Biology Lab

Mobility and Community

Life in the United States has been increasingly organized around markets and mobility. Our employment system is designed to encourage workers to move frequently between jobs. Pay increases and career advancement go to those who switch jobs often or threaten to leave. Americans change residences an average of once every seven years, and corporations close factories and open new ones in new locations with great frequency—forcing local governments to pay more attention to this “voting with their feet” than to actual voters in their jurisdictions. Half of marriages end in divorce, while dating sites make it easier for singles to shop for new relationships than to make their current ones work.

The Highline Public Park in New York City. (photo courtesy of the New York City Dept. of Parks and Recreation)

Some celebrate all of these trends on the grounds that mobility is synonymous with freedom. Would any of us want to be bound to a single employer, restricted to our town of birth, or chained to a spouse regardless of how we were treated? But others wonder whether we have struck the right balance here in the contemporary United States. Maybe, if it weren’t so easy to “exit” from our homes, relationships, and jobs, Americans would spend more energy improving their communities, families, and workplaces. Are there alternative ways of balancing mobility and community, and if so, how do they work?


Len Schoppa, Professor of Politics

I have written widely on public policy in Japan, with a book on education policy in Japan (1991); on US-Japan trade negotiations (1997); and the effects of party politics on Japanese policy (2011).  The book most relevant to this forum is my 2006 book Race for the Exits: The Unraveling of Japan’s System of Social Protection (Cornell University Press).  In it I explore how the tendency of Japanese women to “exit” from motherhood by choosing not to marry and have kids—instead of mobilizing through a women’s movement—has delayed needed changes in a society that is still organized around the assumption that men will be breadwinners and women will take responsibility for everything at home. 

Also relevant is a documentary film I recent co-produced, titled “The Slow Way Home.” It explores the divergence in the way children travel to school in the US and Japan. One reason Japanese continue to walk in large numbers, I argue, is because local residents lacking “exit” options have mobilized to keep their neighborhood streets safe for children.  Americans, in contrast, have tended to pull up stakes and move—or drive their kids everywhere—when their neighborhoods start to feel less safe.  If you’re interested, you can view the trailer here: 

As these examples suggest, I’m excited to be part of this Forum, which will give students a chance to explore how societies balance mobility (the opportunity for people who are unhappy with where they live, where they work, and whom they are married to “exit” from those commitments) with community (the value of longer-term commitments and investments in your relationships with neighbors, co-workers, and partners).

Shigehiro Oishi, Professor of Psychology

Over the last 20 years, I have investigated individual and cultural variations in happiness. I have written two books (幸せを科学する”Doing The Science of Happiness” Shinyosha, Tokyo, Japan in Japanese in 2009 and “The Psychological Wealth of Nations: Do Happy People Make a Happy Society?” from Wiley-Blackwell in 2012), and published over 150 journal articles and chapters on happiness, culture, and social ecology. At UVa, I have taught an introduction to social psychology, and various seminars on subjective well-being, cultural psychology, socio-ecological psychology, and culture and personality.

In my research I have tackled such questions as “what is happiness?”, “what predicts happiness?” and “what is the optimal level of happiness?” Lately I have become increasingly interested in societal questions such as “what is a happy society?” and “is a just society a happy society?” To this end, I have also become interested in the potential conflict between individual and societal happiness. Thomas Jefferson famously said that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are the inalienable rights. Following this motto, many Americans do move to pursue better opportunities for education, career, and lifestyle. Although the freedom to move is foundational to an individual’s pursuit of happiness and good life, this could pose a challenge to a community at large. Imagine a community struggling to address chronic flooding problems like Miami. Would the community be able to find a solution to these kinds of problems if most residents were transient and did not care about the long-term well-being of the city? In our forum, we will explore issues such as individual freedom, collective efficacy, and the well-being of individuals and society. 

I am looking forward to exploring these fundamental issues about individual and society with you.


Navigating the Forum

In the first semester (Fall ’16), you will enroll in FORU 1500: Mobility and Community. Team-taught by Len Schoppa and Shigehiro Oishi, the course provides introductory lectures and workshops regarding the role markets and mobility play in the balance of communities, families, and workplaces. You are also encouraged to enroll in ECON 2010 during the Fall ’16 semester.

In the second semester (Spring ’17) you are encouraged to enroll in the following required courses: PSYC 2600: Introduction to Social Psychology and SOC 1010: Introduction to Sociology.

In the third semester (Fall ’17) you are strongly encouraged to study abroad in one of the following four locations: Spain, Japan, South Korea, or Italy. Through this experience you will have the opportunity to explore first-hand the political, cultural, and economic systems of a culture other than the United States. More information can be found by clicking “Study Abroad Component” below.

