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Social Change Course Series

Northeastern University is committed to empowering students across colleges and disciplines as catalysts for change around the world. These courses offered for the Fall 2023 semester will provide students with meaningful opportunities to gain the necessary insights and critical skills to drive meaningful social change. 

Highlighting NU’s Commitment to Social Change

Introducing the Fall 2023 Social Change Course Series at Northeastern University, a collection of six interdisciplinary graduate courses that empower students, regardless of their major or area of study, as catalysts for change. 

Students participating in these courses have the opportunity to delve into subjects such as social justice, sustainability, environmentalism, and biotechnology. By engaging with esteemed faculty members and collaborating with peers from diverse backgrounds, students gain the necessary insights and skills to drive meaningful social change. 

*For information about course requirements, please contact the college. To register for one of these courses, please visit the Northeastern Student Hub.

**Limited seats are available for the fall semester. Students can enroll in courses through Banner. 


Have questions about this series? Check out the FAQ below or let us know at [email protected]


Highlighted Courses: Social Change @ Northeastern

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  • Climate Science, Engineering Adaptation, and Policy

    Course Description: Offers an evidence-based glimpse of what has been called a clear and present danger to mankind. Analyzes case studies from the magic of the butterfly effect in chaos theory to the deep challenges in physics, biogeochemistry, and data sciences. Covers topics from experimental design to satellite-based remote sensing, all the way to the design and operations of next-generation hydraulic infrastructures, transportation systems, smart grids, and communication networks, including the impacts on coastal or inland cities, the resilience to weather hazards, and the sustainability of water-energy-food resources. Includes policy issues and risk-informed trade-offs in renewable energy, environmental regulations, and emissions control. Graduate students are required to complete a mandatory class project.

    Course Info and Faculty Bio(s)

    Course Number: CIVE 5363

    Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering (CIVE)

    CRN: 20898

    Faculty Bio(s): Auroop R. Ganguly is a College of Engineering (COE) Distinguished Professor, the Director of Artificial Intelligence for Climate and Sustainability (AI4CaS) at the Institute for Experiential Artificial Intelligence (EAI), and the Co-Director of the Global Resilience Institute (GRI), at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. His research and teaching interests are at the intersection of climate change and water sustainability, critical infrastructures and complex systems, as well as machine learning and data sciences. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a Senior Member of the IEEE and a Senior Member of the Association for Computing Machinery. Ganguly has 25+ years of full-time prefessional experience spanning the private sector, a government-owned national laboratory, and academia, while he and his former PhD students have spawned two successful startups. He has a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a B.Tech. (Hons.) from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, West Bengal, India. Ganguly claims his current personal interests are in mythology, ancient world history, and comparative religion, playing with his 3+ year old niece who shares his birthday, and in offering study-abroad courses on climate science, engineering, and policy in emerging economies through the Northeastern University Dialogue of Civilizations program.  

    Puja Das is a PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Engineering at the Sustainability and Data Sciences Laboratory of Northeastern University in Boston, MA, where she has won the Civil and Environmental Engineering Graduate Teaching Award. As a part of her PhD, she has interned at NASA and a startup company called Capella Space Corporation in two successive summers. Her research is at the intersection of climate and water resources, remote sensing and machine learning, and hydrologic emergency and river management. She is the lead graduate student researcher in a NASA-funded project which uses machine learning and data sciences for precipitation nowcasting from remote sensing data, where she works with researchers previously at NASA and now at their own NASA SBIR-funded startup as development partners, as well as practitioners at the Tennessee Valley Authority and researchers at the US DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory as stakeholder partners. She has successfully mentored undergraduate and high-school students, co-taught undergraduate and graduate courses, and obtained an MS at Northeastern University. Das graduated from the prestigious Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) with a Bachelor’s in water resources engineering and was an instructor at a university in Bangladesh for two years.

  • Design for Dignity

    Course Description: Explores the ethical dimensions of design practice through design projects.This studio course addresses design problems with a focus on the concept of dignity as a central principle of human-centered design. Uses readings and in-class activities to study human value systems, dignity as a principle, and service design as a process of deliberation. Offers students an opportunity to practice applying these perspectives, models, and theories to create compelling design projects as well as to develop competencies in collective participation in community.

