This post was originally published on Defender Network

By Aswad Walker

Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs (BJ-ML SOPA) has begun offering “mini-courses” as part of its community engagement initiative. But it’s still not too late to register.

The inaugural mini-courses, which will be offered during the Spring 2023 semester, will cover four major areas: Introduction to Texas Government, Introduction to American Government, Introduction to the American Criminal Justice System, and Introduction to International Relations. Each course will be taught by a BJ-ML SOPA faculty member.

George Kieh, dean of the BJ-ML SOPA, says the initiative has two interrelated goals.

“Texas Southern University is a state institution, paid for by taxpayers,” said Kieh. “And as the School of Public Affairs, I think we have on behalf of TSU, a responsibility to bring the expertise we have within the school to bear on helping to address community challenges. The mini-courses, we believe, will help members of our community to develop a knowledge base about Texas government, American government, the American criminal justice system and international relations that would then in turn position them well to play their role as informed and engaged citizens, not just in the city of Houston or Harris County or Metro Houston or the state of Texas, but much more broadly. Because we believe that an informed citizen will not only just make a valuable contribution to his or her family, but to the various communities in which that individual is in.”

Kieh says the second goal of the mini-courses is to honor TSU’s designation as a “special purpose institution for urban programming,” a charge received by the state legislature in 1973.

“Part of that responsibility, which is tied to the first goal, TSU is supposed to offer programs that are supposed to help address community challenges and community issues. So, by offering the mini-courses, the BJ-ML SOPA, on behalf of TSU, is happy to fulfill that special destination status,” said Kieh.

We believe that an informed citizen will not only just make a valuable contribution to his or her family, but to the various communities in which that individual is in.

George Kieh, dean of the BJ-ML SOPA

According to Kieh, the initiative is truly a community effort.

“The idea about those four specific course topics came from a meeting I had last year with faith-based leaders from Metro Houston as part of our community engagement and community outreach activities. The purpose of that meeting was to find ways in which our school could work with them in contributing in whatever ways we could to the members of the various congregations. So, they suggested those four areas,” said Kieh, who added, the original idea was to offer the courses only to faith-based leaders.

“However, after some consultations and the generation of interest from others, the decision was then made to open it up to any resident of Metro Houston.”

The dates of the four courses are as follows: Introduction to Texas Government (Jan. 7-28), Introduction to American Government (Feb. 4-25), Introduction to the American Criminal Justice System (March 4-25) and Introduction to International Relations (May 6-June 3).

Each course is four weeks in duration, and participants will meet in person once a week (Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon). Participants will receive a certificate at the end of each course.

Participation in these courses is open to community leaders and residents of the Metro Houston Area. To register, contact Mr. James Joseph, the BJ-ML SOPA’s consultant for community engagement and outreach at