Chicago Studies connects students to Windy CityBy Julia Morse
College students now have more opportunities than ever to appreciate Chicago’s diversity and character through the new Chicago Studies program.
“We want our students to be in touch with the city, to learn from it and enjoy it,” said John Boyer, Dean of the College. “Many students study the culture and history of cities in our Civilization Abroad courses, which is wonderful, but it’s incredibly important that our students have just as many opportunities to understand and enjoy their home city, Chicago.
With the creation of Chicago Studies, a pilot program funded this year by the University Women’s Board, College students now have a wealth of new opportunities to connect with the city through College courses, community service projects and internships, as well as on- and off-campus events.
In early April, students in the College launched the first archaeological dig in Jackson Park, Chicago’s famed site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The dig (see related story), part of the new Chicago Studies program, is linked to a course taught by Rebecca Graff, a graduate student specializing in American urban archaeology.
During the past academic year, the University Community Service Center has partnered with faculty in a range of disciplines and local leadership as well as community and civic organizations. Highlights from this year’s programming include a tour of a steel mill and visit to the steelworkers’ union, visits to the AfriCobra exhibit at the Southside Community Art Center and a discussion of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation at a renovated CHA apartment.
Chicago Studies will kick off officially in the 2008-2009 academic year with a cultural and architectural bike tour around the South Side, led by Boyer and Terry Clark, Professor in Sociology and the College.
Chad Broughton (Ph.D.,’01), Director of Chicago Studies, said, “We want to provide opportunities for students to take advantage of their time in one of the world’s greatest cities.”
Through Chicago Studies, and with the support of the Women’s Board, the College plans to publish an annual book containing outstanding A.B. theses involving city-related research in a 250-page book this fall. The first volume, featuring essays by College students Stephanie Dock, Nicholas Juravich, Katherine Lammers and Josh Segal, will be published this fall.
The students’ work ranges from Dock’s essay, “From Vacant Lot to Play Lot: The Chicago Motor Club’s Play Yard Contest and the Provision of Public Spaces,” to Juravich’s essay, “Wade in the Water: The NAACP Youth Council, the Sit-In Movement and the Rainbow Beach Wade-Ins in Chicago, 1960-1961.”
Lammers has written “Living Integration: Liberals, Race and Class in the Integration of Hyde Park High School, 1947-1969,” while Segal’s essay is titled, “We Must Do Something for Ourselves: Police Reform and Police Privatization in Chicago’s Hyde Park, 1952-1970.”
“This book will be a celebration of the good work done by College students as they gain tangible and robust experiences in our great city,” Boyer said.
He added that another goal of Chicago Studies is to enable students to benefit from their residence in a thriving city. “We are maximizing student opportunities to become active Chicago citizens, not just passive observers,” Boyer said.
Broughton, also a Senior Lecturer in Public Policy Studies, noted that in addition to ongoing internships and summer programs throughout the city, Chicago Studies will provide educational bus tours and guided excursions downtown and throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods. These tours will include discussions about the city’s social and labor history, city planning and architecture, community gardens and ecology, city government and public works, and neighborhoods and cultural life.
A diverse set of speakers on Chicago-related topics will visit campus as part of the program.
David Hays, Assistant Director of the University Community Service Center, said, “Applying the education students receive in the College to what is happening in this city will be a great experience. Our goal is to connect students’ classroom experiences with those outside the classroom, with the residents of Chicago and in the neighborhoods of Chicago.”
Students also have numerous opportunities to explore the city from the classroom, Broughton noted.
“We’re highlighting the curricular offerings in the College that relate to the city of Chicago so students can approach the academic study of the city in a more organized way, and perhaps with greater disciplinary variety than they realize is available,” he said, adding that two of his classes fall into this category: “Poverty in the U.S.” and “Anti-Poverty Policy in the U.S.”
During Fall course selection, students will be able to choose from an organized Chicago Studies category for the first time. These courses will be offered in many areas, including Sociology, English, History, Film and Anthropology.
“In the long run, we hope to forge an expanding number of connections between our undergraduates—a great many of whom are really eager to work and learn off campus—and the immediate and broader Chicago community,” Broughton said.
Boyer added, “It is our hope that these students will feel that they conquered Chicago while in the College, and then they can go on to conquer the world.”