A Journey of Compassion and Insight: Reflecting on a Trip to Tijuana

Embarking on a trip to Tijuana, Mexico, with Dr. Sabith Khan as an MPPA student was a culmination of anticipation and eagerness, fueled by a yearning to delve into real-world issues and experiences. Having missed out on a previous opportunity due to lacking a passport, I was determined to seize this chance to explore and learn. Little did I know, the journey would profoundly expand my perspectives on the importance of public policies and fuel a desire for meaningful change in an area I knew little about.

Our first stop was at Xquenda Lab at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, an open space for citizen science focused on the indigenous and migrant populations. Directed by Maximino Matus Ruiz and his team, the lab’s dedication to preserving indigenous languages through digitization was inspiring. Witnessing student research projects and indulging in sopes while overlooking the Mexican Pacific Coast fostered a sense of appreciation for educational initiatives driving social change.

Venturing further, our next stop was at Casa del Migrante, a sanctuary for migrants fleeing violence and seeking refuge. Run by dedicated social workers and volunteers, the facility offered essential services and support to individuals navigating the complexities of migration. Learning about the arduous journey migrants face, coupled with the bureaucratic hurdles of asylum-seeking, underscored the urgent need for policy reform and humanitarian intervention at all levels of the government. The facility can hold up to 200 people for up to 60 days. This conflicts with the 6 to 7 month current wait time for a hearing, so in the interim they help people build lives in Tijuana by securing employment, help to find housing, offer certification programs, and enroll children in school and provide childcare. The facility is funded by the Catholic Church, donations, and fundraising activities, and ran by staff and volunteers.

As a student of public policy and administration, the visit to Casa del Migrante was eye-opening. It shed light on the multifaceted nature of social issues and the imperative for compassionate, multi-dimensional solutions. The passion and dedication of the staff resonated deeply, reaffirming the power of empathy and advocacy in addressing systemic injustices.

Leaving Casa del Migrante, I was filled with a sense of urgency and purpose. The experience really prioritized the need to effect change and advocate for marginalized communities. It reinforced the importance of amplifying voices that are often silenced and the need for centering lived experiences and real stories in policy discourse.2 3 4 Picture1


Our journey concluded with a bittersweet visit to Friendship Park / El Parque de la Amistad in Playa de Tijuana, a binational park at the US -Mexico border. The park was inaugurated on Aug 18, 1971 by First Lady Pat Nixon. There were no border barriers of any kind at Friendship Park for generations. I couldn’t find the exact year that changed, but even after walls were built in 2011 San Diego Border Patrol officials still opened the park for limited hours each weekend through the slats of the wall. Over more recent years, this public access for US residents was restricted and in February of 2020, the park completely closed on the US side. Walking amidst murals and remnants of shared histories, I couldn’t help but feel the weight of missed opportunities for unity and solidarity. We did learn that there is a concentrated effort to reopen the park, and I sincerely hope there are ways for us as students to support it.

In closing, I extend heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Khan for his unwavering dedication to exposing students to diverse perspectives and social issues. His commitment to fostering experiential learning and nurturing compassionate leaders is truly commendable. Here’s to the next adventure, may it also be fueled by empathy, advocacy, and a responsibility and commitment to meaningful change.



Guest post – How The MPPA Helped My Career In SEO and Digital Marketing – Nicolai Andersen

In this article, I will highlight the surprisingly many ways that the MPPA program has contributed to the advancement of my career in digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). I graduated with my MPPA degree from Cal Lutheran in 2021. Shortly after, I relocated to Norway. Having worked for years with digital marketing in the U.S., I secured a marketing position in Oslo, which required a master’s degree. I later established an SEO bureau in Oslo.

Many have wondered why a digital marketer would pursue a degree in public policy. Upon reflecting, I can think of countless ways this program has helped me become a better marketer as well as a more well-rounded, informed professional.

Global Perspective

The SEO bureau currently serves clients from several countries across three continents. For technical and design support, we frequently collaborate with international freelancers. In essence, the global perspective I acquired not only from the MPPA program but also through studying abroad has greatly assisted me in conducting business within an international environment. This perspective has proven invaluable in comprehending cultural nuances, understanding diverse audiences, and navigating the complexities of the global marketplace.



