Broke: Poverty in the U.S. Today

Fall 2019
Evening and Weekend
Class Size: 50
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

Suzanne Simons square
poetry and literary arts, community studies/Middle East studies, journalism
sociology and social statistics

In this writing-intensive program, we will explore the impacts of poverty through the lenses of sociology, poetry and spoken word arts. Situating the poverty issue in the larger social context of increasing inequality in the U.S. in the past 3 decades, we will practice "sociological imagination" (C. W. Mills) by examining the definition of poverty, symptoms and the underlying causes of poverty, why certain groups are more likely to be poor, why poverty is a disease of the whole society (not just the poor). Central to our inquiry will be how economic inequity affects our quality of life in every way, from circumstances of our birth, to our education, housing, jobs, how long we live and end-of-life issues and the relationship between economic inequity and political inequity. 

Integral to our understanding of poverty is how poets and spoken word artists create stories and weave imagery that brings to life the complexities of poverty, despair, and hope. We will explore the importance of poetry as a source of empowerment and advocacy through reading, writing, and critiquing poetry and spoken word with poverty-related themes.

Such work will ground us in envisioning and creating new models for systems and programs to address economic inequities in areas such as public health and social services. For final projects, students will work in small groups to write and design poetry chapbooks, as well as research papers visioning more equitable systems addressing poverty. 

Students should have college-level writing skills. Experience with poetry is not necessary. Completing this program will develop students' critical thinking, writing, and research skills to better understand connections between economic justice, advocacy, and poetry. Students will also be able to critique poetry of poverty-related themes in order to strengthen their own creative work. They will understand the importance of economic equity for everyone’s well-being. This program will serve as a foundation for advanced study or work in sociology, social work, public policy, poetry and education.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

Public health, social work, education, journalism, public policy and government, nonprofits.


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$10 performance entrance fee.

Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 50

Scheduled for: Evening and Weekend

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - 6:00 pm
SEM 2 E2105 - Workshop

Located in: Olympia