Rooted Innovation

Supporting creative grassroots interventions for meaningful social change

Rooted Innovation

Supporting creative grassroots interventions for meaningful social change

Personal Work – Teaching

Personal Work

This site is here to highlight and support the work of a wide range of partners but mostly organized by Dmitri Seals: I am a cultural sociologist of inequality focusing on how differences of race, class, and gender intersect and impact life outcomes. My passion is for community-led, research-based social justice work that equips people to analyze the problems that face them, design their own interventions, and follow through to secure lasting change.

As a scholar, I pursue intersectional mixed-methods research that supports a practical program of social justice and inclusion. As a professor, I work with colleagues at Cal State LA to build models that increase motivation and content learning by connecting social research to practical action. In my practical work, I support movements and organizations committed to building community leadership to equalize cultural, economic, and political power.

I am co-founder and past Executive Director of BAUDL and SVUDL and a co-founder of CaSIG and LEEAF. I have found myself both a critic of the nonprofit industrial complex and an advocate who has raised millions for causes I believe in – because life is complex!  I’m also a proud papa, husband, musician, school volunteer, and neighbor. For more info, explore below.

see also Research and Consulting

Teaching and learning is at the core of all I do, with an emphasis on fostering connections between theory, research method, and practical intervention. I try my best to build a community in each course that inspires students to challenge each other, grow from feedback, and flourish together as agents of positive change grounded in community-based social research.

I tend to tailor my work with students to the goals they want to achieve:

  • Students looking to enter a career soon after graduation – my courses work with CaSIG to build a bridge from your undergrad degree to local movements, nonprofits, and service agencies who can help you put social science skills to work in helping communities thrive.
  • Students who want to go to graduate school – my courses teach you to practice rigorous social research connected to your passion and your curiosity, and then link that to real-world interventions.

For both groups, there are opportunities to take the work farther. CaSIG interns work on practical projects for social justice both on campus and with our community partners. For students on the grad school path, I have run several collaborative research projects and am known to co-publish as a supporting author to help aspiring graduate students get their first publications.

I have redesigned and taught the following courses:

  • Civic Learning
    What does it mean to serve social justice? This course builds a bridge between sociological analysis and direct service, preparing students to become leaders and key position players in organizations striving for justice and equality. We use readings from multiple disciplines to give a strong theoretical foundation, and then we use that foundation to enrich the nuts and bolts: how to run an effective meeting, how to understand program models, how to make a real contribution. Students get into teams and directly partner with an equity program, ending by making a proposal to contribute to the strategy of their partner program. Each semester has a theme, so far including civic engagement in Los Angeles and student success on campus.
  • Race, Class, and Gender
    How do differences intersect?  This course takes an intersectional approach to inequalities of race, gender, and class. We start with the personal, tracing early memories to understand how difference and discrimination impact individual lives. Then we move to historical analysis, for instance reading the rise of modern racial systems against articles that trace racial conflicts in Los Angeles. Each student leads their own micro-research project, designing and implementing a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews to understand how race, class, and gender impact the daily lives of their friends, family, and neighbors. Drawing lessons from the study of past movements, we close the semester by working in teams to produce an intersectional strategy to intervene in inequality based on their research over the term.
  • Cultural Emotions
    How do you change culture?  In this course, we seek to understand how the cultural world shapes emotions and how emotions change the world, with a specific focus on racial and ethnic difference. Feelings play a powerful role in everyday life: from politics to business, from love to hate, emotions are at the root of human behavior. In additional to reading academic literature in a wide variety of disciplines, we study cultural experience and emotional interactions in the real world, working together to find out what moves people, where cultures come from, and how to make messages and movements that truly resonate.  Perfect course for anyone interested in relationships, social psychology, movements, intersectionality, and the feels.
  • Social Change
    What causes meaningful change? Many try to make a lasting change in their lifetimes, but only a few succeed: in this course, we ask why. From protest movements to technological revolutions, we use the tools of quantitative and qualitative sociology to explore the theory, history, and practice. In addition to reading academic literature on social change, we read the world, using GIS data  find out where a real difference is possible. The rest is up to you: with a group, you design solutions and present them to prominent community members who can help you carry your ideas forward. Perfect course for anyone interested in political advocacy, community service, or social entrepreneurship.
  • Social Class & Inequality
    Why does inequality persist?  This course explores class inequality at scales from neighborhood to globe, tracing how class intersects with and co-constructs race, gender, and other lines of social division. We use quantitative and qualitative analysis to understand the issues that matter most in our communities and then equip ourselves with the knowledge to act using history, theory, and case studies.  Students gather into teams and wrestle with the deepest question of the course: how can we use the knowledge we have gained about the array of forces that perpetuate class inequality to design interventions that actually make a difference?