Third World Center Perspectives: Alphabet Soup (WRIT, LILE, DVPS)


Hello and welcome! We are Dolma Ombadykow and Olivia Veira. We’re both first years and will be blogging the Third World Center perspective for the Bruin Club blog this year! It’s going to be excellent.

Hey readers! It’s Olivia. Dolma and I decided that we should introduce when we’re talking because we are not always a unit (crazy, right?).

Preregistration just happened, which sounds like it shouldn’t be stressful. But trust me. It is.

First of all, My roommate and I woke up at 7:00 to go to the SciLi (Sciences Library) to make sure that we would have the best internet connection to register for our top choice classes. When we got there, we continually refreshed the page to make sure we would be the first to register at 8:00 a.m. so we could get into the classes we want.

One of my favorite things about Brown is that we have AWESOME classes and FANTASTIC professors. But this perk also becomes the worst part about preregistration. There are a TON of great classes and it could be really easy to get lost in the sea of awesomenesss that is Brown’s classes, but classes are labeled in several ways to help students navigate through registration.

Of course, there are the standard labels like time, department, level (i.e., 0100, 0200). But you can also filter out classes that are designated “Writing,” “Liberal Learning,” and “Diversity Perspectives,” classes. The Dean of the College decides which classes should be classified as which. Some classes, like Dolma’s Urban Studies course, are designated as all three!

Writing, or “WRIT” courses are ones that fulfill your single requirement at Brown. If you haven’t heard, Brown does not use the core curriculum. Instead we have this cool thing called the new curriculum, which was created in 1969, so it’s not exactly new. Anyway, I don’t have any required classes outside of my concentration. So if I’m an English concentrator and I don’t ever want to take a math class, I never have to because there are no math requirements within the English concentration. I know, it’s awesome. More than awesome. It’s bats in a belfry.

Back to WRIT classes. You have to take two “WRIT” designated classes. The first must be taken within your first two years, the second during your second two years. There are WRIT classes in almost every department, so it’s an easy requirement. People usually fulfill it without realizing it. For example, I was looking at my schedule this morning and was like, “Oh. That’s a WRIT class. Awesome.”

The second designation is Liberal Learning. Liberal Learning classes emphasize creating a useful product at the end of the class. That product could be a paper, presentation, report, or a project. This is a really vague description — I know. But I think it’s vague on purpose: there’s a huge range of things you could think of to be “useful products.” It gives both the Dean of the College and the Professors room for experimentation and creativity.

The final designation is Diversity Perspectives, or DVPS. This sounds pretty self-explanatory, except there should definitely be an exclamation point at the end of this: DVPS! These classes provide a different perspective than the one that is usually portrayed in any subject area. Different perspective, also vague, could mean a lot of things: different religious, gender, ideological, ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, etc. perspective. Some examples of DVPS classes are: Black Lavender: Black Gay/Lesbian Plays/Dramatic Constructions in the American Theatre; Kaballah: Jews, Mysticism, and Magic; and Gender, Power, Gods, just to name a few.

Dolma here! I’m currently taking “The City: An Introduction Urban Studies” from Jan Pacewicz, an introductory Urban Studies, diversity perspectives (DVPS), liberal learning (LILE), and writing designated (WRIT) course offering this semester. The course surveys the way that everyone from sociologists to biologists to economists think about the formation and structure of the city. We’ve discussed the systematic development of the ghetto, the way that cities tend to mimic overly glorified amusement parks, and the potentially inherent differences in the people who live in the city and the relationships that they form, as compared to people in more rural settings.

The latter discussion particularly interested me, as I am one of a few people in the course who come from a non-urban location (interior Alaska does not, in fact, scream metropolis). For example, Louis Wirth, a Chicago School sociologist from the early 20th century suggests that people in rural spaces form primary relationships whereas people in urban spaces form secondary relationships. Primary relationships are more complicated and arguably more “sincere” – an example being the local butcher, who also is your third cousin or your uncle’s friend or your little league coach from when you were seven. Secondary relationships, like the ones formed in cities, suggest that the butcher is just the butcher, and that the lack of intimate relationships could potentiate a more efficient, fast-paced (urban?) lifestyle – you see people as services rather than as a source of conversation, and you, in turn, don’t arrive late to that really important lunch meeting because you didn’t spend an unexpected twenty minutes catching up with the butcher about his niece who just won the science tournament.

What makes this class really unique is the neighborhood project. Near the beginning of the semester, the class breaks down into small groups and picks a neighborhood of Providence to study with the goal of presenting the neighborhood to the class. My group chose Olneyville, a neighborhood on the west side of Providence, a 60% hispanic, post-industrial area that has recently experienced a resurgence of the arts through live-work art gallery spaces like the Plant on Valley Street. Since the city is, in its most basic form, a community, studying a community like Olneyville has been a really imperative facet of the course structure this semester. We’ve been able to apply readings and postulations about why and how a city forms to the neighborhood, and it really forces us to apply what we’re learning to the spaces we’re living in. For example, the mural (pictured above) is a project of the Olneyville Housing Corporation in conjunction with the Nickerson Community Center, with the goal of bridging the gap between childhood optimism, goal setting, and achieving those seemingly unreachable goals (hmmm…sounds like a metaphor for the college admissions process?).

We will be co-blogging the first year, Third World Center perspective for the Bruin Club this year. If you have any questions or suggestions for what you’d like to see happen with our blog, please send us an email! We don’t bite (promise!).

We hope to hear from all of you!

Olivia & Dolma


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