Design Justice Minor

The Minor in Design Justice is offered in collaboration with the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH) and the College of Engineering (EGR) at Michigan State University. The minor offers students the opportunity to critically examine how design and justice relate to one another in the pursuit of justice and sustainable communities.


The Design Justice Minor draws on and builds upon the commitment of both Engineering and the RCAH to building a just and sustainable world. It prepares students to address the challenges of global conflict, globalization, climate change, and sustainability and how we design for justice and human sustainability. Students will learn to identify, design, and implement creative solutions that address and acknowledge human conflict. The minor also offers experiential learning opportunities in community-engaged design projects, education abroad programs, and collaborations with organizations working to find solutions to complex design problems at home, at work, in the community, and around the globe. 

The minor is available as an elective to students who are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs at Michigan State University.

Students who plan to complete the requirements of the minor should consult Marissa King, the academic advisor in RCAH, at

Requirements for the Minor in Design Justice 

Students must complete a minimum of 16 credits from the following: 

1. Both of the following courses: 

  • EGR 100 Introduction to Engineering Design (2 credits) 
  • RCAH 205 Transcultural Relations through the Ages: Design Justice (4 credits)  

2. One of the following courses: 

  • RCAH 205 Transcultural Relations through the Ages (4 credits)
  • RCAH 235 Introduction to Language and Culture Studies (4 credits)
  • RCAH 316 Topics in the Arts (3 credits)

3. One of the following courses: 

  • RCAH 112 Writing, Research and Technologies (4 credits)
  • RCAH 202 The Presence of the Past (4 credits)

4. One of the following courses: 

  • RCAH 325 Methods in Community Engagement (4 credits)
  • RCAH 326 Topics in Community Engagement (3 credits) 

Course Information 

Fall 2024 Courses

RCAH 202: Presence of the Past

Section 004 (Hamilton-Wray)
Oral Traditions and the Making of History

Oral tradition plays a vital role in the construction and reproduction of “official histories.” However, the important role of oral tradition in the construction of history is often not acknowledged. This course makes visible the presence and role of oral tradition in history-making, with particular focus on Africana oral traditions apparent in popular and folk cultural forms, including fables, music, proverbs, cuisine, humor, literature, and film. Through an exploration of various methods of conveying, documenting, and archiving the past, students interrogate the transmission and reception of oral history, the reliability of autobiography as history, the affective value of imagined histories, and the liberatory potential of Afrofuturism. The course asks: What do these multiple histories reveal about how a people, a community or a nation define themselves/itself? How is history critiqued, shaped, and employed for the present and the future? How are official histories understood when studied alongside oral tradition and other non-conventional sources, texts, and artifacts?

RCAH 205: Transcultural Relations through the Ages

Section 750 (Delgado V)
Design Justice

In this on-campus semester course and winter break education abroad program, we will collaborate remotely with water and forest protectors in Costa Rica to apply new ideas about justice; engagement; the design of things, programs, and projects; and the arts and humanities for a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world. Then, December 14th, 2024 to December 21st, 2024, we travel to Palmichal, Costa Rica, to engage directly with local youth to design, build, and pilot a new program – modeled after the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps – to connect youth with art, coffee culture, cloud forest reserve design and forest management. Each night in Costa Rica, we will consider our experiences and accomplishments using group dialogue and artmaking with the area’s vibrant sense of community, cloud forests, and clear rivers as inspiration. We end the trip with a visit by boat to coastal and island wildlife refuges in the Bay of Nicoya.

RCAH 235: Introduction to Language and Culture

Section 001 (Torrez)
Language, identity, education and schooling

“When a language dies, so much than words are lost. Language is the dwelling place of ideas that do not exist elsewhere. It is a prism through which to see the world.”  (Robin Wall Kimmerer).

In this introductory course on language and culture, this section will investigate the role of language and culture in local communities. Engaging in meaningful inter/intra dialogue has never been more important than at this moment in time when we are learning to reconnect. In this course, we will engage in topics relating to language loss, regeneration, and impact of language on one’s identities. We consider the educational system’s role in sociolinguistic practices and the ways in which youth have (and continue) to reclaim cultural identities through language. Additionally, we will discuss the relationship between language and power as they relate to newcomers and Indigenous communities. 

RCAH 316: Topics in Arts

Section 001 (Sheridan)
Digital Storytelling

Digital media allow us to tell stories in new ways. Creatives from a variety of backgrounds construct digital narratives that incorporate stop motion, digital animation, still photography, hand-drawn art, music, ambient sounds, the written word, and other media elements. In this class we will ask, What makes a compelling digital story? What new ways can we tell stories in digital media? We will explore these questions together by making and sharing our own digital stories

RCAH 325: Methods in Community Engagement

Section 001 (Torrez)
Community based research: Intergenerational dialogues with Latine and Indigenous communities

“The heart of justice is truth telling, seeing ourselves and the world the way it is rather than the way we want it to be. More than ever before we, as a society, need to renew a commitment to truth telling.” -Bell Hooks 

In this course, students will work with youth and community leaders from the Greater Lansing Area’s Latine and Indigenous communities to learn stories of strength, resistance and love. Meeting weekly with youth through afterschool programs, we will learn the basic principles of community-based action research through a culturally responsive approach with a focus on Latine and Indigenous studies. Together we will engage in intergenerational conversations with the Lansing School District community to deepen our understanding of how the local community has sustained (and continues to advocate for) a strong sense of connectedness. Working together, we will co-create materials (visual, written, and audio) to be distributed in the community. 

RCAH 326: Topics in Community Engagement

Section 002 (Delgado, V)
Topics in Civic Engagement: Design for the Common Good

How do we use design to respond to the impacts of conflict, globalization, and climate change on communities and the environment? In this fully remote course, students will learn community participatory design methodologies and co-generate solutions to community challenges using the arts, humanities, reflection, social responsibility, community voice, and transparency. We will review the latest ideas about participatory design, community autonomy, and biocultural heritage; engage with ideas and modalities in the arts and humanities, including storytelling, histories, ethics, and visual arts; and develop the critical engagement skills necessary to collaborate with Centro Cultural Riochante and Monteverde youth on a project that combines public art and cloud forest design and management in a small cloud forest reserve next to this important community center.

RCAH 326: Topics in Community Engagement

Section 003 (Delgado, G)
Art with Incarcerated Youth

This course investigates the history of mass incarceration in the US and how it impacts youth and communities across the county; to understand why art and educational programming is critical to the rehabilitation, well-being, and empowerment of marginalized populations; and to gain skills in best practices necessary to design and facilitate safe and inclusive creative community engagement projects. During weekly visits to the youth detention facility, students will co-facilitate creative learning opportunities and collaborate with youth in making art in a variety of forms including poetry and ‘zine making.