The assignments and point distribution are as follows:

Assignments Points
Experiential Learning Project


Interest Area Selection (10 pts)
Site Choice (10 pts)
Research Paper (250 pts)
Strategy Worksheet (25 points)
Rough draft (75 pts)
Final draft (150 pts)

Group Presentation (220 points)

Portfolio (4 essays at 100 points each) 400
Participation 100
Total 1000

Final Grade

A = 900-1000
B = 800-890
C = 700-790
D = 600-690
F = Below 600

Experiential Learning Projects: Service Learning and Writing Portfolio

Experiential learning allows you to make meaningful connections between what you read in class and what you experience outside of the classroom. In this course, you will fulfill your experiential learning through service learning and a writing portfolio.


Throughout the semester, we will be engaged in discipline-based service learning, a style of service learning that affords you the opportunity to participate actively in your community and process your experiences by using the course content as a basis for analysis and reflection (Heffernan 2001, 3). As you will see from the required service learning assignments below, we ask you to make explicit the links between the concepts you learn in the classroom and the experiences you have in your chosen agencies/organizations.

This assignment requires you to complete the steps as outlined below. You must complete this assignment with a grade of C or better in order to pass the class.

STEP #1: Select an Interest Area (DUE September 4)

As a group, you will decide upon a general interest area (e.g. homelessness, welfare, environmental protection). You must receive approval from your instructors on your interest area by September 4.

As you decide upon an interest area, consider the personal interests of your group members. Do you all have a particular interest in the topic? In the population of people you will be serving? In the type of work you will be engaged in? Try to select an area that will satisfy diverse needs within the group.

STEP #2: Choose a Site (DUE September 4)

Each of you will choose an approved community based agency or organization that does work in your group's identified interest area. A list of potential Service Learning placements with job descriptions is included in the syllabus. You are required to complete 35 hours of work at this site by November 6. On September 4, you should turn in a Risk Release form (form can be found at and the name of the agency or organization in which you will work.

As you consider possible site locations, keep in mind two factors:

STEP #3: Service Learning Site Strategy Assessment.(Due on October 2)

Using the "Midwest Academy Strategy Chart" in your course reader as a guide, evaluate the goals, organizational considerations, constituents, opponents, targets, and tactics of your service learning site. We will discuss the format in class in further detail.

STEP #4: Write a Research Assessment Paper, 7 page minimum (Rough Draft Due on October 23 and Final Draft Due November 20)

For this assignment, you must research the general interest area you have chosen for your project in light of your service learning experiences. Based on this research, you should write a research paper in which you reflect on your experiences and assess your service learning agency or organization as a site for social change. Questions you might wish to consider include:

What is/are the central mission(s) and/or goal(s) of your organization? What is the organization's philosophy?
How does your organization work with others in the community?
Does your organization work with other community agencies? policymakers? associations?
Does your organization have a particular niche that it fills? If so what is that niche? How successfully does the organization fill that niche?
How does your organization get clients?
How does it acquire funding?
Does your organization engage in any marketing or media advocacy?
How is your organization structured? Who are the leaders and what is their leadership style?
How does this organizational structure and leadership style affect it's effectiveness as an agent of social change?
What forces (organization, political) oppose or resist your organization? How does your organization respond to such oppositional forces?

Your paper must:

STEP #5: Group Presentation (Due on the Date Listed For Your Group on the Syllabus)

Based on the research you have conducted for your paper, your knowledge of social movements, and your experiential learning opportunities this semester, your assignment is to propose a strategy for change in your interest area and present that proposal to the class. This proposal should reflect our readings and discussions, incorporating key concepts and ideas.

Ideally, over the course of the semester, each member of your group has acquired in-depth knowledge into a particular aspect of a larger social movement. Each member has assessed how effective particular agencies are in accomplishing social change. This assignment calls for you to capitalize on the knowledge of your group.

Imagine that your town is holding a special meeting on your group's chosen interest area (Issue X). Local residents want to strengthen your social movement and they have invited your group for advice on how to mobilize the community about Issue X. In a presentation to the local community, your group:

As you develop your proposal for social change, consider:

After careful and considerable reflection upon these and other relevant questions, construct a creative, educational, and professional presentation appropriate for a local town meeting. You may pretend that your classmates are local residents in the community.

Your presentation will be evaluated on:

PLEASE NOTE: All group members will receive the same grade! Students who are absent for the presentation without an excused absence will not earn credit for this assignment. Due to time constraints, there is no opportunity to reschedule group projects. Consequently, the motto for your group is "The Show MUST Go On!" In other words, if someone in your group misses the presentation, you are still responsible for completing the presentation on the day to which you were assigned. If you believe that your group needs structure to guide group meetings and ensure equal participation, you should create a group contract (See us for details!).