I acquired a large number of skills during my time at Cal Lutheran. Notably, my research, analytical, communication, and advocacy skills witnessed significant improvement. These skills are not only convenient but also necessary for a career in digital marketing and SEO. Analytical proficiency, for instance, is crucial when dissecting search data, researching algorithm changes, conducting keyword research, and presenting results to clients.

Advocacy projects were integral components of several courses, contributing significantly to my growth as a marketer. They provided valuable lessons on tailoring messages to diverse audiences and the ability to effectively market or advocate for any product or company.

Furthermore, the skills gained through the process of academic paper writing have substantially enhanced my expertise in content marketing. Blog articles, for instance, often play a key role in SEO. Given recent updates to search engine algorithms, there is a heightened focus on well- crafted, valuable written content.

Upon reflection, the MPPA program has emerged as a cornerstone in my professional journey in digital marketing. The diverse skill set acquired, ranging from ethical considerations to an understanding of how public policy influences business, has not only broadened my horizons. It has also been instrumental in shaping me into a more adept entrepreneur, digital marketer, and SEO specialist.

You can visit my website at – https://seotjenester.no/

Transcending Silos: What Your MPPA Degree Can Do For You

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

 – Sean Veal, MPPA 2013

Earning a Master of Public Policy and Administration degree can be a dynamic credential to advancing one’s career in both the public and private sectors. It is common place for a sizable number of MPPA graduates to continue in or embark on public service careers with municipalities. Such positions may range from a role in the City Manager’s office, City Planning Department, Public Works, Transportation, Human Resources, and Fire and Safety. These job functions implement administrative prerogatives and public policies for helping operate our cities, schools, and infrastructure for the common good of our communities. However, the “public” or “civil servant’ connotation of a MPPA degree is by no means the only avenue a recipient of the degree can pursue. The dynamism of the tools gained in a public policy program provides transferable skills and knowledge that are applicable to private sector jobs as well.

As a graduate student in the MPPA program, I discovered my passion for housing policy and have dedicated my career to improving housing for our marginalized communities through learning the mechanisms that will address and alleviate the pressures of the housing crisis. Moreover, during the MPPA program I gained a repertoire of skills that have served me well to support my passion for housing policy through various public and private sector experiences as a housing researcher, city planner, affordable housing developer, and investment banker. These routes are all unique, yet facets of each role share the common thread of addressing housing, which is the fabric of our urban landscape.

In the MPPA program I learned the history, foundation, and theory of public administration and policy. Additionally, I gained skills in critical thinking, leadership, presenting, and teamwork. In concert with learning practical career skills, I was introduced to urban planning and housing policy topics that have morphed into my expertise and passion. The program gave me a sense of the duty, responsibilities, expectations, and challenges of working in the public sector. It goes without saying that all these attributes have been vital to my work in the private sector.

As private companies often form partnerships with public entities to achieve goals such as building affordable housing, knowledge of the public sphere is invaluable. For example, a public-private partnership that creates and preserves affordable housing is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits program which encourages private investors to work with developers and localities in financing affordable housing developments. In exchange for financing a portion of a development these private investors receive tax break incentives. In an effort to contribute to public-private financing, the MPPA program equipped me with an understanding of how localities operate, while simultaneously imparting the principles of thinking critically and understanding an array of perspectives involved in a finance transaction. The program also emboldened me with leadership fundamentals to work with diverse stakeholders to accomplish the financing of affordable housing.

While I used my MPPA training for traditional public servant roles, I also was able to leverage that same training to buttress my path in private sector financing. We can use our MPPA skills to transcend silos in the public or private realms for the betterment our communities.

MPPA In Action Interview: Public Service Entrepreneurship


Leo Casiple

A highly accomplished alumni, Leo continues to give back through his talents and unique experiences to several organizations, rigorous competitions, and his alma mater CLU. 

1. What motivated you to start Public Value, LLC?

I have always been fascinated by the functions that connect government, business, and the community. 

I grew up under martial law. When I became a Green Beret, I worked in many countries to help stabilize internal security. I offered national level military solutions, but they were not enough. Citizens needed financial, social, and other social safety nets beyond the scope and capabilities of Special Forces Advisors. 

I was fortunate that, when I earned an MBA in Global Management, I began to understand the underlying factors and methodologies that fuel and influence global economic momentum. When I earned a Master of Competitive Intelligence™️, I learned how to uncover blind spots by looking between the lines of annual financial statements, shaded intent based on organizational structure and commitments, and indicators not found in mission statements. 

