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CCA@CCA Courses

Last updated on Mar 20, 2024

Students: Filter by the "Creative Citizens" course tag in Workday to find and register for the courses listed below.

“Creative Citizens” courses build students' skills in creative activism and civic engagement. Course topics may include social justice, environmental activism, civic or political engagement, activist movements, forms of protest, social practice, community engagement, design activism, and more.

Fall 2024


Janette Kim

ARCHT-5800-1: UR: Urban & Landscape Elect (From Public Engagement to Collective Power)

MARCH-6800-1: UR: Urban & Landscape Elective (From Public Engagement to Collective Power)

Students in this seminar will experiment with inventive techniques of public engagement that can empower activism in the housing justice movement. For many decades, architects and urban designers have used surveys, post-it notes, town hall meetings, and collaborative design sessions to fold public opinion into their designs. However, this work–often called public engagement or participatory design practice–is often criticized for creating the mere impression of community consultation without meaningfully sharing power or enabling systemic change. Instead, this course advocates for a shift in the focus of public engagement to the creation of collective power. To do this, we will learn how to build decision-making tools for community activists to use in advocating for systemic change in the housing system. Our goal will be to reveal a range of alternatives to the housing market–such as investment models, ownership structures, and spatial arrangements–that can build housing with permanent affordability and cultural belonging, especially for BIPOC residents. We will aspire to enable a lively, open, and generative conversation about these options and illuminate a path towards their realization and inhabitation.

Critical Ethnic Studies

Amana Harris

ETHST-2000-1: Your Art Your Impact

This course takes a new look at community based and contemporary art practices from a self-exploratory, education, social justice and civic engagement lens. We will investigate values, ethics and self-development concepts; explore education from a historical and present day context; learn about activist artists; and infuse all of these concepts to inform and push the boundaries of your own art practice. Art that incorporates spiritual and ethical renewal, as well as social responsiveness and environmental transformation is a primary focus as we investigate methods employed by a growing movement of activist artists. Students will work in the ways they are accustomed to as studio artists, while also developing arts projects that address local social and environmental concerns. 

Shalini Agrawal

ETHST-2000-2: Radical Redesign

Decolonizing design and architecture practices starts with understanding the roots and steadfast legacy of colonization to resurface narratives that have been hidden, erased and forgotten. We can disrupt our biases and blindspots towards anti-racism and decoloniality by taking time to learn about forgotten history, and reflect on the unreconciled impacts of colonization. How might we acknowledge the injustices, colonial practices and racism in design and architecture, and acknowledge the resulting long lasting and harmful impacts? This studio begins by identifying areas of Radical Redesign within the traditional design process starting with researching colonization and its correlation with issues of diversity, identity, race, gender and culture. Building on this knowledge, we identify and confront our personal biases that have maintained systems of dominance, while challenging formulaic design processes. Moving from individualism, perfectionism and urgency, we prioritize non-Western methods of knowing, doing with the goal of defining and achieving personal translations of belonging, care and healing.

Jack Leamy

ETHST-2000-3: Mural Art

This course explores murals as public living spaces, visual geographical multi-layered zones for political activism, social/cultural awareness and aesthetic advancement. Starting with the early 1930’s to the present, we will look at murals as sources of meaning and forms of social justice activism. We ask, what is the role of mural art as it is displayed strategically in public spaces? Where does public space become available and to whom? Who claims public spaces and how? How do we define public space and who has the authority to have a voice and be heard in the public realm? Students will be asked to work collaboratively, choose a space to create a virtual mural design, make claims and defend them through writing exercises, research, and design. There may be opportunities for select and final mural designs to appear in virtual and/or public spaces.

Stephanie Sherman

ETHSM-2000-5: Non-Conforming: Disability and the Arts

How and why have some human bodies and minds been regarded as incompatible with full participation in social-cultural life or competent citizenship? Through wide-ranging readings, screenings, conversations, writing and creative work this hybrid seminar with studio practice elements, we will explore and unsettle societal constructions of ability and disability. Placing focus on the arts and visual culture, we’ll consider such questions as, which bodies and minds have access to representation, education, reception and creative work itself? How are our habits of both looking and making conditioned by norms of ableism and associated qualities including “skill,” “stamina,” “beauty” and “criticality”? We will examine deep intersections between disability justice and social struggles in the areas of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class; as well as urgent issues of the environment, labor, and poverty. For help engaging these themes, we’ll delve into practices of artists and designers, who take them on with passion, humor, irony and radical imagination from within the lived experience of disability.