WRITING PORTFOLIO (Part I is due October 18, Parts I and II are due December 13)

Throughout this course, you will encounter new ideas, theories and concepts with regard to social movements, social change, and community activism. Use these short (3-5 page) reflection papers to develop a thorough and critical response to the questions listed below. This portfolio assignment emphasizes the following NCC competencies: critical thinking, effective citizenship, and communication. As such, each paper should address at least one competency. Papers will be evaluated on:

PART I --Questions #1 and #2 are REQUIRED for the first half of the portfolio!

  1. Write a letter advocating a position on an issue that you care about. The letter should be 2-3 pages and should contain excellent support for the claims that you make. Include a stamped, addressed envelope (typed). We will mail the letter!
  2. What is a social movement? Move beyond the definitions provided in your text and think about what you believe makes up a social movement. Why are social movements important in our society? How do social movements link to community activism? Be sure to provide examples in your answer?



(Remember to review assignment evaluation guidelines before starting each paper!)

  1. Review a book about a social movement or about community activism. (Hint: You might find it useful to select a book that relates to your group project or research paper). A good book review will discuss the main arguments of a book followed by a thorough examination of the strengths and limitations of the book in terms of the social movement theory discussed in your text. You are encouraged to discuss your book choice with us prior to reading and writing!
  2. How are movements depicted? Critique a film or documentary from the standpoint of how it characterizes a particular group or political controversy. For example, you might view Eyes on the Prize to understand more about the civil rights movements. Discuss the film in light of your knowledge about the elements of an effective social movement. You are encouraged to discuss your movie choice with us prior to reading and writing!
  3. Attend a hearing on a social movement issue at the State or National legislature (or watch an hour of a hearing on C-SPAN). Analyze the arguments legislators and witnesses make on behalf of a particular issue. How do the legislators and witnesses attempt to persuade you of their cause? Are the arguments persuasive? Why or why not? Are hearings an important part of social movements? Why or why not?
  4. Imagine that you are a freelance writer for a political advocacy group in Washington D.C. Your boss has just asked you to create a persuasive message for an issue that you are concerned about. Drawing on your knowledge of social movement theory and persuasive communication, create a persuasive message. You may choose to make a brochure, write a song, create a webpage, or design a photographic collage with captions. Your final project ought to include a brief explanation of what you chose to do and why you think it is effective in light of your knowledge of social change.
  5. Select a series of at least three articles from the Washington Post or the New York Times that all deal with a social change issue. Critique these articles using your knowledge of social movement theory and persuasive communication. How do the articles depict the changes requested? movement leaders? movement participants? movement strategies? In your opinion, how might these media portrayals affect the ultimate success or failure of the movement? Be sure to include copies of all of the articles in your portfolio.
  6. Visit Frederick Douglass' home in Anacostia or the civil rights museum at Harper's Ferry (the leaves are especially magnificent in mid-late October!). Using Frederick Douglass or the Niagara movement as a case study, discuss the signs of good leadership. What makes leaders or organizations effective in furthering social change? Be sure to cite examples from your text and from the site to support your claims.
  7. Attend a meeting of a community organization, government meeting, or local board gathering. You are encouraged to attend a meeting related to the social movement you have chosen for your service learning project. After briefly describing the meeting, analyze the meeting in terms of three specific concepts we have discussed in class.
  8. Participate in the Hunger Banquet, Aids Walk, or Make a Difference Day (you can get more information about these events from the Center for Service and Leadership). Reflect on what you experienced, why the experience is significant in terms of at least three specific concepts we have discussed in class, and how you intend to build on this experience in the future.


In-class discussion, In-class assignments, and Quizzes: In order to facilitate discussion, participation and critical thinking, we will occasionally assign you an activity or a list of questions to answer about your readings. Your responses to these activities and questions should demonstrate your careful reading and consideration of the assignments. We encourage you to challenge the assumptions and implications of class readings. Your completion of the assignments and in-class discussion of these questions will inform your participation grade. Mini-assignments turned in on time will receive full credit. No late assignments will be accepted. Additionally, throughout the semester, we will conduct in-class projects and administer quizzes based on readings, assignments, and discussions. These projects and quizzes will often be unannounced and your participation in class on these days is necessary for you to receive credit.

Community Health Awareness Time (CHAT): We'd like to start each class with 5 to 10 minutes of what we call Community Health Awareness Time or a CHAT Moment. During this time, we encourage each of you to bring in an article, advertisement, poem, or artifact of any kind that relates to social movements and community activism. You might choose to discuss a current news event or reflect upon your on-site service learning experiences. During this time, be prepared to tell us what you are sharing, why it is significant to this course (specific readings/concepts), and what lessons we learn from your observations. Essentially, it's a great way to help connect what we learn in this course to our daily lives. Your willingness to share is reflected in your participation grade.


