Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action

Certificate in Leadership and Social Change

Female student with megaphoneThe 18-unit Certificate of Achievement in Leadership and Social Change prepares students to be community leaders, agents of change, and responsible participants in civic life in general.

Participants gain in-depth understanding of the social structures that define their worlds, and develop the skills and practical knowledge required to transform those structures and make the world a more equitable place. 

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Why get this certificate?

  • Universities, businesses, and community organizations are constantly looking for students ready to take leadership on the campus, in the workplace, and in the community.
  • Students completing this certificate will be prepared to work as an entry-level union organizer or staff person at a non-profit organization.
  • For those looking to transfer to a four-year institution, the certificate can help build your application as colleges look for engaged students with experience working in the community.
  • The knowledge and experience acquired can be applied to any situation you will find yourself in.
  • Our hope is that students passionate about social justice will be able to use this certificate to find meaningful work in order to make a better world for all of us.

Student Testimonials


"Having that safe space to think critically and to push my own boundaries was key to my growth. Learning about other people in history who made mass change a possibility taught me I could do the same. It changed the way I see myself, the way I see others, and mostly the way I want to be that change. I wouldn't be the person I am today without having this amazing opportunity."


-Ohran Pilon, 2012 graduate


"I worked, studied, and debated with students who had very different life experiences and very different ways of thinking about the world. My experience in the program changed my frame of reference from the dichotomy of good vs. bad to the fluidity of potentiality."


-Ali Masood, 2012 graduate

Program Graduation Celebration

Academic year 2011-2012 marked the first year that students completed the certificate program. Click to view the image gallery from the end-of-year ceremony.

Hand with diploma

Student with parents Group of students Student hugging faculty

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the certificate program, students will be able to:

  • Analyze the social processes that foster inequality and disempowerment, as well as those that challenge inequality and lead to empowerment.
  • Analyze the ways that social processes are amenable to transformation through strategic planning and constituent mobilization.
  • Apply leadership skills, such as meeting facilitation, strategic planning, consensus-building, and generating buy-in from stakeholders, with the aim of fostering social justice and empowerment.

Program Course Sequence

Option A: Cohort

A cohort of students takes a specified set of classes together as a group each quarter. This option is recommended as there is mentoring and a stronger sense of community among students. A minimum of "C" grade is required. 

Fall Quarter
  • PHIL/ICS 17 Critical Consciousness and Social Change (4 units)

  • ICS 80X Community Based Learning in Intercultural Studies (2 units)
Winter Quarter
  • ICS 27/POLI 17 Grassroots Democracy: Leadership and Power (4 units)

  • ICS 80X Community Based Learning in Intercultural Studies (2 units)
Spring Quarter
  • ICS 55 Civic Leadership for Community Empowerment  (4 units)

  • ICS 80X Community Based Learning in Intercultural Studies (2 units)

Option B: Independent

You can choose classes from the list below and put together your own approach to the program. Complete the following minimum number of units in each of the four categories. A minimum of "C" grade is required. 


Option C: APALI Cohort
Leadership and Power: 4 units

ICS 27/POLI 17

Grassroots Democracy: Leadership and Power*


Leadership Skills: 4 units

ICS 19

Justice, Nature, and the Geographies of Identity


BUS 65



ES 66

Environmental Leadership


ES 67

Environmental Team-Building


ES 68

Community-Based Coalitions and Stakeholders


ICS 55

Civic Leadership for Community Empowerment*



Critical Decision Making in Groups



Effective Organizational Communication*


Understanding Social Change: 4 units

ICS 17/PHIL 17

Critical Consciousness and Social Change*



Grassroots Democracy: Race, Culture, and Liberation*



Grassroots Democracy: Social Movements Since the 1960s*



Introduction to Women Studies



Women of Color in the US*



Sociology of Globalization and Social Change*


Leadership Internship: 6 units

ICS 80 series

Community Based Learning in Intercultural Studies: ICS 80, 80W, 80X, 80Y, 80Z


SOSC 80 series

Community Based Learning in Social Sciences: SOSC 80, 80W, 80X, 80Y, 80Z


Total Units Required: 18

*Fulfills general education requirements

Recommended English Writing and Literature courses:

In addition to required certificate courses, we recommend taking LEAD program EWRT and ELIT classes which are engagement-based and service-oriented English classes. See LEAD's website for course information each year.


The "Community Based Learning"/80 courses are designed to provide students with sustained experiential learning through placement with a non-profit/community-based agency. Students will connect their academic study with community organizing and public service in order to strengthen communities, develop knowledge about public policy, and develop skills in public leadership through a wide variety of projects.


Building: East Cottage

Contact: Cynthia Kaufman
Phone: 408.864.8739

Contact: Melecia Navarro
Phone: 408.864.8993

Student Staff: David
Student Staff: Cadence
Student Staff: Dylan


Last Updated: 10/27/15