But, I was still clueless about the public domain and about how policy is negotiated, created, and implemented. After I completed CLU’s MPPA program, I became more confident that with public policy knowledge, training, and passion for innovation I will help solve – in a holistic manner – the world’s most pressing economic, diplomatic, defense, and social challenges.

As it stands today, my company can touch just about every need within a community. I am excited that in my doctoral program, I will focus on solving global water issues. Water touches every community and industry. Public Value LLC will become central to global policies regarding the conservation, distribution, and availability of water. 

2. What is the mission/ vision of your company?

MIssion: We honor those who improve the world by delivering civic solutions where development, diplomacy, defense, and community converge.

Vision: A global organization that helps communities discover its value from within.

3. How do you see yourself contributing to solving some of the problems around us?

I am fortunate to have worked all over the world. Throughout the years, I realized that to solve problems, I have to resonate at the individual, human level by doing the following: 1) Listen and hear what communities explicitly and implicitly communicate; 2) Maintain my strengths so that I can help partners find theirs; and 3) Respect the processes and values of others, just as I would want them to respect mine. Everything else is commentary.

4. What unique perspectives has being a veteran given you?

This is a very good question. First, I want to make it clear I am a first-generation American who joined the Army out of economic necessity, and not out of patriotism. I was too young and self-centered to know what protecting others meant. Second, I lacked self-esteem throughout my life, but through challenges designed to test the individual, the Army taught me to believe in myself. Third, the military instilled discipline, leadership, and honor – traits that display vulnerability and courage, humility and respect, and a reverence for humanity.

Grassroots View. I am grateful for the opportunity to work in many parts of the country and the world. Nothing replaces meeting communities where they are at, resonating with their energy, and listening to their hopes and dreams. 

Decision-Making. The military trained me to plan carefully, assess attentively, and to make decisions prudently.  Some decisions are difficult. The Army taught me to make ethical decisions, even if those decisions are against the prevailing popular opinion.

Agility. My military leaders taught me that plans are tested often by antagonists and supporters. Being agile, not in a physical sense but in the intellectual realm, is a key element to creating sustainable solutions. Agility equates to stillness during chaos, elegance during turbulence, and strength during catastrophe.

How To Series: Internships at the GAO

GAO Photo

~Patricia Palao Da Costa

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is the auditing arm used by the United States Congress to improve and ensure government efficiency and accountability. Known as the “congressional watchdog”, GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that responds to congressmembers’ requests, legislative mandates, and other investigative needs issued by the legislative branch of government. After completing a program audit, the agency will almost always publish a public report that details their conclusions and recommendations for the program and/or respective agencies. To fulfill their vast role and requests, GAO has fifteen mission teams and eleven field offices that house general analysts and other specialists to ethically and comprehensively complete each assignment.

Internship Opportunities: Management and Program Analyst

GAO offers internships in both the operational and mission teams of the agency. My internship was for the International Affair and Trade mission team as a Management and Program Analyst (Student Trainee), based out of the Los Angeles field office. Most engagements are completed within 8-12 months, and since the internship length is 400-640 hours, each intern’s experience and engagement phases will differ. Each team will have a Director, an Assistant Director, a methodologist, a lawyer, an Analyst-In-Charge, and a number of other analysts as needed. Throughout their time, interns receive ongoing training, instruction, and education on the engagement as well as the organization of GAO as a whole. The internship has two main purposes: to provide enriching and applicable experiences to the student trainees, and to assess the intern’s abilities for the potential employment offer to join the Professional Development Program after graduation.


Start by taking courses that directly relate to this career. Research Methods, Quantitative Methods, Law in Public Policy, and Performance Management/Program Management and Evaluation were the most helpful in learning the material and skills needed during my internship experience. Second, check the GAO website for internship application openings. There are spring, summer, and fall internships with application windows beginning 4-6 months before the hire date and closing as soon as the maximum number of applicants have been entered (usually within a couple weeks). And lastly, network and connect with professors, guest speakers, or other individuals that are associated with GAO already in some capacity. Feel free to email me or connect with me on LinkedIn if you have any questions or are interested in learning more about the internship process!

