Course Outline Index

Independent Study

Civic Action Internship

In April of  1997 Ralph Nader visited Suffolk Community College and spoke about the concerns and lobbying activities which he and his civic action organization, Public Citizen, are involved with. The main theme of his talk was that the only way that we can have a political system which is responsive to our needs is for citizens to organize and take civic action on behalf of the issues affecting their lives. At one point in his speech, he mentioned a proposal which he has been making to every college audience whom he has addressed. He has proposed that colleges introduce a course in Civic Action. He has initiated the writing of a textbook appropriate for such a course. He indicated that not one college where he has made this proposal has developed such a course

There were a number of faculty and administrators, hearing Ralph Nader on that day, who were moved by his remarks. A special topics course was developed within the History, Political Science, Geography Department (now known as the Social Science Department) and offered in the Fall, 1998 semester.  The course was entitled SC41, CIVIC ACTION INTERNSHIP.  Due to insufficient student enrollment, the course was cancelled. However, students who are interested in learning about and gaining experience with non-governmental organizations may, if qualified, obtain a faculty sponsor for an independent study course. Click on the Independent Study link for further information.

The structure of the course is modelled after that of the existing course PO51, POLITICAL ACTION INTERNSHIP. That means the course is a 4-credit course requiring an 8-hour per week internship as well as weekly class meetings. Unlike PO51, which has student internships with government agencies, SC41 will involve student internships with private, non-profit civic action groups. Where PO51 is designed to help students determine whether they want to pursue a career in government, SC41 is designed to familiarize students with the important role played by private organizations in mobilizing political action behind specific issues, or in providing services which government is unable to adequately fulfill. That means that the civic organization might have as its sole or primary goal the purpose of influencing government to take action in regard to certain issues. Or, it might involve a non-profit organization which has as its sole or primary goal the purpose of meeting a specific human need. For example, the Long Island Progressive Coalition, which has already indicated a willingness to take student interns, is involved primarily with environmental issues. On the other hand, Long Island Cares, which we intend to contact for a possible student internship, is primarily concerned with providing food for the poor.

In addition to the internship with local civic action groups, students will also have the opportunity to learn about the work done and the services provided by national or international civic action groups such as Amnesty International or Public Citizen. Students will be provided with a list of such non-governmental organizations along with explanatory literature at the beginning of the semester, and will be asked to choose one to contact and to research.

During the first half of the semester, the textbook, will be the basis for an initial introduction to and acquaintance with the meaning of civil society and its place in the political arena. Students will become familiar with the history of civil action in regard to the struggle for equality by black people and other minorities, the women's rights movement, the environmental movement, and the consumer movement, in the United States.

During the latter half of the semester, classroom sessions will be devoted to student reports, as each student shares with the class their internship experiences with local organizations, and their research with a national or international non-governmental group. It should be a valuable learning experience for all students who enroll and participate in the internship and class activities. Any student who has completed EG-11 or its equivalent is eleigible to register. Students are recommended, but not required, to also take PO-20 State and Local Politics, PO51 Political Action Internship, or HS-22 Modern World History.

We are presently compiling a list of local, private non-profit groups whom we may contact to arrange internships. If any members of the faculty or administration, or other interested readers would like to recommend such a group, we would like to hear from you. You can contact Norman West, Professor of History, at 451-7497 or 4344, or send an e-mail message to westn@sunysuffolk.edu.

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