    Course Info and Faculty Bio

    Course Number: ARTG 5710

    Department: Art – Design

    CRN: 17417

    Faculty Bio:

    Dr. Don Robinaugh earned his doctorate at Harvard University in 2015, where he studied clinical psychology under the mentorship of Dr. Richard McNally. He completed post-doctoral training at the University of Amsterdam and served as an Assistant Professor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School before joining the faculty at Northeastern University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology and the Department of Art + Design. His research is focused on better understanding the etiology of anxiety and traumatic stress disorders, with a particular focus on how these disorders may operate as complex systems. Through this work, he has seen how data visualization can play a critical role in shaping how we conceptualize psychological phenomena and is interested in how better data visualization practices can be used to strengthen scientific reasoning.

  • Food Systems and Public Policy

    Course Description: Explores the public policy dimensions of the contemporary food system. Utilizes scholarly readings and case studies to assess the role of governing institutions and political actors in shaping the food supply; the effects of energy, transportation, and urban policies on food access; the ecological dimensions of food production; impacts of international trade regimes on global food trade; and the potential impacts of climate change on food security. Compares the United States and other nations and explores alternatives to the dominant food system. Seeks to engage students in applied policy analysis of specific food system issues.

    Course Info and Faculty Bio

    Course Number: PPUA 5270

    Department: Public Policy and Urban Affairs (PPUA)

    CRN: 17246

    Faculty Bio: Christopher Bosso is professor of public policy and politics at Northeastern University, Boston. His areas of research and teaching are in food and environmental policy. Recent books include Framing the Farm Bill: Interests, Ideology, and the Agricultural Act of 2014 (University Press of Kansas, 2017) and, as editor, Feeding Cities: Improving Local Food Access, Sustainability, and Resilience (Routledge, 2017). His 2005 book, Environment, Inc.: From Grassroots to Beltway (University Press of Kansas) received the 2006 Caldwell Award for best book in environmental policy and politics from the American Political Science Association. His newest book, Why SNAP Works: A Political History — and Defense — of the Food Stamp Program (University of California Press) comes out in October 2023.

  • Nonprofit Organizations and Social Change

    Course Description: Offers an overview of fundamental principles and practice in the nonprofit sector as they relate to social change. Topics include systems change and stakeholder identification, design thinking and human-centered design, theory of change and logic models, program design and evaluation, strategic and business planning, organizational structure and capacity building, governance, and communications and social media.

    Course Information and Faculty Bio:

    Course Number: PPUA 6551

    Department: Public Policy and Urban Affairs (PPUA)

    CRN: 12139

    Faculty Bio: Rebecca Riccio is the founder and Juffali Family Director of the Social Impact Lab (SIL) at Northeastern University and an accomplished social change educator and practitioner. Her teaching and research center the use of experiential learning to cultivate systems thinking, ethical reasoning, self-authorship, and racial and social justice values among students who aspire to engage in social change. Her teaching models integrate anti-racist pedagogy, systems mapping, and authentic grant making to promote just and equitable power and resource distribution in the social change arena. Through SIL’s Global Philanthropy Initiative, universities around the world are adopting Rebecca’s experiential philanthropy model. The co-author of Principles of Anti-Oppressive Community Engagement for University Educators and Researchers, Rebecca is deeply committed to promoting effective, ethical, and accountable social change practices through collaborations across campus. She is a longtime faculty advisor to Doris Buffett’s Learning by Giving Foundation, a member of Millennium Campus Network’s board of directors, and an adult ally and advisor to youth organizers addressing climate change, racial and social injustice, and gun violence. Prior to joining Northeastern in 2008, Rebecca managed international development projects at the Council on International Educational Exchange and SATELLIFE/HealthNet. Through her private consulting practice, Rebecca advises clients on the development of more just and equitable social change programming using participatory practices and co-creation. Rebecca holds a B.A in Soviet Studies from Wesleyan University and an M.A. from the University of Michigan in Russian and Soviet Studies.

  • Social Determinants of Health

    Course Description: Introduces social and structural conditions as key contributors to people’s physical and mental health. Describes unjust and avoidable socioeconomic conditions considered to be the main contributors to health inequities. Meets a growing demand for health professionals to have fundamental knowledge of the social determinants of health, including social isolation and social support; structural/ institutional racism; income inequality; and social and economic policies. Provides an opportunity to develop awareness of the role of social determinants of health in population health; knowledge of the pathways through which they impact health; awareness of the specific ways the health of different populations and demographic groups is impacted; and enhanced evaluation, diagnosis, and communication with patient and clients.

