Major and Career Exploration in Social and Environmental Justice (CPBL 101/FNDS 101)

This is a practice-based learning course. Practice-Based Learning (PBL) focuses on applying what is being learned and learning by doing. In this course, students will work in teams to address an applied problem within the theme of Social and Environmental Justice.

Course Project: 

“Mapping Environmental In/Justice In the Motor City”

This course will focus on the ecological restoration of local communities burdened by a history of environmental racism and the impact of climate change. The course project will emphasize GIS technologies as a tool in the development of plans to support environmental and social resilience. Students will learn how to integrate data from multiple sources into story maps that will illustrate community needs and assets. In addition, they will use these story maps to assist in the development of nature-based solutions to social and environmental problems.

Visual evidence of landscape variation along the proposed northern route of the Joe Louis Greenway, showing urban spontaneous vegetation and structural residue of commercial, residential and industrial development.  (from the 2020 article “Wastelands, Greenways and Gentrification: Introducing a Comparative Framework with a Focus on Detroit, USA”)

More about this course

This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the issue of environmental justice. You will be exposed to perspectives from multiple academic areas in defining and addressing a set of problems related to the uneven distribution of environmental hazards and benefits.  A major goal of the course is to help students explore different majors and careers and to develop connections in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters and across campus.

  • What will this class be like?
    • You will be spending time in the field (not just the classroom) working in teams with faculty, fellow students, and community partners 
  • What will I do in this class?
    • You will engage in hands-on projects working on real-world problems
  • Why should I take this class?
    • You will learn to approach serious and complex problems from multiple angles and build valuable skills in the process.

Course number: CPBL 101

Number of Credits: 4

Search UM-Dearborn Class Schedule to find out more.

Dearborn Discovery Core requirements met: Critical and Creative Thinking

Meet your faculty members: Paul Draus, Professor of Sociology and Jacob Napieralski, Professor of Geology

One of the benefits of taking a Practice-Based Learning course is getting to know faculty mentors that can support you throughout your college career. In this class you will be working with Paul Draus and Jacob Napieralski, faculty members in the disciplines of Sociology and Geology.  

Although Paul and Jacob come from very different academic backgrounds, they have worked together on numerous projects related to the distribution of risks and benefits in the post-industrial landscape of Detroit, mapping everything from illicit drugs to community gardens. Their first collaboration involved the use of Geographic Positioning Systems (GPS) to understand the daily routines of street sex workers, illicit drug users and people in recovery.  They have since partnered on an international collaboration comparing the spatial distribution of historical trauma and green space in Detroit, and Berlin, Germany, and published an article about the potential impact of the Joe Louis Greenway.   

In addition to scholarship, they have also been known to collaborate in local coffee shops and on Rouge River kayak tours, as well as on the football pitch.  At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, they teamed up to present a public lecture entitled “Ghosts, Germs and Maps” as part of the Pandemic Perspectives series.  They are currently working on a project focused on Detroit alleyways as sites of neighborhood regeneration. 

Check out Prof. Draus' 2022 CV and his ResearchGate page to see some of the papers that he and Jacob have co-authored.  Dr, Napieralski’s CV and research can be found through his faculty website.  You might also check out the Study Abroad programs that Dr. Napieralski has led to places such as Cyprus, Iceland and Montserrat.

Have questions about this course? Email Dr. Draus or Dr. Napieralski.

Above: Dr. Draus with students learning from residents about Detroit alleyways.

Below: Dr. Napieralski and Dr. Draus in the Cyprus buffer zone, a restricted area since 1974 that includes the remnants of an abandoned airport (in background).