Winter 2021/2022 Capstone: Integrating Environmental Justice Principles into the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan


By: Debbie Canas, Jessica Diaz, Nathan Hatia, Tina Secrease, and Lisa Vaiman

Faculty Advisor: Jacqueline Phelps

Article Written By: Nathan Hatia

Environmental justice is an essential factor to consider when creating land-use plans for communities. In short, Environmental Justice is a course of action or research focused on reducing or eliminating the disproportional environmental burden placed on communities of color, low income, etc. (Chakraborty, 2016). While environmental justice initiatives were not a part of the land use planning process until recently, it is pertinent that future land use plans, such as General and Area Plans and Area Plans seek to mitigate the burdens placed on these communities by previous planning decisions (Wilson, 2008).

The General Plan was created by the County of Ventura Resource Management Agency using analyses, data, and input from the community through surveys, informational sessions, and Workshops (VC-RMA, General Plan, 2020). A General Plan is the collection of goals, policies, and programs in which the County lays out its plans for land use over a specific timeframe. Within this General Plan are smaller Area Plans focused on unique communities and specific geographic areas. The County of Ventura has created a comprehensive General Plan in which environmental justice considerations are integrated throughout. Our project focused on integrating these Environmental Justice principles into the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan. The original El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan was created in 1980 and subsequently amended in 2011; however, a comprehensive update has not been completed since 1996 (VC-RMA Area Plan, 2020). As such, the El Rio/Del Norte has a significant need in several areas to bring it up to the standards of the surrounding communities and the goals outlined in the General Plan, particularly those related to environmental justice.

Environmental justice, or rather injustice, can occur in ways that may not traditionally be considered “environmental” issues. While our project incorporates traditional Environmental Justice topics such as water safety, we have also included uncommon or non-traditional topics such as Transportation and Housing. 

Specifically, our Capstone Project examined portions of the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan related to Housing, Transportation, Public Facilities and Recreation, Water Hazards and Quality, and Community Outreach, and provided recommendations to implement environmental justice principles relating to each topic. Through research conducted using area mapping and visits to the community, existing data provided by the County/State, comparable Area Plans, and existing research conducted on the specified topics, we created recommendations in the form of goals, policies, and programs, that either bolster existing topics or add missing elements within the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan. 

While many recommendations were provided, the following are few of the key recommendations: 

  • Community Outreach: Partner with local non-profits and community-based organizations in order to increase civic engagement and representation within the community.
  • Housing: Adapt Ventura County General plan policies into the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan in order to effectively allow for affordable housing. 
  • Transportation: Promote development of sidewalks and other pedestrian friendly infrastructure.
  • Recreation: Plan for parks and other similar recreation open areas to be constructed in the community. 
  • Water Safety: Evaluate the creation of a program to analyze and mitigate flood risks to the community. 

The community of El Rio is one of the most  vulnerable areas in our County, and one that has not had the land use planning advantages that the surrounding areas have benefited from. Therefore, as the County looks to implement a new General Plan and update the existing El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan, which will serve as a guideline for several years, consideration of environmental justice within this overburdened community is crucial. It is important that under-resourced communities such as El Rio have plans created for their future growth. Environmental Justice in planning is an important consideration for planning agencies in order to build  prosperous communities. 


Chakraborty, J., Collins, T., & Grineski, S. (2016). Environmental Justice Research: Contemporary Issues and Emerging Topics. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(11), 1072. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13111072  


Wilson, S., Hutson, M., & Mujahid, M. (2008). How planning and zoning contribute to inequitable development, Neighborhood Health, and environmental injustice. Environmental Justice, 1(4), 211–216. https://doi.org/10.1089/env.2008.0506  


Ventura County General Plan, 2020


Housing Policy Shapes Our Communities

By Sean Veal, MPPA ‘13

Housing is fundamental to the development of our communities and our lives. Policies that shape the housing landscape have worked to the benefit, and to the detriment of communities across the country. On April 20th, 2021, I had the opportunity to discuss the impact of housing policies on our communities as a guest lecturer for Dr. Khan’s course entitled “Understanding Development: Challenges and Opportunities.”

The discussion began with an explanation of a common affordability metric known as the housing cost burden measure. A cost-burdened household is one that spends over 30 percent of total household income on housing costs. For renters, housing costs include rent and utilities, and for homeowners, housing costs are comprised of the mortgage, private mortgage insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and property tax. The cost burden measure is imperative to understanding affordability challenges that renter and homeowner households endure.

Consequently, housing affordability disproportionately impacts renter households of color. According to the 2020 State of the Nation’s Housing Report produced by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Black and Hispanic renter households were cost-burdened at rates of 53.7 percent and 51.9 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, white renter households were cost-burdened at 41.9 percent. These rates illuminate the unequal result of housing affordability by race with renter households of color absorbing the lion’s share of cost burdens.

