Final Project

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The final project in this course offers you an opportunity to use what you've learned in this course to speak thoughtfully and directly to an audience of your choosing. The project builds from my frustration, as an instructor, with the plethora of good ideas that get trapped or stranded in the classroom. In many of my classes – and many classes, in general, I think – the semester ends with students writing and sharing thoughtful ideas with the professor, the GSIs, and other students in the class. As exciting as it is to hear those ideas, I am dismayed that all that hard work and good thinking doesn't get systematically shared beyond the classroom. I designed this project to challenge that pattern, precisely because I expect the learning and thinking we will do together might be something you might want to share with other people.

In this project, you will create a short presentation in some form designed to engage a particular audience and making a specific point within broader themes. Both the broader themes and specific point must relate to our course topics, but you have lots of space to expand and explore. This is an opportunity to explore your own interests, although we ask that you stay in conversation with your GSI and me throughout the process.

The elements of this project include each students deciding on the following:

THE BROAD THEME(S) - What are the broad themes your project will engage? If a broad theme doesn't immediately jump into your mind, one place to start would be our course syllabus. The title of each lecture presents a broad theme that you can pull from or build on. For instance, a student might be excited to create a project about Black feminisms, intimacy, or capitalism - all of which are topics introduced in lectures. It's also possible that a student will want to explore a broad theme not explicitly introduced through lecture, for instance intersectional perspectives on climate change or something the student noticed while majoring in Computer Science. The good news is that gender infuses human life, so you have plenty of room to move and I strongly suspect that we can figure out a gendered angle about almost any topic you're interested in.

THE AUDIENCE - What specific audience do you want to engage and reach with this project? Because you will create the project in relation to the audience you choose, this is a big decision with serious ramifications. No matter the topic, imagine the difference between Topic X being presented to, say, elementary school students compared to University of Michigan undergraduates. When you build your project, you'll need to think about the basic assumptions and understandings that your audience holds, so you can better engage them and, hopefully, convince them of your main points.

THE FORMAT - What format would you like to use to craft your message? Would you like to create an audio recording to be shared, like a one episode podcast? Would you like to create a website or a video? Notice, please, that your chosen format and intended audience must be understood in relation to each other. What format will help you reach the audience you want to engage? At the same time, you must be able to actually build in your chosen format. So, for instance, if you want to make an audio recording but don't already know how to record and edit audio tracks, how will you learn those skills? More broadly, please think about if you want to create this project using skills you already have or if you would like to use this project as an opportunity to learn some new skills. Either is an acceptable answer but needs to be considered and planned out.

THE THESIS / MAIN POINT(S) - What are you arguing in your project? What are you trying to convince your audience? Within the broad themes you've chosen for your project, it needs to have a specific thesis or main points. Even though you are not writing a paper, imagine this as what would be your central thesis if your project were a paper. Remember too that thesis points can be so correct that they are not interesting or exciting. For instance, the thesis "gender is important to human experience" is not at all wrong but also is so obvious as to not be effective. As always, think about how your audience and thesis points work together, what your audience would find interesting or exciting, and therefore how to frame your thesis.

THE PROJECT TEAM - When creating this project, would you like to work alone or as part of a group? You are welcome to do either and I ask you to make your decision based on how you think you would work best. Notice, please, that if you decide to create this project in a group, you all will also need to create and turn in a detailed plan about how you will work together so that the labor will be equitably shared. I can also imagine that you might decide to learn together as a team but ultimately create individual projects – for instance, if a group of students learns audio recording techniques together but then creates individual recordings on their own.

THE FRAMING ESSAY - When the project is turned in, every student will write their own framing essay, in which they reflect on what they were trying to do, what worked, what didn't, and what they think they achieved. As detailed in the assignment, this essay must also directly link the project with course materials including readings, films, topics brought up in lecture or section, and discussion questions

Please click on each of the six elements above to learn more about the options and requirements for them.

As you think about and work on this project, it is absolutely allowed to shift and change. In fact, I suspect it would be hard to work on this project and not have it shift and change. Any of the five elements outlined above can become your primary intention. For instance, I can imagine some students might have a really strong sense of the broad themes around which they want to organize their project - they know they want to create a project about racialized beauty standards or incarceration in the United States. That's a perfectly fine place to start! I can also imagine that some students have a strong sense of what they want to create – the format – because they know they like to draw comics, or write plays, or create conference posters.

Moreover I expect that this project will shift and change over the semester because you'll keep learning. As we go further into the semester, hopefully your ideas will shift and change because that's what learning is. (If none of your thinking changes at all, I guess that's fine, but maybe make an appointment to talk with me about it?) To put a particularly capitalist bent on it, if your thinking hasn't changed at all throughout the semester, what a waste of money and time!

This project requires check-ins over the course of the semester. Particularly if you want to use a format that requires you to learn a new skill, you absolutely must build in enough time to learn that skill. The final project includes the following process deadlines:

Week 5 - First Thoughts about the Project
Week 9 - Update
Week 12 - Update
Week 14 - Rough Draft

Please explore the grading rubric we will use to review the projects when they are finished.

Some entirely hypothetical example projects designed to give you an idea how these elements can come together:

1) A YouTube video (the format) designed to reach American high school students (the audience) that discusses the inherent sexism and racism of school dress codes (the broad theme). The video uses the student's own high school dress code to argue (the thesis) that a) seemingly neutral dress codes teach all students that women's bodies should be inherently sexualized at the same time that b) specific students are made to feel responsible for their bodies in ways that create real stress and stigma. After identifying these problems, the student suggests a new dress code that mitigates these problems and offers ideas about how the high school students in the intended audience might effect change their own school dress codes.

2) A collection of 30 memes (the format) designed to teach the basic ideas in Gender Studies (the broad theme) to American internet users who aren't familiar with feminist theory (the audience). Individually and as a collection, the memes argue (the thesis) that feminist theory both describes the world in helpful ways and offers insights about how to improve it. In their framing essay, the student would clearly spell out their thinking behind which memes and which ideas in Gender Studies they chose to include. It also reflects on any responses to the memes that have occurred by the project deadline.