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Gabriel “Gabe” Davis, a fourth-year in the college majoring in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, was introduced to the Chicago Studies program as a second-year when he decided to enroll in our signature Chicago Studies Quarter.

Titled “Places and Spaces in Chicago,” the sequence included an English course taught by Professor Adrienne Brown on vignettes of local public housing, a history class led by Professor Adam Green on Chicago’s elderly community, and another history class taught by Professor Nora Titone on writing narrative nonfiction based on the city. Gabe, who had recently returned from studying abroad in Morocco, decided that another immersive learning experience would be the best way to close out his second year. Aside from taking classes, he and his fellow classmates also visited the Pullman neighborhood, the Chicago History Museum, the National Public Housing museum, and other local landmarks that chronicle the city’s roots and development. As is typical with Chicago Studies quarters, the group also enjoyed many meals together—including a special banquet at Professor Green’s house.

“Chicago Studies has revealed to me that I’m intensely interested in urban policy, particularly as it relates to the actions local governments can take to resolve a big problem in manageable ways,” said Gabe. 

This past summer, Gabe was part of the 2018 Summer Links cohort (pictured below), a program that engages students in conversations about social issues in Chicago and places them in social service organizations for a 10-week internship. Gabe worked at St. Leonard’s Ministries, a local nonprofit that provides housing and workforce development services to formerly incarcerated individuals. He handled administrative duties such as updating databases and proctoring aptitude tests offered by St. Leonards, and also had the opportunity to engage one-on-one with the Ministries’ residents through tutoring.

Aside from participating in Summer Links this summer, Gabe was also part of the inaugural College Summer Institute in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, through which he stumbled upon his Chicago Studies capstone project. 

Gabe with his Summer Links cohort. “My capstone project will revolve around a kooky episode in the annals of Chicago’s civil rights agencies, in which a group of Arab students was defamed publicly by the Anti-Defamation League,” said Gabe. The Anti-Defamation League was, in turn, almost criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union. “I was quickly captivated by the vastly different moral standpoints spanning organizations in Chicago that were all nevertheless committed to fighting similar social ills,” reflected Gabe. His project aims to understand these historical and organizational trends in context, perhaps even through multimedia and artistic means. He is interested in the decisions that can shape government policy, as well as actionable, smaller ideas that can drive substantive social change.

Although graduation is nearing, Gabe hopes that he does not have to graduate from the city quite so soon; he aims to continue studying in the area, be it through a language fellowship or graduate school. Drawing upon his knowledge of Arabic and political science, he is also considering working with the Foreign Service or think tanks concerened with the Middle East and North Africa.

“When I first came to Chicago, I wanted to like it more than I did,” admitted Gabe. He identified a quality of the city that he couldn’t name then, but can now: grit. “Chicago is a place where Americans can unabashedly work hard and produce great things, be they architectural or cultural,” he said. Gabe now recognizes Chicago as a “big, boisterous, and challenging” city, one with one of the most exciting nonprofit sectors in the country.  To him, Chicago ultimately means growth.


November 9, 2018