Integrating perspectives from the physical sciences, urban design, architecture, and social sciences in the hyper-local study of a fascinating and under-studied region of Chicagoland
The Calumet region, extending from Chicago’s south side along Lake Michigan into Indiana and Michigan, was once a vast network of wetlands, lakes, prairies, and dunes. This region lies at the intersection of pre-contact distributions of northern boreal forest, prairie, savanna, and dune. While the area saw significant use prior to European colonization, it was only in the last 150 years that human land use — especially heavy industry and urban development — began to radically reshape the region. In spite of this, the Calumet is still home to significant levels of biodiversity. Students in the Calumet Quarter will be part of an innovative example of cooperative conservation, the 70+ member Calumet Initiative, which brings together scientists, planners, community groups, local residents, and business with the goal of revitalizing both the local economy and the ecological riches of the Calumet region.
This sequence is designed to help you bridge theory and practice in environmental studies. The program features three integrated courses, projects, field trips, guest lectures, and presentations. Students will work in the classroom and field as they integrate perspectives from the sciences, humanities, and social sciences in the study of local environments and communities.
Completion of the Chicago Studies Quarter: Calumet fulfills the academic requirement for the Chicago Studies Certificate Program, and the courses satisfy the Public Policy windows or methods practicum requirement.
Information about past Calumet Quarters can be found here.
Courses & Instructors
This course will use the Calumet region as a laboratory for evaluating the social, environmental, and economic effects of alternative forms of human settlement. Students will be introduced to the basics of geographic information systems (GIS) and use GIS to map the Calumet region’s “place types” – human habitats that vary along an urban-to-rural transect, as well as the ecosystem services provided by the types. They will then evaluate these place types using a range of social, economic and environmental criteria. In this way, students will evaluate the region’s potential to simultaneously realize economic potential, protect environmental health, and provide social connectivity.
This course explores cutting-edge solutions to today’s interrelated challenges of decarbonizing the economy, reversing the obesity epidemic, and replacing sprawl. In addition to learning about the current state of sustainable urban planning and design, students will apply to the Calumet region a collection of future-forward urban design strategies to build prosperous and sustainable urban communities that can thrive for years to come. Topics include community organizing; public health, safety, and welfare; governance; neighborhood planning and design; stormwater management; density, and net-zero-energy building design. While not a studio class, there will be opportunities to practice spatial design drawing, community engagement tactics, and sustainability metrics.
This course will give students a strong foundation in the local ecology of the Calumet. Students will use local research and habitats to understand fundamental concepts in ecology and the scientific method. Students will explore some of these habitats during field trips with scientists and practitioners. The course focus will be on urban ecology in the region, whether these fundamental ecological concepts are applicable, what other factors need to be considered in the urban ecosystem, and the role humans have in restoring natural and managing novel ecosystems, among other topics.
Participants in the Chicago Studies Quarters are required to take all three associated courses. Students may register for a fourth course of their choosing, but should be mindful of the Chicago Studies Quarter courses' meeting times and group activities when selecting a fourth course.
CSQ Calumet excursions will be held regularly on Fridays. These sessions are a mandatory component of the Quarter, and will usually take place in mornings and/or early afternoons.