Vreni Michelini-Castillo

ETHSM-2000-6: Spirituality as Resistance

In this course we will learn about the significance of spirituality through the legacy of ancestral societies, the freedom struggles of BIPOC, and the power of diasporic people. We will delve into the philosophies and practices that shaped the formation of spirituality since time immemorial; closely examining the cyclical context of these sensibilities prior to and after the apocalypse of 1492. We will collectively analyze the impact of the last 500+ years of imposed colonial forces using critical race theory, intersectionality and decoloniality. Simultaneously we will celebrate and put into practice ancestral wisdom—passed down, safeguarded despite genocide, ecocide, censorship, enslavement, displacement and forced assimilation. Our course has twin components, theory and embodiment, through which we will reflect and act on the importance of ritual, of remembrance and of gratitude within liberatory movements and within our lives. Our focus for this course will be the autonomies sprouting and permeating, despite the power configurations of nation/states and transnational corporations, in Turtle Island, Anahuac, Abya Yala (Americas) and beyond.This course requires rigorous interdisciplinary study of ourselves, ancestral lineage, red medicine, art, astronomy, archeology, art history, biology and traditional ecological knowledge.

Kim Anno

ETHST-2000-6: Citizen Artists/Designers/Journalists

This course looks at the effervescent river of California activists and leaders of color such as Mayor Jesse Arreguin of Berkeley, Natalia Neira-Retamal, La Pena, San Joaquin Valley’s Mi Familia Vote, Oakland’s Community Works, 13th District representative, Barbara Lee, Youth Against the Apocalypse, Mom’s for Housing in West Oakland and beyond as the country faces the most significant election in recent decades. What can art/design do in a phenomena of cultural leadership and its potential for impact. We will create art and design projects that function as acts of resistance, as well as witness the local/regional impacts of the U.S. national government in light of the impending election. As citizen journalists/artists students will document and highlight the texture and power of the shift of power or not? We will have field studies opportunities and create a podcast, posters, broadside, and playful humorous elements for public discourse. 

Pallavi Sharma

ETHST-2000-8: Catalyst of Change

The course investigates how present-day Asian American artists are contesting societal assumptions and subverting stereotypes through their socially engaged art practices and participation in local as well as global social movements. The students will create art projects with strong sociological and political bends, which address the undercurrent problems related, but not limited to, class gender and ethnicity. Through virtual gallery/studio visits, reviews, online exchanges, and discussions with the members of cultural and artistic Asian American collectives, students will learn a critical and conceptual framework to examine the body of works of selected artists and will learn to understand the strategies of resistance and empowerment movements.

Brian Karl

ETHSM-2000-9: Deconstructing Prison

How did the use of physical captivity become so integral to ideas of social order and so influential on cultural attitudes -- especially in the U.S. but also elsewhere?  And what are some possible alternatives to continuing regimes of incarceration? How does the structured basis for defining crime and its punishments reflect and reinforce inequalities in society based on race, gender and economic status in the U.S. particularly, and how might those inequalities be more positively addressed and improved otherwise? This course will develop collective understandings of prisons in the contemporary moment by considering a wide range of critical insights on the significance and problems inherent in penal systems by way of first-hand written accounts, fictional narratives, and theoretical perspectives along with creative projects in other media by and about incarcerated individuals. Along the way, the class will examine differing ideas about prisons as sites of rehabilitation and reform, deterrence and/or punishment as well as investigate movements to abolish prison entirely.

Steve Jones

ETHST-3000-1: Agitprop

Agitprop, "agitation" and "propaganda," is political (originally communist) propaganda, especially in art or literature. Propaganda involves persuasive strategies, but is different than persuasion in its intended outcome. A graphic design approach to propaganda will involve an examination of the relationship of message to context, focusing on the intentionality and responses of an audience and lead to an understanding of propaganda as a communication process. This course will explore the history of propaganda from its earliest origins in the 19th century to its modern day manifestation in American politics. Each student will have an opportunity to explore her/his individual values to establish a theme for a campaign and attempt to persuade a targeted audience through several class assignments.

