Part I. Attend a municipal government meeting or hearing. (5%)

How does American government actually work at the local level? You will be attending one municipal meeting or hearing held by the city of Boston. You can find a list of upcoming meetings along with their agendas at: Do not choose randomly - take some time to go through the list and choose one that you find interesting and that fits with your schedule. You will attend the meeting and then write a 500-word reaction to the experience. Topics you might want to cover:

  • Who were some of the major participants, both individuals and organizations?
  • What were one or two of the issues they discussed?
  • What was your impression of the process and procedures of governance?
  • Was there anything you found notable or surprising?
  • Note: After attending the meeting, take a selfie of yourself standing outside the building and insert this photo into the end of your reaction.


  • Some meetings can be several hours long. For these meetings, you do not need to attend the entirety but you should stay long enough to get through at least a few major agenda items.
  • Remember that you are there as an observer, so be respectful. Be quiet, turn off your cell phones, don’t bring food or drink, and try to dress appropriately.
  • Arrive at least 10-15 minutes early and if you need to leave before it ends, try to sit near the back and wait until a natural break or lull to exit.
  • If anyone asks, tell them that you are attending the meeting as an observing member of the public and are there for a class assignment.

Submit Part 1 as a Word document in the following format: “Lastname_CitizenshipPortfolio_Part1.docx” (ex. “Blevins_CitizenshipPortfolio_Part1.docx”) and upload it to this Dropbox folder.

Deadline: Wednesday, September 19th by 5:00PM.

Part II. Attend an immigration detainee hearing (5%)

As we will see in this course, citizenship often gets defined by who isn’t a citizen. Immigration and its restrictions have long been a flash-point for defining American identity. This continues to be the case today in the Trump era. To get an up-close-and-personal glimpse into this issue and how it is processed through the American legal system, you will be attending immigration detainee hearings at the Boston Immigration Court. These hearings are open to the public but can be logistically challenging to attend (see below for instructions). We will also be discussing details and procedures on how to attend a hearing early on in the semester. Bring a notepad and take notes while you are observe the courtroom for at least one hour. After attending a hearing, you will then write a 500-700 word reaction to the experience. Some things you might want to include:

  • What were your observations of the process and procedures of the courtroom?
  • What were your observations of the detainees?
  • Did you find anything notable, surprising, or confusing?
  • How did this experience inform your views and understanding of immigration or the judicial system?


  • Sign up for a day and session to attend (see link in email). You are welcome to go in pairs or small groups, but because of limited space we need to limit the total number of students going each session.
  • Boston Immigration Court is housed in the JFK Federal Building at 15 New Sudbury Street, Boston, MA 02203 [Google Maps]. If taking public transit, you can get off at either Government Center or Haymarket.
  • Enter the building through the main doors closest to Cambridge Street. You will need to go through security upon entering the building.
  • If you need help or directions once inside, say that you are there to sit in on an immigration detainee hearing in the immigration courtrooms on the 8th floor.
  • Take the elevators by security up to the 8th floor and follow signs for immigration courtrooms. There should be a security person waiting outside.
  • Tell the security person that you are there for a class assignment and you would like to sit in on an immigration detainee hearing. They might ask you to wait until there is space available, or walk you directly inside one of the courtrooms.
  • Sit in the back row of the courtroom if possible and wait until a break beween detainee hearings to either enter or exit.
  • You do not need to attend the entirety of the morning or afternoon session of an immigration detainee hearing, but you should stay for at least one hour in order to observe hearings for multiple detainees.


  • This is an official government proceeding that has enormous and very real consequences for the people involved. Behave respectfully.
  • Don’t talk, don’t bring food or drink, turn off your cell phones, and dress appropriately. If you are wearing shorts, gym clothes, etc. you might not be allowed into the courtroom.
  • It’s okay if you can’t follow the details for each hearing - there can be a lot of opaque technical and legal language. Follow along as best you can, but if you’re having trouble catching the details of the case itself, try and make observations on all the different people involved, what the process is like, etc. along with your reactions to what you’re observing.

Submit Part 2 as a Word document in the following format: “Lastname_CitizenshipPortfolio_Part2.docx” (ex. “Blevins_CitizenshipPortfolio_Part2.docx”) and upload it to this Dropbox folder.

Deadline: Sunday, October 14th by 5:00PM.

Part III. Voting Worksheet (5%)

On November 6th, 2018, the American voters will go to the polls for a mid-term election. Representative democracy is the bedrock of the United States political system, and some argue that voting is a civic duty for all Americans. But what does voting actually look like? Who is eligible to vote? How do you register to vote? What are the local candidates and issues in your district? To answer these, you will be filling out a Voting Worksheet that you can download here.

Note: you need to plan far ahead to complete this assignment! For those of you who are eligible to vote, some states require you to register up to one month before the election. Check your home state:

Submit Part 3 as a Word document in the following format: “Lastname_CitizenshipPortfolio_Part3.docx” (ex. “Blevins_CitizenshipPortfolio_Part3.docx”) and upload it to this Dropbox folder.

Deadline: Sunday, October 28th by 5:00PM.