RIC professor’s new book examines curricular change in higher ed

Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur
Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur, RIC assistant professor of sociology, is the author of a new book, “Student Activism and Curricular Change in Higher Education.”

Using six case studies, Arthur merges ideas from organizational theory and social movements to explain how activists create new disciplines at the college level.

“The book looks at the dynamics within institutions,” Arthur said, “how faculty and students create pressure on their institutions to provide [new] programs. A lot of people think curriculum change is always a top down process from the administration or perhaps due to faculty.

“Faculty and students basically have to work together to create a social movement. They are working from a position where they don’t have power to convince the institution that it should adopt [new] programs.”

Arthur’s book focuses on the creation of three disciplines – Women’s Studies, Asian American Studies and Queer/LGBT Studies – at colleges around the country.

Arthur is currently extending her work on curriculum change and has enlisted the help of three undergraduate research assistants in the Sociology Department to help her with a large-scale data collection. Many different institutions have variants of the names that Arthur uses to describe the disciplines, for example Women’s Studies may also be called Gender Studies, which creates problems when trying to obtain information on a national level.

Since she arrived at RIC in 2008, Arthur has become involved in student life as the advisor to the National Black Law Students Association, which provides resources for students aspiring to attend law school. Arthur, who teaches classes on law and sociology, got involved when a group of students from her department wanted to start the organization.

Arthur teaches sociological research methods, which is a required course for all sociology and criminal justice majors. The two-semester sequence of research classes allows students to get hands-on experience on how sociologists get their research done, a process which Arthur says is a very positive experience for those going on to graduate school.

“For my research assistants the working on the project is really great,” Arthur said. “It helps them get a job or get into graduate school. I did the same thing when I was an undergraduate and I know it helped me enormously.”

Arthur’s new book was published as a part of the Mobilization Series on Social Movements, Protest and Culture. It is available at Amazon.com.