    Course Info and Faculty Bio

    Course Number: HLTH 5700

    Department: Public Health

    CRN: 20164

    Faculty Bio: Ariel Beccia (she/her) is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital. She is also a trainee with the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED) and the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Health Equity Research Collective, both of which are jointly based at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her work focuses on identifying the social and structural determinants of gender- and sexual orientation-based inequities in mental health outcomes, especially eating disorders. She is also interested in developing methods for incorporating intersectionality and other critical feminist theories into quantitative epidemiologic research. Ariel earned her PhD in epidemiology from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and a B.S. in Neuroscience with a minor in Gender & Sexuality Studies at St. Lawrence University. 

  • The Biotechnology Enterprise

    Course Description: Exposes students to the business of biotech from scientific discovery startup through its product launch and subsequent organizational and scientific pipeline growth. Topics include scientific discovery, biotech-related funding and organizational structures, regulatory and clinical trial considerations, biotech alliances, patient access, ethics and compliance, and commercialization and growth while meeting unmet patient or consumer needs in this highly regulated industry. Although the focus is on the highest regulated standards in biopharma, the course also touches upon various aspects of other biotechnology domains.

    Course Info and Faculty Bio(s)


    Course Number: BIOT 5219

    Department: Biotechnology (BIOT)

    CRN: 19988, 17204, 13246, 20118

    Faculty Bio(s):

    Liz Frey is an accomplished professional in the pharmaceutical industry, currently serving as Director, Global Commercial Lead for Stroke and Neuropathic Pain at Biogen. With a strong focus on neurology and acute care products, Liz excels in developing go-to-market strategies and brand planning. She has a proven track record of high performance and expanded responsibilities, earning promotions throughout her career. Liz’s expertise lies in product management, market research, and strategic planning. She holds an MBA from Duke University and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and English Literature from Northwestern University. In her free time, Liz enjoys reading, traveling, photography, skiing, and volunteering at a local animal shelter.

    Eduardo Sanchez is an accomplished scientist with expertise in clinical CLIA/CAP/GCP settings. As a Clinical General Supervisor and Project Manager at Northeastern University’s Life Sciences Testing Center, he leads projects, optimizes processes, and coordinates collaborations. Eduardo excels in business development, client interfacing, and technical writing. His skills include cost-benefit analysis, laboratory workflow optimization, and validation of clinical methods. He has managed NGS sequencing projects, developed pooling methods for COVID-19 testing, and worked with regulatory agencies. Eduardo’s statistical data analysis, visualization, and clinical testing abilities are exceptional. With a Master’s in Biotechnology and a Bachelor’s in Chemistry, Eduardo’s proficiency in software tools and fluency in English and Spanish further enhance his contributions.

    Robert E. Schultz is a dynamic and intellectually curious professional with a wealth of experience in the life science industries. With a background as an entrepreneur and sales/marketing executive, Robert has demonstrated his expertise in various domains, including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, digital health, and eCommerce. Alongside his professional career, Robert has also excelled in academia as an adjunct professor, teaching courses in marketing, entrepreneurship, healthcare innovation, and management information systems. He has a deep understanding of pedagogical methods and has leveraged learning management systems to enhance student experiences. As the founder of Massnex LLC and Tunza, Robert has successfully driven business growth and developed innovative solutions in the healthcare sector. His passion for bridging academia, industry, government, and philanthropy has made him a respected thought leader in the field. With an MBA in International Business and a BS in International Business with a specialization in Marketing, Robert brings a diverse skill set and a global perspective to his endeavors.

    Youngbin Tak is a highly accomplished professional with extensive experience in the biotechnology industry. Holding an MBA with a concentration in Innovation and Entrepreneurship from Boston University Questrom School of Business, Youngbin has excelled in project management and strategic alliances. With a background in biotechnology and biochemistry, he has made significant contributions in drug discovery research and platform biology. Youngbin has worked in reputable organizations such as PineTree Therapeutics, Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, AstraZeneca, Sanofi Genzyme, and CureMeta. He has a proven track record of implementing novel assays, managing multidisciplinary project teams, and advancing therapeutic initiatives. Youngbin is detail-oriented, a great problem solver, and possesses excellent oral and written communication skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can take these courses?

