Agency, Collaboration, Leadership: A SoMeCA Series on Democratic Budgeting, Social Movements, and Organizational Leadership

SOMeCA is homebase for UCSC’s Registered Student Organizations (RSOs). RSOs are student-initiated communities which reflect the diverse interests, cultures, and backgrounds of UCSC students. Similar to internships, student organization membership poses questions of collaboration, agency, organization dynamics, integrity of purpose, relations with constituents, and self-understanding.

RSOs challenge students to engage in active learning in unique ways. First, SOMeCA organizations practice the Student Agency Model in which students have full charge of substantial university programs. This responsibility—and consequences for actions—motivates engagement differently than theoretical scenarios. Second, most students belong to an RSO for a minimum of one year and many participate for multiple years. Thus, in RSO learning environments students consider and apply concepts of leadership over time and in varied circumstances. Last, in SOMeCA reflection is facilitated by staff advisors, peer advisors, and alumni. This community of learners supports reflection that is immediate, comprehensive, and incisive.

The courses below were developed as a result of independent studies courses SOMeCA has offered over the past six years, first with support from Dr. Rodney Ogawa and most recently from Dr. Kimberly Lau. In these courses, students found it illuminating to analyze activities they were passionately involved in and to learn about how they learn. The popularity of these courses led to discussions with faculty and a survey of students to determine if SOMeCA should develop a core set of organizational leadership courses. Over 200 students and 40 alumni participated in the survey and a group of students and staff drafted course proposals.  The resulting three courses stand alone and together meet SOMeCA’s goal of providing students with learning opportunities that complement and support their academic studies.

MERR 31F - Agency, Dialogue, Action: Fostering Critical Engagement (2 Units)

This course focuses on understanding the interaction between agency and communication exchange in identifying and enacting meaningful change.

Throughout the quarter, we will use theory and practice to understand what agency is, what it means to have agency, and what can be done with agency. This course will examine how our sense of agency is challenged as we move through society; students will examine traditional methods of learning in order to unpack and understand how learning and agency are interconnected and influence one another. By reading case studies on different models of student engagement, we will see how spaces of social collaboration can be learning environments that promote agency. Ultimately, we will look at how we can utilize our agency to effect change and how dialogue plays an integral role in this process. 

This course will explore effective practices for fostering and implementing agency and communication, and the theories from which these practices emerge. Through dialogue and interactive exercises, students will critically examine and get a chance to apply theory from course readings.

Prerequisites / corequisites:
 Must be member of a SOMeCA organization.  Enrollment through instructor permission

MERR 32F - Mindful Collaboration: Cultivating Radical Exchange (2 units)

Collaboration can be challenging, particularly in a society in which there is an emphasis on individualism and competitiveness. Many of us are socialized to consider the needs or desires of another person to be obstacles to our own interests. Compromise, for example, can be experienced or interpreted as personal sacrifice rather than fertile ground for possibility. 

Today, solving many of the world’s most significant issues (climate change, economic instability, pandemic, etc.) will require collective effort and this will challenge us to create new ways of being and thinking. Understanding concepts and skills of collaboration will help each of us contribute effectively.

In this course, we will explore both what collaboration is and what it is not. Together, we will co-investigate models of collaboration, as well as how social inequities can challenge collaborative work. To that end, we will turn our attention toward the importance of common purpose, and practices that support respectful and inclusive deliberation. By focusing on student organizations as sites of collaboration, we will explore the relationship between theories and practice, through classroom discussions, journal reflections, experiential exercises and a final.

Prerequisites / corequisites: Must be member of a SOMeCA organization. Enrollment through instructor permission

MERR 33F - Transformative Leadership for Social Change (2 units)

It appears as though society today is in a state of constant division and dissent. As we look for solutions to our largest problems and a way forward, we seek hard-to-find examples of leadership that exhibit the compassion, openness, and skills needed to reach inclusive and genuine consensus. Consequently, students can find it challenging to learn how they themselves can become effective and transformative leaders.

With the current climate in mind, students will consider and practice various ways in which one can be a transformative leader. This course will give students the space and resources to challenge their own assumptions regarding leadership. They will both explore and assess different means through which they can be leaders who facilitate change with more than just their own ideas in mind. Through both class discussions and interactive practices, they will explore ways of strengthening interpersonal relationships, developing shared frameworks, and creating a collective consensus that supports sustainable and inclusive change.

Prerequisites / corequisites: Must be member of a SOMeCA organization. Enrollment through instructor permission