Fall 2023 practitioner-led study groups

These not-for-credit study groups provide an opportunity for students to delve deeply into topics and apply theory and research to real world challenges. Enrollment in each group is limited to 25 students. 

Leadership and Networks — Preparing for Future Opportunities
Meeting dates are Thursdays 9/21, 10/5, 10/19, 10/26, 11/2. Each session will meet in Leung Conference Room from 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Registration closes on Friday, September 15.


A discussion group hosted by the Watson Institute, in collaboration with the U-FLi Center. Developed alongside student leaders, guest speakers will lead skill building, leadership-focused discussions during five sessions. Students will be joined by impressive leaders, many with personal experience as first generation or low income college students.

September 21 - Tom Perez ‘83, Senior Advisor, Assistant to the President, and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Biden Administration

October 5 - Robin Juliano '03, former clerk and staff director for the House Committee on Appropriations

October 19 - Leon Rodriguez ‘84, former director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

October 26 - Angel Brunner ’94, CEO & Founder, EB5 Capital, Trustee, Brown Corporation

November 2 - David Blanding M.A. ’09, Ph.D. ’13, Associate Professor of the Practice of International and Public Affairs, Faculty Director of the Master of Public Affairs program


Human Rights and Technology
Malika Saada Saar
Meeting dates are Thursdays, 9/14, 10/12, 10/26, 11/9, 12/7. Each session will meet in McKinney Conference Room from 2:30-4:00 p.m. (Leung Conference Room on October 26)
Registration closes on Wednesday, September 11.


The Human Rights and Technology study group will explore the emerging and complex intersection between human rights and advancements in technology. We will reckon with, and critically analyze, the racial justice, gender equity and human rights implications of technology. Will AI further entrench hierarchies of racial, gender and economic privilege, or can we forge AI for justice that upends those hierarchies? Can tech be leveraged to accurately document and support the prosecution of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity? What does it mean to innovate from a rights-based framework that centers underrepresented communities? Are our smartphones human rights tools that advance the work of human rights lawyers to bear witness; or do existing and new technologies continue the oppressive tactics of state surveillance and harassment against human rights defenders and emerging justice movements?


Exploring Hyper-Polarization in Modern American Politics: How Did it Happen and Where Do We Go From Here?
Rep. James Langevin
Meeting dates are Wednesdays, 9/27, 10/11, 10/25, 11/8, 11/15. Each session will meet in McKinney Conference Room from 2:00-3:30 p.m.
Registration closes on Friday, September 22. 


This course will also examine the tools of division that are being used to pit Americans against each other. We will explore the evolving media environment, including the rise of social media, and we will study how our foreign adversaries are taking advantage of these elements to further divide us and undermine our national security. Students will also spend time discussing the structural contributors to political polarization, including the barriers to bipartisan legislating, the increase of partisan gerrymandering, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and the rise of the SuperPACs, as well as shifting political incentives.

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Raag Sense
Ali Sethi

*This study group is hosted by The Saxena Center for Contemporary South Asia
Meeting dates are Mondays, 10/16, 10/23, 10/20. Each session will meet in  Winnick Chapel, Brown RISD Hillel, 80 Brown Street from 3:00-5:00 p.m. 
Registration closes on Friday, September 29th.


What is a raga? In this study group we learn to recognize, differentiate and perform the “melodic frameworks” of precolonial India. Students engage with various schemes of Indian musicology. This study group is formatted like a traditional ‘baithak’ or salon.