The Choices Program is a thirty-year old non-profit organization that develops social studies curricula informed by university-level scholarship for secondary schools, and this fall it officially became part of the Brown History Department.
Founded in 1988 at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Choices was conceived as part of an initiative to engage the U.S. public in considering contested international policy issues. Under the leadership of founding director Susan Graseck, the Choices Program expanded its focus to create curriculum content on international policy, world history, and U.S. history. Today, Choices curricula is used by more than one million students annually in all 50 states and over 200 international school and considered a leader in supplementary social studies curriculum.
Photo: History faculty Francoise Hamlin and Naoko Shibusawa (left) celebrate the launch of the new partnership with the staff of the Choices Program: left to right, Susannah Bechtel, Kathleen Magiera, Mimi Stephens, and Andy Blackadar.
Choices is beginning a new era with an exciting partnership with the department under the leadership of a rotating Faculty Director from History. Last summer, Graseck left her position as director of Choices and began her retirement. “I leave knowing that the work of Choices is in good hands, not only with its dedicated staff and faculty at Brown but with the universities, school district leaders, teachers, civic engagement programs, and foundations across the country with whom we have worked closely for many years.” Choices will continue its work on critical international policy issues and current events, but the new partnership with History means that it will be able to broaden its geographical diversity and deepen its temporal range. New units under discussion include: a history of race and the Middle Ages, a global history of incarceration, and an examination of slavery in the Americas that focuses on the experiences of enslaved people. Building on the program’s three decades of experience in curriculum development, History faculty expertise on Africa, East Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia, North America, and Europe will add a significant new dimension to Choices curriculum offerings.
The inaugural Choices Faculty Director is Associate Professor Naoko Shibusawa. In her new role as director, Shibusawa is enthusiastic about building on Choices’ strengths and “empowering students to use the past more mindfully.” The partnership with Choices, she says, “will help all of us think of ways to study and teach the past in order to imagine a better future.”