Critical Studies

Rebekah Edwards

CRTSD-1500-1: FiCS: Amends

What does it mean to make amends? Often when we speak of amends we are talking about acts taken to rectify or atone for a wrong that was done, either by oneself, one’s community, one’s ancestors, or one’s nation. As artists, we may ask: how and when does our making become a form of amends? In this class, we will develop our critical thinking skills by exploring the multiple connotations, metaphors, histories, and applications of amends. We will turn to the work of artists, theorists, scientists, farmers, healers, activists, and spiritual practitioners and discuss practices of making amends (such as mending and repurposing; individual apologies or atonement practices in different spiritual contexts; soil amending, river restoration, or community gardens) and different social and political movements focused on amends (such as Restorative and Transformative Justice, Reparations, and Land Back.) We will study how amends are practiced at an individual, collective, and global scale and consider how these practices might offer useful metaphors and strategies for our own lives and creative praxis.

Fashion Design

Lynda Grose

FASHN-2600-1: Sustainability Seminar

What are the social, cultural and environmental ramifications of our design decisions, and how can we mitigate or leapfrog them through our ideas? What is the role of design in the current ecological crisis? Students use their skills as designers to develop creative solutions to technical challenges in moving our industry and our society towards sustainability. More specifically students will review the ecological crisis and how fashion/textiles contribute to this crisis. Emerging interdisciplinary eco philosophies and methodologies will be reviewed, and students will be encouraged to develop their own eco design strategies. The content of the lectures will be explored through a series of lectures and tools coupled with class exercises, in which students will have the opportunity to test these methodologies and tools for themselves. Eco communication strategies and practicing eco design will also be covered through the lectures. Class time is structured around class exercises and lectures with a studio project as a final. Relevant field trips guest speakers and videos are integrated throughout the semester.

Game Arts

Aaron Gach

GAMES-3100-1: Critical Game Design

Critical Game Design is a hybrid theory/studio course exploring how social justice, critical theory, philosophy, and applied science can inform the creation of effective, culturally-literate and meaningful game art. The course engages with principles of ethical and contextually-aware game design, through exposure to different schools of thought and critical approaches that will inform the student’s capstone projects, as well as work in their postgraduate game careers. Critical Game Design develops student conceptual capacity to analyze the effectiveness and intentionality of gameplay and game mechanics, through a series of practical and conceptual studio assignments, across a variety of game mediums, while exploring experimental, arts-based, and culturally and historically-specific approaches to game making.

Graduate Design

Michael Washington

DESGN-6690: DC Design in Context

The spirit of this class will function like a laboratory, or a space of collective experimentation in which we will think counter-intuitively together about the politics of design, its relation to western colonial modernity, as well as its re-worlding practices. What would it mean to imagine the concept and practice of design as a critical enterprise? As a critical discourse of the contemporary political organization of the world (extractive, extinctionist, anthropocentric)? And how might thinking design from a decolonizing critical standpoint open up new space for re-imagining how the world could be otherwise? These are the questions we are going to engage in the course, and will do so by reconsidering design as a worlding tool: a culture and set of practices and concepts that shape knowledges, ecologies, spaces of relational encounter, as well as ways of being. Which is to say, we are going to think about the political ontology of design: the ways in which design, in its practice and theory, makes worlds and the spaces of interaction in which new worlds might be imagined as possible.

Graduate Writing

Faith E Adiele

WRITE-6020-2: Writing Seminar: Creative Communities: Literature & Culture of the Bay Area

This course takes a new look at community based writing practices. We will investigate local literary institutions; explore creative writing from a historical and present day context; learn about activist writers of the Bay Area; and infuse all of these concepts to inform and push the boundaries of your own creative writing. What does it mean to be a creative citizen in the Bay Area? This seminar takes an experiential approach to introducing students to the diverse, innovative, vibrant literary culture of the Bay Area, past, present and future. Through fun weekly excursions, craft exercises, and interrogation of nonfiction forms, participants will become familiar with local resources and organizations, while practicing the power of the essay in daily life. Texts will include classic writings about the Bay Area by such luminaries as Ishmael Reed, Karen Tei Yamashita, Tommy Orange, Joan Didion, and Richard Rodriguez, as well as films, maps, murals, and performances. Each 3-week unit will focus on a distinctive aspect of local culture and culminate in the production of a practical piece: Interview, Narrative Map, Art Review, Visual Story, and Cultural Narrative. Participants will additionally create community within both the classroom and local literary and art scenes.