These courses are all Graduate-level courses. Please check with your faculty advisor or department to see if you are able to take this course without interrupting your course of study.

How do I register for these courses?

To register for one of these courses, you would follow the normal process for registering for a course, as outlined on the Registrar’s website. Before registering, double check with your advisor as to how it may affect your course of study.

Will taking this course cost me extra tuition money? 

Courses taken outside of one’s home college/program may be billed at the per credit rate of the college offering the course

Will these courses count towards my degree?

In many cases these courses may count towards your degree, but you should consult your academic advisor to confirm how one of these courses might nest within your larger curriculum map before enrolling.

What is social change?

Social change refers to the process of creating significant, positive transformations in society. It involves addressing pressing societal issues, promoting social justice, sustainability, and equity, and working towards improving the well-being of individuals and communities.

How can I benefit from participating in the Fall 2023 Social Change Course Series?

By participating in these courses, you will have the opportunity to explore diverse disciplines, collaborate with peers from different backgrounds, engage with esteemed faculty members, and develop critical skills necessary to drive meaningful transformations in society. These courses aim to empower you as a catalyst for change and provide a transformative learning experience.

Are these courses open to students from all majors?

Yes, these courses are designed to be of broad interest and open to students from all majors. Regardless of your field of study, you can explore social change topics, gain valuable insights, and apply your knowledge and skills to real-world contexts.

How many courses are offered in the Fall 2023 Social Change Course Series?

The Fall 2023 Social Change Course Series offers six interdisciplinary graduate courses that cover a range of topics related to social change. These include courses on nonprofit organizations and social change, food systems and public policy, design for dignity, social determinants of health, climate science, engineering adaptation, and policy, and the biotechnology enterprise.

Can I take multiple courses from the Fall 2023 Social Change Course Series?

Yes, you have the option to enroll in multiple courses from the series, provided they fit within your course schedule and align with your academic goals. Be sure to consult with your advisor to ensure a balanced course load.

Will there be any guest speakers or industry professionals involved in these courses?

Yes, some courses within the Fall 2023 Social Change Course Series may include guest speakers or industry professionals who will share their expertise and insights. These guest speakers enhance the learning experience by providing real-world perspectives and practical knowledge.

Are these courses project-based or research-oriented?

The structure of the courses may vary. Some courses may have project-based components, allowing you to apply your learning to real-world scenarios. Others may be research-oriented, focusing on deepening your understanding of social change theories and methodologies. Specific course details can be found in the course catalog or by reaching out to the instructors.

Can I earn credits towards a certificate or specialization through these courses?

The applicability of these courses towards a specific certificate or specialization may vary. We recommend consulting with your program advisor or the relevant department to determine if these courses align with the requirements of a certificate or specialization you are pursuing.

Are these courses only available in-person, or can I take them remotely?

These courses, with the exception of Design for Dignity, are all offered with online/remote learning options. Design for Dignity is only offered in-person for students on the Boston campus.

Can I take these courses as an undergraduate student?

The Fall 2023 Social Change Course Series is primarily designed for graduate-level students. However, some courses may allow exceptional undergraduate students to enroll with permission from the instructor. We recommend reaching out to the course instructor or your academic advisor for further guidance.

Will these courses involve community engagement or service-learning opportunities?

Some courses within the Fall 2023 Social Change Course Series may incorporate community engagement or service-learning opportunities. These experiences provide hands-on learning and the chance to make a positive impact in local communities. Check the course descriptions or consult with the instructors for more information.

Are there prerequisites for these courses?

Prerequisites, if any, will be specified in the course descriptions or prerequisites section of the course catalog. Review the prerequisites carefully to determine if you meet the requirements for the courses you are interested in.

Can I audit these courses instead of enrolling for credit?

The possibility of auditing these courses may vary depending on the specific course and department policies. We recommend contacting the instructors or relevant department for more information regarding auditing options.

Will these courses be offered in future semesters?

While we cannot guarantee the exact availability of these courses in future semesters, the university remains committed to offering courses that address social change and societal issues. Keep an eye on future course catalogs and communications to stay updated on similar offerings in upcoming semesters.

Where can I find more information about these courses?

Click on the above descriptions of each course to learn more about that course and the faculty teaching it.

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