Most of the work for this course involves reading, writing, or collaborating with your study group outside of class. If you have questions about a particular assignment, please ask for further explanations. All papers must be typed, double spaced on 8.5" x 11" paper using 12 point font with 1" margins. Multiple pages must be stapled. Additionally, all papers should be documented properly in accordance with an accepted citation manual (e.g. The Chicago Manual of Style, The APA Manual of Style, The MLA Style Manual). It is your responsibility to keep a copy of everything you turn into us. Failure to submit papers in accordance with these principles may result in a deduction from your final grade.


Participation and Attendance

Your regular and active participation is vital to a successful course. Please come prepared for each class to interact responsibly with your classmates and your instructors as we reflect on course materials. Regular and prompt attendance is mandatory! Unexcused absences will adversely affect your final grade. An absence is excused when due to serious illness, religious observance, participation in University activities at the request of University authorities, or compelling circumstances beyond your control. To claim an excused absence, you must provide us with a signed letter by a person in a position to make an authoritative determination as to the validity of the cause of the absence within three calendar days of your return from that absence. In cases where you know you will be missing class, please advise us as soon as possible.

You are responsible for all announcements, assignments, and date changes made in class and for all material covered in class while you were absent. Consequently, if you must miss class, you should contact a group member to find out what you missed.

Classroom Climate

This class assumes that all opinions, thoughts, and ideas deserve respectful hearings from others. In fact, diversity in analysis and expression is the key to a successful course. Therefore, demeaning, intolerant or disruptive behavior or responses at any time are not appropriate and will not be tolerated. Instead, use points of disagreement and conflict as a beneficial way of learning more about yourself, others, and the course material.

Policy for Late and Missing Assignments

You are responsible for completing individual and group assignments on time. Due dates are clearly indicated throughout the syllabus. Reports, presentations, and examinations may only be made up if you demonstrate that failure to attend class and/or complete required assignments was due to an excused absence. In-class activities counted toward the presentation grade may not be made up.

Grade Dispute?

Over the course of the semester, you may disagree with a grade you have received. If so, please feel free to argue your case! Simply submit a well-organized and coherent statement in writing to us, explaining why you feel your grade should be changed. You must argue your case. Tell us why what you said or wrote is acceptable using examples from your book or other appropriate resources to justify your claim. If you can demonstrate the validity of your case, we will be happy to change your grade!

Academic Honesty and Collaboration

George Mason University has an Honor Code with clear guidelines regarding academic integrity. Three fundamental principles you must follow at all times are: 1) all work submitted must be your own; 2) when using the work or ideas of others, including fellow students, give full credit through accurate citations; and 3) if you are uncertain about citation rules or assignment guidelines, ask us for clarification. No grade is important enough to justify academic misconduct. If you feel unusual pressure or anxiety about your grade in this or any other course, please advise us and seek counseling from any number of available University resources. The University provides a range of services to help with test anxiety, writing skills, study skills, and other related concerns. Some of these resources are listed on the following pages of this syllabus.

Some projects are designed to be undertaken individually. For these projects, you may discuss your ideas with others or ask for feedback; however, you are responsible for making certain that the work you hand in is your own. If only your name appears on an assignment, your professors have the right to expect that you have done the work yourself, fully and independently.

As in most learning communities, some projects in this course are designed to be completed by a study group. With collaborative work, names of all the participants should appear on the work. Collaborative projects may be divided up so that individual group members complete portions of the whole, provided that group members take sufficient steps to ensure that the project retains conceptual integrity.

Using someone else's words or ideas without giving them credit is plagiarism, a serious offense! If you wish to quote directly from any text, you MUST use the exact words (including punctuation) just as the words, phrases, and sentences appear in the original text. Additionally, you must follow proper citation manual rules to indicate that you are quoting directly from a text (e.g. quotation marks, quote indentation, source identification). If you want to paraphrase ideas from a source, that is, convey the author's ideas in your own words, you must still cite the source, using an established citation format.

The re-use of papers, presentations, and other materials from one course in another course is not appropriate. In every NCC course, faculty expect that submitted work has been prepared for that class only! An exception to this rule is made for materials included within course portfolios.


Center for Service and Leadership: This center is an invaluable resource for you as you conduct your service learning projects. Full descriptions of potential service learning sites are provided in the center. You may schedule an appointment or walk in for assistance.

New Century College On-Line Writing Guide:

This on-line guide is a wonderful resource tailored specifically to students in New Century College! Visiting this site prior to turning in your papers will be most beneficial to you!

