This year, students in Associate Professor of Sociology Renee Monson’s Sociology 375: “Social Policy” course hosted the HWS Game of Life, a public education project aimed at educating students about social welfare policies in different states and countries.
“Our group came with the idea after brainstorming ways that we could reach out to students and inform them about the status of a welfare system that affects us all in some way, such as where our federal tax money goes and personal experience,” explains Duncan Stafford ’12. “We wanted to engage students and we thought a game would be a fun way to get people interested in the subject matter.”
Like Hasbro’s Game of Life, players have different life events happen to them – marriage, kids, divorce, etc. However, during the course of the HWS Game of Life, Monson’s students emphasize the welfare policies available to each student based on their place of residence and sex, including policies pertaining to maternity leave, financial support for children, and unemployment.
“We aimed to make students more aware of social welfare policies and how those policies can affect their lives,” explains Hannah Meyer ’14. “People of course assume that they’ll never be on welfare but we wanted to show them that in the game of life, things can happen randomly, and it could be them who need those benefits, but they’re not there.”
Many students found the game to be enlightening and eagerly went from one station to another, although many were disappointed by the lack of support for single parents, unemployed workers and multi-child households in some countries.
“I have a son, no job and the unemployment rate is 8.4 percent; life is rough,” notes Nick Stewart ’15, who was placed in the United Kingdom during his turn at the HWS Game of Life.
Student had the opportunity to experience life events that mirrored real world problems for people, including having children out of wedlock while unemployed, losing a job while divorced and with multiple children.
“I think those who played the game not only came away with new knowledge but, even more important, new questions about how these policies work and why there is so much variation,” says Monson, who notes that the students’ addition of public education campaigns will be incorporated into future versions of the course. “I think the students did a great job at making a very complex set of policies clear and comprehensible for non-experts. You can’t ask for more than that from a public education campaign!”
Other groups in the class chose to engage in different ways through their public education projects, including a stall wall poster campaign, writing an article for the Martini and having more personal conversations with family and friends.
“All of the students worked so hard to think of creative and fun ways to communicate to their peers the kind of information they had been learning in my ‘Social Policy’ seminar,” says Monson. “As a result, I think they ended up learning the material in a deeper and more comprehensive way.”