Housing policy is a tool that at times created affordability dilemmas that are ever-present for households and amplified for communities of color. Discrimination and inequitable housing policy historically perpetuated housing affordability in tight markets through formerly legal mechanisms such as redlining, restrictive housing covenants, steering, and exclusionary zoning as described by Richard Rothstein in his book The Color of Law. The de jure discrimination fostered by housing policy that Rothstein describes has contributed to the housing affordability challenges experienced today, particularly by households of color.

Despite previous housing policies that prevented equal access to housing, there are current policies that have mitigated a stark history of housing inequality through approaches that increase the affordable housing stock, require cities to allocate ample housing for population growth, and provide subsidies to low-income households. These policies are witnessed through programs sponsored by the federal, state, and local governments.

A federal tax program that has improved the affordable housing stock is the Low-Income Tax Credit that incentivizes private developers to build affordable housing for low-income households in exchange for future tax credits. This IRS tax program has been instrumental in improving the affordable housing stock in the nation.

At the state level, the California Housing Element Law and the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) mandate that localities plan for housing supplies that account for and anticipate future growth of their community based on demographic projections. These plans are periodically required to be produced by each city in California. Furthermore, the proposed housing elements and RHNA plan must be approved by the state. Engrained in urban planning, the state-enforced housing policy programs hold cities accountable to accommodate population growth and housing needs.

Lastly, an example of a local housing policy is bonds provided by a city to support developers subsidize affordable housing developments. Proposition HHH is a local example in which Los Angeles voters approved 1.2 billion dollars to finance permanent supportive housing developments to abate rising levels of those experiencing homelessness in the City of Los Angeles.

The high-level overview of housing affordability metrics, affordability challenges, and housing policy were all presented to students to illustrate the impact of housing policy on communities. The confluence of housing policies at the federal, state, and local level exemplifies how housing policy shapes housing in communities.

What is Environmental Justice?

~Jacqueline Phelps

Pursuant to state law, environmental justice means “the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” (California Government Code, 2019). Many of us understand why the consideration of environmental justice in decision-making processes is essential, and have experienced the inequities that have resulted in our communities when it is not. Maybe the community that you grew up in doesn’t have adequate access to open space, or maybe there are too many industrial facilities that have resulted in a heavy pollutant load. These are examples of how land-use decision-making has served to disproportionately assign environmental burdens and benefits throughout the communities that we are a part of.

Environmental Justice
source: gaspgroup.org

Unfortunately, the environmental injustices that are embedded within our communities have been perpetuated by institutions over time, and we know that the quality of our lives and the lives of those that we care about are impacted. For example, numerous studies including by Nigra et. al (2020), have found that inequalities in exposure to drinking water contaminants throughout the United States stem from inequalities in the implementation of both land use policy and zoning decisions. Furthermore, disproportionate burdens often fall on lower-income and minority communities (Schaider, 2019).

Screening tools, such as CalEnviro Screen, have been developed in order to help with the identification of communities that have been overburdened by pollution. This tool is accessible to the public, and I encourage you to explore the data available for the communities that you are a part of: https://oehha.ca.gov/calenviroscreen/report/calenviroscreen-30. In addition to identifying overburdened communities, it is critical to examine how environmental burdens fit into a larger policy framework. How does environmental policy intersect with housing policy, or economic development (Corburn, 2017)? Understanding this policy context and the associated decision-making processes are essential for creating more healthy communities and enhancing the accessibility to clean environmental resources.

As the effects of climate change continue to intensify, adverse environmental outcomes will continue to increase within overburdened communities. Not only will air pollution worsen but other adverse effects, such as reduced access to clean water, will be exacerbated (Rudolph, 2018). According to Rudolph (2018), “Climate change acts as a threat multiplier, exacerbating poverty, environmental degradation, and political instability.” As such, it is critical to not only address the environmental issues that exist today but to also create proactive policies and plan for issues that may arise in order to avoid future adverse environmental outcomes.

In Environmental Policy and Planning- PA-5ST-01 we will examine the topic of environmental justice, as well as strategies that can be implemented in order to avoid perpetuating concentrated environmental burdens. Additionally, we will hear from local professionals with expertise in this area, and they will share their approach to initiating policy change in our local communities. Furthermore, we will examine environmental justice policies that are currently being implemented at the state level, as well as a variety of other important environmental topic areas. Please feel free to contact me at jphelps@callutheran.edu if you have any questions about this course. I look forward to seeing you in class!


