15.679 USA Lab: Bridging the American Divides
USA Lab is MIT Sloan's US-focused Action Learning lab. This course, whose formal name is "USA Lab: Bridging the American Divides," is motivated by concern about America's deep divides and a determination to better understand the issues and uncover solutions. The United States provides a focal point for the course, but as students grapple with the complexities of this country's challenges, they will find universal themes that resonate across the globe.
In this course, students address contemporary issues, seeing them through the prism of history as well as through the on-the-ground experiences of people at work in America's small cities and rural regions. History reminds us that these issues are not new, and conflict is an inherent characteristic of the American experiment. The lenses of place, work, and community enable us to gain a textured perspective as we unpack the underlying causes of conflicts as well as the potential for shaping solutions to them. Students examine new perspectives, challenge assumptions, and place current tensions in the larger context of America's ongoing struggle to balance divergent interests with the common good. Students experience the diversity of America's communities as they conduct fieldwork with organizations in rural regions and small cities across the US, working with community partners who are dynamic and effective local leaders. Both in class and through fieldwork, student teams work on well-defined projects that contribute to strengthening the social and economic fabric of the host communities. The host organizations are innovative local nonprofit and government organizations.
In 2019, the USA Lab “Bridging the American Divides” class won an “Ideas Worth Teaching” award from the Aspen Institute’s Business & Society Program and was recognized as part of a Financial Times report on socially responsible business education.