BAAS 4000: The Art of Work

The Art of Work
Course Description:

This course is designed to expose students to a scholarly understanding of the modern world of work, examining the many ways that work shapes our identities, communities, and society. Drawing on insights from psychology, sociology, and anthropology, we will explore the cultural and personal dimensions of work, as well as the contemporary challenges and opportunities of the future of work. Topics will include the culture of work, psychological identity and career development, organizational science, work-life wellness, and the future of work. Concurrently, students will be asked to apply their understanding of these concepts to their personal conceptions of career across their lifespan. Our class will also provide ample opportunity, space, and guidance for students to effectively synthesize an iteration of their professional identity based on a variety of factors internal and external to their existence. More specifically, students will work to probe the meaning of their professional narrative, and then translate how those choices will guide their future endeavors.

We will begin by studying the qualitative method of autoethnography. Using this foundation, we will then examine a sociological lens of work, specifically discovering how individual and cultural values, norms, and assumptions intersect with our collective and cultural understandings of careers.

Following this, we will turn to psychology to foster the connection between our interests and goals, and probe how these traits and states guide career pursuits. Additionally, we will discuss the broader concept of identity in its many forms and fashions. Then, we will discuss how career choices contribute to identity development by reading scholars such as Savickas. We also will look to the organizational science literature to learn more about well-being as it relates to work. Concluding this component of the course, we will consider lifelong career development as a continuous process of design and redesign based on internal and external stimuli, and summarize research on well-being and work.

Finally, we will delve into Krumboltz’s theory of career happenstance, which encourages professionals to consider how chance can modify and enhance career trajectory. We also will talk about the future of work, and how learning, un-learning, and re-learning will contribute to career agility.

Through satisfactory completion of this course, degree students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate increased knowledge of the broader cultural or conceptual contexts of work, specifically focusing on values, assumptions, and norms
  • Practice design thinking when considering career decision-making, harnessing the power of iterative processes
  • Evaluate the theoretical and practical implications of the relationship between work and life, incorporating appropriate concepts and techniques to integrate personal and professional behaviors for long-term well-being
  • Analyze the intersectionality of personal and professional identity
  • Employ critical thinking to analyze how self-reflection can guide career
  • Formulate future professional plans through the lens of predictions on the future of work, generating increasingly nuanced interpretations of career development and explaining why those plans are congruent to their identity

Each week, assignments will scaffold to support students in the composition of an autoethnography, the final deliverable of this course.

BAAS students must have senior status in order to enroll in BAAS 4000. Please plan to take the course during one of your final two terms in the program. It will be offered in spring 1 and fall 1 annually, starting in spring 2024. Students must request to join the course to ensure eligibility. Email if you have additional questions.

Course Credits:
1 course unit (c.u.)*
Term Format:
Accelerated 8-Week Term
2024 Term Offered:
Spring 1 (accelerated): Jan 18 – Mar 14, 2024

*Academic credit is defined by the University of Pennsylvania as a course unit (c.u.). A course unit (c.u.) is a general measure of academic work over a period of time, typically a term (semester or summer). A c.u. (or a fraction of a c.u.) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One c.u. is usually converted to a four-semester-hour course.


  • Associate Director of Career Advising and Programming

Kristin Sowden currently serves as an associate director of career advising and programming at the University of Pennsylvania in the College of Liberal and Professional Studies, a division of the School of Arts and Sciences. Prior to Penn, Kristin worked for nearly eight years at James Madison University… Read more


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