Philosophy and Critical Theory

Rebekah Edwards

PHCRT-2000-5: Disabled Imaginaries

What do we mean when we say “disability”? Who is considered “normal”? As Leah Piepzna-Samarasinha asks in The Future is Disabled, what if in the near future, the majority of people will be disabled - and what if that's not a bad thing? What if disability justice and disabled wisdom are crucial to surviving the crisis of global conditions we currently face? What is post-apocalyptic crip-futurity? How do we imagine ourselves in it - with joy? Our class introduces Disability Studies through the work of contemporary disabled-identified artists, activists, and philosophers who use speculative imaginaries to critique current and historic formulations of disability, exposing how such formulations have constructed a normal/disabled binary through intersections of ableism, racism, and (cis)sexism, and imagining instead, radically-inclusive futures in which all our social identities “are understood as interdependent and intertwined.” Crip-futurity draws on the collective knowledge of disabled people to speculate a more just, creative, and sustainable social architecture. We will study essays, manifestos, science fiction, and memoir alongside 2D, 3D, and 4D work by disabled-identified artists/theorists.

Social Science and History

Maxwell Leung

SSHIS-2000-1: Social Science/History: American Politics

This course offers a solid overview of the American political system beginning with studying its foundation and its development over time. The course will analyze the increasingly important role of campaign financing, social media, and other modes of representation in elections in contemporary American politics and how civil society as well as political units such as interest groups, political parties, political action committees (PACs), super PACs, and the media influence the policy making process. The course will introduce how Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court operate, both in theory and in practice, and how they work for, and sometimes fail, the interests of the nation. Through various pedagogical tools, students learn to think analytically and systematically about American politics, and the importance of the study of American government.

Maxwell Leung

SSHIS-2000-2: Social Problems

This course is an introduction to the sociological study of contemporary social problems in the United States. The primary goal throughout this course is to develop your "sociological imagination" a term coined by sociologist C. Wright Mills to describe a way in which we can better understand ourselves and the world around us. It is through this understanding that we can begin to unravel how our individual lives are rooted in larger social realities, demonstrating how our individual circumstances are inextricably linked to social structures. In this course, we will examine issues of crime and deviance, social class and stratification, racial, ethnic, and gender inequality, work and family life, media, consumerism, urban decay, corporate crime, poverty, health care, drug wars, and others through sociological perspectives.

Upper Level Interdisciplinary Studio

Shalini Agrawal and Julia Grinkrug

UDIST-3000-7: Care in Commons

“Care in Commons” studio introduces practices of restorative care by learning from the human and other ecosystems of species with a focus on climate change. This course aims to promote climate awareness and importance of mutual care through relational imagination. We will explore non-Western European epistemologies and techniques of creative inquiry in order to address climate anxiety in face of global threats and structural racism. Aiming to restore a sense of individual agency in response to systemic issues, we will focus on various forms of care from personal to collective. With water as praxis, we will work inter-disciplinarily to reinvent traditional methods of knowledge production by reconnecting with embodied practices, sensory observation, collective flow and collaborative ways of thinking, knowing and doing. This course invites students to envision a possibility of fluid and dynamic relationships that embrace change and adaptability, extending from individual reflective practices to classroom community building.

Steve Jones

UDIST-3000-9: Rooted: Forming Identity

This course is specifically designed for students of color creating race/identity/culturally specific work in a major and/or course environment/s not equipped with the proper instructional tools and/or direction to fully articulate the students work—usually from lack of culturally/racially specific knowledge of the instructor and limited course dynamics. Students will learn how to present, develop, utilize resources, and defend such work, in less-than understanding course environments. This studio will create a space and network of support and leadership development for BIPOC students at CCA (particularly students working on senior thesis/capstone projects that focus on issues of identity, historical narratives, and representation). Through support and collaboration with the greater CCA community, students will have a curated experience in wellness, campus culture, academic support, community development, and history. Students will have the opportunity to meet with a range of CCA and community leaders to gain a deep understanding of the college’s culture.

Browse courses offered during the Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, and Fall 2023 semesters that built students' skills in creative activism and civic engagement