A group of students posing together with a red overlay of the words “Voice,” “Action,” and “Change.”

  • Activism can be incorporated into virtually any major or minor at NYU.
  • Courses across NYU’s 10 undergraduate schools and colleges can help you learn what progressive change is like in action.
  • There are myriad research opportunities at NYU that focus on creating a more socially just world.

Every semester NYU students, faculty, and staff across the globe are engaged in making a positive impact on the communities around them. Regardless of the type of social impact you want to make, when you join the NYU community, you can use both your voice and your actions to help create a better world. Therefore, at NYU, it’s not a matter of if there’s a way for you to make change, it’s a matter of which opportunity best suits you and the impact you want to make.

Here in part one of this three-part series, we explore activism in the classroom. Check back soon for part two, where we examine how to engage with other change-makers, and part three, where we uncover difference-making resources at NYU.

Three students in a lecture hall.

Make an Impact Across Schools and Majors

From racial justice to environmentalism, NYU’s course catalog is filled with classes focusing on social activism. In fact, no matter what you choose to study, you can learn how to make a positive impact in your future career through your coursework. Whether it’s taking a course on feminism and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at the Tandon School of Engineering, concentrating in sustainable business at the Stern School of Business, or providing equitable access through nutrition at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development’s Food and Identity class, you’ll find an option that appeals to you.

When Xen DeFreitas started studying music at NYU, they read about the Gender and Sexuality Studies major at the College of Arts and Science (CAS). And then they knew it was something they wanted to pursue. Offering classes like Indigenous and Latinx Speculative Film and Fiction and Topics in Africana Studies: Race + Trans(gender) Visual Culture, this major encourages students to unravel the ways in which ideas about gender and sexuality shape social roles and identities.

“I found the Gender and Sexuality Studies major really interesting,” says Xen. They’re currently double-majoring in Music and Gender and Sexuality Studies at CAS. “It’s really relevant to everything that’s going on in the world today. Also, I’m leaning toward a prelaw track and am big on advocacy and activism. I want to see what I can do in that field.” What’s more, in the course LGBTQ+ Health, an elective at the Meyers College of Nursing, students have the chance to dive into the history of LGBTQ+ health care and learn how to provide their patients with more informed, compassionate care. In fact, the class was one of the first of its kind in the higher education landscape.

“It was a safe space that was also educational,” says Laura McCormack, an NYU Meyers BS in Nursing major who took the inaugural course in 2022. “Learning how to make everyone feel comfortable when they enter the room was a big focus at the beginning of the class. For example, things like asking for someone’s pronouns and the right way to go about that are practical skills anyone can take into general nursing. So doing what we can to make sure we serve the LGBTQ+ community correctly is important. Especially in nursing—which is one of the most trusted professions.”

A group of students at a museum.

Courses with a Purpose

Here is a sampling of NYU courses that focus on making progressive change:

A group of students on a trip to an urban rooftop garden.

A Minor with a Major Impact

Regardless which college or school hosts your major, being a student at NYU means you have access to educational opportunities across the University. For example, NYU’s cross-school minors offer students the opportunity to pursue one outside of their main school. In fact, there are more than 100 cross-school minors to choose from, and many focus on making a social impact, such as:

  • Environmental Engineering (Tandon)
  • Environmental Studies (CAS)
  • Feminism and STEM (Tandon)
  • Gender and Sexuality Studies (CAS)
  • Global and Urban Education Studies (Steinhardt, CAS, Social Work, Wagner Graduate School of Public Service)
  • Native American and Indigenous Studies (CAS)
  • Peace and Conflict Studies (Steinhardt, CAS, Silver, Global Liberal Studies)
  • Public Health (School of Global Public Health)
  • Social and Cultural Analysis (CAS)
  • Sustainable Urban Environments (Tandon)
Students attending a presentation at a water treatment plant.

Create Change Through Research

In addition to courses focused on social activism, students dive deeper into creating a more socially just world through NYU’s extensive research network. What’s more, research at NYU complements classroom teachings, and students can start as early as their first year. Each school and college has different opportunities to conduct research—here are a few examples:

Kelly McHugh-Stewart is a Senior Writer and Strategist for NYU’s University Relations and Public Affairs Office of Marketing Communications, where she seeks out and enjoys telling stories that help people understand the world through a new lens. Kelly holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School and a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Kansas State University. Her reporting and personal essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, CNN Opinion, and Sports Illustrated, among others.