GMU Writing Center

For assistance in developing your written communication skills, contact the writing center to find out about services designed to benefit you:

Disability Support Services

Any student with documented learning disabilities or other conditions that may affect academic performance, should: 1) make sure this documentation is on file with the Office of Disability Support Services (993-2474) to determine the possible accommodations you might need; and 2) contact her or his instructor to discuss reasonable accommodations. For more information contact the GMU Disability Resource Center's webpage at

Library Services

The NCC liaison at the Johnson Center Library is Jim Young ( Jim is a tremendous resource for NCC students and we encourage you to meet him to discuss GMU research resources.

The ICAR and Communication Department liaison at Fenwick Library is Maureen Connors ( Maureen's area of expertise is conflict and conflict resolution. We encourage you to contact Maureen with questions about Fenwick Library holdings and resources, and especially with questions in her research areas.




8/28 (T)
Orientation to the Course
Discussion of Research Expectations
Discussion of Experiential Learning
Class Exercise
8/30 (TH)
What Are Social Movements?
Ms. Emily Henrich, A Guest Speaker from "Volunteer Fairfax"
Persuasion and Social Movements Chapter 1
Bobo, et al "Choosing and Issue"
9/4 (T)
An Historical Perspective on Social Movement Change
Weil, "Model Development in Community Practice: An Historical Perspective"
Due: Interest Area and Site Selection
9/6 (TH)
Social Movement Theory and Models
Persuasion and Social Movements, Chapters 2 and 6
9/11 (T)
What Are Community Organizations?
Community Service Fair, Johnson Center Plaza,
11 a.m. -- 2 p.m.
Kahn, Chapters 1, 3, 4
Bracht and Rissel, "Assessing Community Needs"
9/13 (TH)
Community Organization Theories and Models
Bracht, Rissel and Kingsbury "Five-Stage Model"
Thompson and Kline, "Social Change Theory"
Bobo, et al "Organization Models"
9/18 (T)
What Functions Do Social Movements Serve?
Persuasion and Social Movements, Chapter 3
Assign: Strategy Chart for Your Service Learning Project
9/20 (TH)
Leadership in Social Movements
Persuasion and Social Movements, Chapter 5
Kahn, Chapter 2
Reminder: You should have completed approximately 9 hours at your service learning site.
9/25 (T)
Agenda-Setting in Social Movements
Dearing and Rogers, "What is Agenda Setting?"
Bobo et al "Developing a Strategy"
Assign: Advocacy Letter (Question #1 of your Portfolio)
9/27 (TH)
Media Advocacy
Wallack, et al "The Advocacy Connection"
Wallack, et al "Case Studies"
Bobo et al "Using the Media"
Assign: Experiential Learning Paper
10/2 (T)
An Introduction to Rhetorical-Critical Methods
Rhetorical Criticism--
In-class Criticism of Advertisements
Due: Strategy Chart for Your Service Learning Project
10/4 (TH)
Reminder: You should have completed approximately 18 hours at your service learning site.
Reminder: Portolio Part #1 is due in 2 weeks
Aids Walk
10/9 (T)
No Class
Columbus Day
10/11 (TH)
Language and Social Movements
Persuasion and Social Movements, Chapter 7
10/16 (T)
Due: Draft of Advocacy Letter
Writing Workshop: Read-Around of Advocacy Letter
10/18 (TH)
Language and Social Movements
Portfolio Part #1 Due
Persuasion and Social Movements, Chapter 8
Reminder: You should have completed approximately 27 hours at your service learning site.
10/23 (T)
Force Field Analysis
Force Field Analysis Activity
Due: Rough Draft of Experiential Learning Paper
10/25 (TH)
Make A Difference Day
10/30 (T)
Music and Social Movements
Persuasion and Social Movements, Chapter 9
Reminder: Experiential Learning Hour Sheet is Due in 1 week
11/1 (TH)
Argument in Social Movements
Persuasion and Social Movements, Chapter 10
11/6 (T)
Argument in Social Movements
Persuasion and Social Movements, Chapter 11
Reminder: You should have completed 35 hours at your service learning site.
11/8 (TH)
Argument in Social Movements
Persuasion and Social Movements, Chapter 12 Due: Signed Experiential Learning Hour Sheet
11/13 (T)
Opposition and Social Movements
Persuasion and Social Movements, Chapter 14
Brick, Phil "Determined Opposition"
Solomon, Martha "The Rhetoric of STOP ERA"
11/15 (TH)
Hunger Banquet, 6-8 p.m.
Reminder: Final Experiential Learning Paper is Due On Tuesday!
11/20 (T)
Group #1 Presentation
DUE: Final Experiential Learning Paper
11/22 (TH)  

Thanksgiving Break


No Class

11/27 (T) Group #2 Presentation
11/29 (TH) Group #3 Presentation
12/4 (T) Group #4 Presentation
12/6 (TH) Group #5 Presentation
12/18 (T)

FINAL EXAM, 7:30-10:15 a.m.

Student Debriefing of Service Learning Projects