DPI-391: Race, Inequality, and American Democracy

Khalil Gibran MuhammadProfessor Khalil Muhammad’s work in DPI-391, “Race, Inequality, and American Democracy,” displays clear, bold, and important innovations in both course content and pedagogy. By using what one student nominator referred to as “a mixed-methods approach” to the critical examination of the history of race and racial inequality in the United States, Professor Muhammad expanded the boundaries within which our students view, understand, and evaluate public policy and its role in and impact on America and American society. In this course, Professor Muhammad and his students took a broad and interdisciplinary approach to examining the intersections of race and public policy over a historical arc – bringing together traditional readings from textbooks and scholarly articles with primary source materials, teaching cases, art, photography, and video. And to bring all of this home, in a literal sense, Professor Muhammad’s final course assignment tasked students with applying the lessons they had learned throughout the course to the curriculum at HKS. This direct application of course lessons to the current academic context within which students were working was cited by many nominees as a powerful and transformative learning experience.

In addition to these innovations in curricular content, Professor Muhammad’s nominators also cited his use of a wide range of pedagogical strategies – including lecture, class discussion, case analysis, small group work, debate, and role play – as an innovative approach to creating both a challenging and inclusive learning environment.

Samples of innovation:

Taking a broad and interdisciplinary approach when examining the intersection of race and public policy, over a historical arc

Examining this intersection through teaching cases, art, photography, and video, in addition to traditional textbooks and scholarly articles

Inviting students to apply their understanding to the HKS curriculum, contextualizing course lessons through a current academic framework

Promoting a challenging and inclusive learning environment for all students

"Professor Muhammad designed a course that accomplished a unique feat of teaching history in conversation with the present. Each historical lesson regarding the origins of racism was juxtaposed against a headline from recent news--reminding us how proximal these issues are to our lives as students, members of the Harvard community, and (for some of us) as Americans." —HKS Nominator

"Professor Muhammad engaged us in a variety of innovative ways--he used multimedia, art, video, literature, guest lecturers and historical images to teach us about the history of race in America. Above all, he was an incredibly powerful lecturer and he has a unique ability to weave the past and present together, illuminating how race continues to play a major role in our society today."—HKS Nominator