Public syllabus examines significance of Harris’ vice presidency


The University of Michigan has developed a collection of educational resources designed to help scholars, teachers, and learners at U-M and around the world examine the significance of Kamala Harris’ historic ascension to the U.S. vice presidency.

The Democracy & Debate Theme Semester, in partnership with the National Center for Institutional Diversity in LSA, has launched the Kamala Harris Public Syllabus, which seeks to contextualize the inauguration of the first woman of color to hold the nation’s second-highest office.

The syllabus reflects a national collaborative effort. A call inviting suggestions for books, articles, podcasts and other educational material was issued to scholars across the nation, with NCID receiving more than 100 suggestions. The submissions were curated by an editorial board of U-M faculty and staff.

The materials are designed for classroom use and other avenues of critical engagement and debate. The editorial board anticipates that the collected materials will find their way into course syllabi and areas of engaged learning over the summer and well into the fall semester as Harris’ legacy and the Biden-Harris administration continue to unfold.

“This collective public syllabus project is as much about the future as the past and the present,” said Angela Dillard, chair of the theme semester’s academic advisory committee, and professor of history, and of Afroamerican and African studies.

“The multidisciplinary editorial board was excited about the positive response to our call for contributions, and about the ways that the various submissions pointed to the value of attempting to do this admittedly early-stage evaluation of the significance of Vice President Harris, in ways that honor the diversity of her identities and background. This feels like the perfect way to conclude our theme semester’s academic initiatives.”

Designed for teaching and learning about free speech and the exchange of ideas, democratic engagement from a global perspective and what it means to be a member of a democratic society, the theme semester supported a vast array of activities that engaged thousands of U-M community members across the globe.

The Kamala Harris Public Syllabus is published at a time when the United States continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the disproportionate impacts on certain communities, the rise of anti-Asian hate, the murder of George Floyd, another increase in migrants at the southern border, and myriad other issues.

The syllabus is the culminating event of U-M’s Democracy & Debate Theme Semester’s year of deep engagement in the issues of the 2020 election cycle. It underscores the theme semester’s goals, as well as U-M’s ongoing commitment to engage with the debates in, and challenges to, American democracy.

“This was a great opportunity to mobilize scholars and scholarship to develop a resource that will facilitate the exploration of how Harris’ vice presidency might help us think more critically about movement toward a more diverse and inclusive union,” said NCID director Tabbye Chavous, associate vice president for research, and professor of education and psychology.

The editorial board intends for the syllabus to continue to be updated as news emerges, articles are written, podcasts are recorded, and articles are published. Contributions to the syllabus can be submitted to


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