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NIU sociology class inspires eager IMSA minds

February 1, 2012

The Illinois Mathematics and Science AssociationSophomore students at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora were given an opportunity Tuesday, Jan. 24, to hear firsthand how doing their homework could lead to statewide social change.

State Rep. Kay Hatcher, NIU sociology instructor Jack King and NIU student Gayle Deja-Schultz shared the story of how a class project at NIU’s Naperville campus led to a 2011 amendment to House Bill 180, The Let Them Rest in Peace Act, which further restricts protesting during funeral and memorial services.

However, the impact of the course taught by King, Sociology 392: Organizing for Social Change, extends beyond state legislature.

The NIU project was the inspiration for EnACT, a new IMSA program that teaches students how to address legislative issues and how to advocate change in a hands-on learning approach.

The entire sophomore class, which is comprised of more than 220 students, was given six legislative issues to choose from:

  • Food Deserts
  • The Cycle of Poverty
  • Gambling Expansion
  • Tax Reform and Governance
  • Taxpayer Money/State Appropriations for STEM Education
  • Taxpayer Money/State Appropriations for Higher Education

Linsey Crowninshield, IMSA’s director of Student Life, Leadership Education, and Service, said the event helped solidify the students’ motivation for positive societal change.

“Professor King’s presence on the IMSA campus was overwhelmingly successful, both in means of nurturing students aptitude on their chosen social issues and the bill-writing process,” Crowninshield said.

King said he had an opportunity to read some of the bill summaries created by the students and he was impressed with their work.

“It’s encouraging to see people still in high school getting excited about social change and social justice,” King said.