California Government Code, § 65040.12, (2019). https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=GOV&sectionNum=65040.12

Corburn, J. (2017). Concepts for studying urban environmental justice. Current Environmental Health Reports4(1), 61–67. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40572-017-0123-6

Nigra, A. E., Qixuan Chen, Chillrud, S. N., Lili Wang, Harvey, D., Mailloux, B., Factor-Litvak, P., & Navas-Acien, A. (2020). Inequalities in Public Water Arsenic Concentrations in Counties and Community Water Systems across the United States, 2006-2011. Environmental Health Perspectives128(12), 127001-1-127001–127013. https://doi-org.ezproxy.callutheran.edu/10.1289/EHP7313

Rudolph, L., Harrison, C., Buckley, L. & North, S. (2018). Climate Change, Health, and Equity: A Guide for Local Health Departments. Oakland, CA and Washington D.C., Public Health Institute and American Public Health Association.

Schaider, L. A., Swetschinski, L., Campbell, C., & Rudel, R. A. (2019). Environmental justice and drinking water quality: are there socioeconomic disparities in nitrate levels in U.S. drinking water? Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source18(1), 1–15. https://doi-org.ezproxy.callutheran.edu/10.1186/s12940-018-0442-6

Expanding Inclusive Curriculum Towards the LGBTQ+ Community in California Schools: How and Why Should Educators Do This?

~Erin Niemi

As the conversation surrounding inclusivity is discussed within the education sector, there has been consideration to address prominent heteronormativity in schools and uplift LGBTQ+ students. It has been found that students identifying as a part of the LGBTQ+ community are at increased risks to suffer from chronic stress as a result of stigma-related discrimination (Smith-Millmen, et. al, 2019) are twice as likely to miss school due to sadness and hopelessness than their non-LGBTQ+ peers (Choi, et. al 2017), and report high levels of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse on campus compared to their non-LGBTQ+ peers (Smith-Millmen, et. al, 2019). In order to confront this safety epidemic, educators have begun to explore the ways LGBTQ+ inclusive education could confront safety issues in schools, as well as begin to confront LGBTQ+ erasure and discrimination by omission in all subjects taught.


Benefits of LGBTQ+-Inclusive Education:

Although the passage of The FAIR Education Act, which states that the contributions of “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” people should be included in curriculum addressing the political and social development of California and the United States was passed and implemented in 2012, fewer than 20% of LGBTQ+ students have reported that they have had positive/neutral representations of LGBTQ+ folks in the classroom (Snapp, et. al, 2015). Additionally, research has shown that LGBTQ+ related issues, topics, and people are underrepresented in the courses such as health and sexuality (Snapp, et. al, 2015), math and science (Snapp, et. al, 2015), and although more included in the fields of English, history, and government, LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum in these areas miss several aspects that would make the curriculum more inclusive.  However, when done correctly and with the intention of inclusion, LGBTQ+-inclusive makes school safer for both LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ students, and when this curriculum was implemented, students as a whole heard fewer homophobic slurs, experienced less victimization and bullying, and a reduction of prejudicial attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community (Snapp, et. al, 2015). While LGBTQ+-inclusive curriculum lacks literature in a lot of areas (mostly due to its nonexistence), present research studying it has pointed towards its power to affirm student safety and individuality and extend inclusivity.

How Educators Have Implemented This:

While there is no present standard of LGBTQ+ curriculum, educators and teachers have implemented LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum through the inclusion of literature with LGBTQ+ characters/authors, anti-bullying campaigns, and social justice units. By including and making available reading materials and topics towards LGBTQ+ students, as well as including them next to non-LGBTQ+ topics and literature, educators can combat the lack of representation LGBTQ+ students and educators face both inside and out of the classroom. Additionally, by integrating LGBTQ+-inclusive topics and literature in the classroom, teachers can give students a more realistic version of the global population aside from what they have traditionally heard about in school and inside their home. This way, teachers can promote lifelong learning and tolerance while simultaneously acknowledging diversity and fighting back on stigma (Batchelor, et. al, 2018).

