Students Gain Insight Into Work and Society During Simulated, Classroom Testimony

When electing to take the course, Work, Society, and Quality of Life, Rutgers’ undergraduate students join a dynamic class marked by in-depth group discussions. The culmination of the course—and perhaps most entertaining portion—comes in the form of a multi-faceted final project, involving a simulated testimony to a Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security and a fictitious guest worker bill. On December 6, students in the fall 2011 semester of Work teamed to partake in their final presentation. Highlighted by vibrant, oral arguments and lively cross examinations, the event once again succeeded in challenging students’ thinking while giving insight into the legislative process.

Acting Dean Sue Schurman (in photo above) leads course on Work, Society, and Quality of Life

“This course was designed to expose students to the critical issues and skills that shape the 21st century workplace and to show them how work and employment affect most other important life domains like family and community,” says Sue Schurman, course instructor and acting dean of the School of Management and Labor Relations.

For the approximately 150 students in the course, preparation for the simulated hearing began in early November 2011 and involved several stages. Students were assigned to permanent groups of 6-7 students for the duration of the semester. Each group, a total of 22, was randomly chosen to represent an interest group, a Democratic staff, or a Republican staff committee. They were also asked to complete a position paper. With information from their papers and support from on-site fact checkers in hand, coalitions presented oral arguments to a panel of senators, played by the class' teaching assistants.

As the time counts down, students share their oral arguements with classmates and a fictitious senate committee (pictured on left).

Sattik Deb, director of student services and the class’ co-instructor, played the role of real-life Senator Chuck Schumer, chair of the subcommittee. Deb believes that the legislative simulation gives students an understanding of why workplaces, legislative bodies, and people function in the manner they do.

“The legislative simulation is a multi-dimensional class project that becomes a much larger experience in which students express an eagerness to participate and demonstrate higher-order thinking while developing analytical, critical thinking, and problem solving skills,” says Deb. 

Students in Work are enjoying the proactive collective bargaining experience. Jesse Ziegler, a first-year student, credits the overall course with allowing him to understand different views on wage and economic situations.

“The first thing I can take from this class is to respect some else's opinion. Working in a group didn't mean everyone felt the same way as me. I couldn't just assume my way of thinking was right no matter how clear it may have appeared to me,” says Ziegler. “I had to keep an open mind and analyze why someone else stood by the opinion they had.”

Daniel DeMarco, a second year student, echoes Ziegler’s feelings towards the course. ]

“Consensus decision making, devil's advocates, and standouts are important concepts to learn when working in a group,” says DeMarco. “As someone who is going to enter the workforce in the next couple of years, it is beneficial to have an understanding of group work, collective bargaining, and your rights in the labor market.”

Student groups strategize before their final presentations (seen in photos above and below).

Ismaris Challenger, a third year student, just completed the course in fall 2011. She believes that the class it is fundamental for everyday life.

“I learned a lot about unions and why it is important to have someone represent your rights in the workforce. As an overall picture, they do protect and ensure that the worker’s voice is heard in a company, which to me is very important and is the heart of all companies,” says Challenger.  

For some students like Latisha Hanna, who “absolutely loved the class,” the experience within Work, Society, and Quality of Life has encouraged them to pursue Labor Studies and Employment Relations as their college major. For others, buzz around the class experience is piquing their interests.

“The discussions and topics were all very interesting. After coming back to my dorm and telling my roommate the things we were learning, he is now taking this class next semester,” says Ziegler.

Work, Society, and Quality of Life is taught through Rutgers' School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR) and will be offered for students in spring 2012. Tour this Website for more information on the School of Management and Labor Relations and additional courses.