In the fourth and final semester (Spring ’18) you will enroll in FORU 2500: Capstone Seminar. We will offer two separate seminars (20 students each), organized by each of the faculty who co-taught the introductory course in term one. Both seminars will task students with taking the lead in contrasting how Japan, South Korea, Spain, Italy, and the United States have struck a balance between mobility and community. Students will deliver presentations and write research papers comparing various aspects of life across two of these societies. How do labor markets compare? Marriage and dating? Residential life? How do these differences in structure affect the quality of community, family, and individual life? Students will be asked to draw on coursework at UVA and abroad as well as quantitative data relevant to their topic that they collected abroad or through library research, but they will also be invited to share insights based on literature and personal observations while living abroad. Presentations will be followed by group discussion. Papers will be compiled in the form of an edited volume (pdf document).



Core Required Courses (15 Credits)

FORU 1500: Introduction to Mobility and Community (Fall ’16), Instructors: Schoppa and Oishi
ECON 2010: Principles of Economics: Microeconomics (Fall ’16)
PSYC 2600: Intro to Social Psychology (Spring ’17)
SOC 1010: Intro to Sociology (Spring ’17)
FORU 2500: Capstone Seminar (Spring ’18), Instructors: Schoppa and Oishi

Electives (15 Credits)

Select a total of 5 additional courses from the lists below, with at least one course from each Category:

Category 1

  • PSYC 3005: Research Methods and Data Analysis I
  • STAT 1100: Chance: an Introduction to Statistics 
  • STAT 2020: Introduction to Biostatistics
  • STAT 2120: Probability in Statistics

Category 2

  • BIOL 1040: The DNA Revolution in Science and Society
  • BIOL 1050: Genetics for an Informed Citizenry
  • EVSC 1010: Introduction to Environmental Science
  • EVSC 1200: Elements of Ecology
  • EVSC 2200: Plants, People and Culture
  • EVSC 3020: GIS Methods
  • PSYC 2200: Survey of Neural Basis of Behavior
  • PSYC 2300: Intro to Perception

Category 3

  • ARH 1020: History of World Architecture and Urbanism
  • DRAM 2020: Acting I
  • HIEA 3XXX: Japanese or Korean History Course – at UVA or during Study Abroad Term (Fall ‘17)
  • HIEU 3XXX: Spanish or Italian History Course – at UVA or during Study Abroad Term (Fall ’17)
  • HIUS 3671: History of the Civil Rights Movement
  • ITAL 3XXX: Course on Modern Italian Literature, Media, or Film – at UVA or taken in Italy
  • JPTR 3XXX: Course on Modern Japanese Literature – at UVA or taken in Japan
  • KRTR 3XXX: Course on Korean Literature, media, or Film
  • PHIL 1710: Human Nature
  • SPAN 3XXX: Course on Modern Spanish Literature, Media, or Film – at UVA or taken in Spain

Category 4

  • ANTH 1050: Anthropology of Globalization
  • ANTH 2120: Concept of Culture
  • ANTH 2810: Human Origins
  • ANTH 3129: Marriage, Mortality, Fertility
  • ANTH 3105: Anthropology of Romance
  • ECON 3330: Public Choice
  • PLAN 3860: Cities & Nature
  • PLAP 3500: Political Economy
  • PLCP 3120: Politics and Political Economy of the Welfare State
  • PLCP 3230: Public Policy Challenges of the 21st Century
  • PLCP 3500: Grassroots Politics
  • PLPT 3020: Modern Political Thought
  • SOC 2052: Sociology of the Family
  • SOC 3490: Cities and Cultures
  • SOC 3820: Social Movements

Study Abroad Component

This Forum strongly recommends study abroad in either Spain, Japan, South Korea, or Italy in Fall 2017. The Valencia Program in Spain and Siena Program in Italy offer a fall program of coursework that is priced close to in-state prices. UVA also has several exchange partners in Tokyo and Seoul that offer courses in English, which allow students to pay UVA tuition. Need-based grants are available to assist in covering extra costs of travel and living overseas.

Please note that the Valencia Program in Spain is fully immersive and will require students to have either completed SPAN 2020 or placed out of the Spanish Foreign Language requirement prior to the Fall 2017 semester.

We understand that some students need to work during term-time or have other extenuating circumstances that make it impossible to spend a term abroad. In those cases, we will work to identify a local opportunity for you to interact extensively with families and individuals from immigrant or other backgrounds that provide and experience that parallels what we want our students to gain from study overseas. We may, for example, ask you to volunteer with the local chapter of the International Rescue Committee, or work with local migrant workers. For those students who do not study abroad, this co-curricular experience will be required for successful completion of the Forum requirements.

For more information on potential Study Abroad programs, click the following links:

UVA in Valencia

UVA in Siena

UVA in Korea: Korea University & Seoul National University

UVA in Japan

Required Summer ’16 Reading

Peter Lovenheim, In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time (Perigee, 2010).