Why Is This Important:

As LGBTQ+ students face disproportionate violence, lack of school safety, and a lack of representation in the classroom, it is important that educators consider adding LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum within their current class material in lieu of policy passage in order to help foster school safety, inclusivity, tolerance, and reduce discrimination the LGBTQ+ community faces. By increasing LGBTQ+ inclusive content in schools, students will have a safer and more tolerant learning environment to learn in, as well as will have a better picture of the global population and all of the people within it. By including LGBTQ+-inclusive topics in the classroom, educators can also help combat discrimination by omission as well as discrimination through homophobic, transphobic, and biphobic stereotypes and prejudiced beliefs. By expanding representation, acknowledging the LGBTQ+ community, and advocating for inclusive content that reflects the world as it is, rather than through the heteronormative and cisgender lens, educators and institutions can begin to make the necessary change in order to protect LGBTQ+ youth and create education that discusses prevalent, yet often unmentioned, current issues that impact the global community as a whole.


Batchelor, K. E., Ramos, M., & Neiswander, S. (2017). Opening Doors: Teaching LGBTQ-themed Young Adult Literature for an Inclusive Curriculum. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 91(1), 29–36.

Choi, S. K., Baams, L., & Wilson, B. D. M. (2017). LGBTQ Youth In Public Schools, Differences Across the State. The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/LGBTQ-Youth-CA-Public-Schools-Oct-2017.pdf.

Smith-Millman, M., Harrison, S. E., Pierce, L., & Flaspohler, P. D. (2019). “Ready, willing, and able”: Predictors of school mental health providers’ competency in working with LGBTQ youth. Journal of LGBT Youth, 16(4), 380–402. https://doi.org/10.1080/19361653.2019.1580659

Snapp, S. D., Burdge, H., Licona, A. C., Moody, R. L., & Russell, S. T. (2015). Students’ Perspectives on LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum. Equity & Excellence in Education, 48(2), 249–265. https://doi.org/10.1080/10665684.2015.1025614

Snapp, S. D., McGuire, J. K., Sinclair, K. O., Gabrion, K., & Russell, S. T. (2015). LGBTQ-inclusive curricula: why supportive curricula matter. Sex Education, 15(6), 580–596. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2015.1042573

How should we think about “development”?

I conceptualized a new course this term, to make up for the study abroad course that I could not offer. I ambitiously called it “understanding development,” keeping in mind the idea that we would discuss what this term means and what we should do about it.

understanding development
source: medium.com

The reaction from students so far is pretty positive and I have an almost full class. The debates and discussions that arise are lively and encouraging. I am taking a critical perspective of the term, in the tradition of James C Scott or Dudley Seers. I am forcing the students to challenge their assumptions and ask some difficult (and seemingly strange) questions.

One student pointed out that the fact that life expectancy for African-American men in NY City can be as short as someone living in Afghanistan “shocking.” This is unfortunately true, and we can see several examples of “underdevelopment”, in the classical sense in our own neighborhoods.

During my drive to the pharmacy this morning, I heard about the eviction of the homeless in Echo Park, in LA. The fact that hundreds of homeless people are being evicted, with no real solution in place is appalling. However, when one thinks about this in the context of existing social order and what we are willing to tolerate or not, things start to make sense. Of course, in every society, different groups have different priorities and usually, the priorities of the ruling classes dominate.

One could look at this cynically and argue that we are witnessing nothing but the impacts of the economic way of thinking, meaning, our privileging of economic growth over other factors: social cohesion, justice, equality, etc. and that may be true. As Stephen Macekura points out in his book “The mismeasure of progress,” this question was posed by pioneers of the study of development such as Dudley Seers. Seers pointed out that we “measure what we value, we value what we measure. To envision the world anew requires new tools, but also a clear articulation of the ethical commitments and politics that give them force.” (p.10).

Macekura further points out that the very nature of statistical measures can be value-laden. For instance, do we consider the non-paid work of women at home as part of economic activity, if not; why? What about volunteer work?

Statistics have been part of the national self-definition process, as Macekura adds that

“Census data, moreover, often defined the boundaries of national belonging and social difference by enumerating who counted— literally— as members of the nation.”

In the current trend of ‘local economies’ and ‘national economies’, recovering after the covid pandemic, one is tempted to ask: what exactly are we talking about here? Does speaking of a ‘national economy’ mean the same thing when we talk about a highly organized and structured society like the US and another such as India, which has a huge informal economy? Is there equivalence in terms and concepts?


Macekura, S. 2020. The mismeasure of progress – Economic growth and its critics. Uni of Chicago Press.