A view of the city with the College buildings in the foreground

The Certificate in Chicago Studies

The College's interdisciplinary Certificate in Chicago Studies recognizes students who have meaningfully integrated their academic inquiry with positive, impactful engagement in Chicago across their years in the College. The certificate is available to students in any field of study; the specific path to fulfillment of its requirements is unique to each student, and may include discipline-based, academic study of the city; pre-professional experience in one or more Chicago institutions; deep engagement with a particular community; and social change and advocacy work. Students interested in earning the certificate receive one-on-one advising and support from Chicago Studies' team.


Detailed Program Description

    Unlike a major or a minor, you don't need to "declare" your interest in pursuing the Certificate in Chicago Studies prior to completing it. In fact, some students have fulfilled its requirements without even knowing it, only to learn they'd done so when they submitted a Chicago-focused BA thesis or capstone for the annual Chicago Studies Research Prize.

    That said, Chicago Studies is eager to advise and support students at any point in their College careers, from admission through graduation. If you're interested in engaging Chicago as a key component of your UChicago experience, we encourage you to set up a certificate advising meeting with us. We'll discuss the certificate's requirements and ways you might fulfill them (or may have already fulfilled them, if you're an upper-class student); connect you with relevant off-campus partners; recommend upcoming trainings, classes and engagement opportunities; and more. We'll also add you to our Chicago Studies Certificate Canvas site, where you'll document your fulfillment of the Certificate's requirements.

    Building a creative, collaborative, community-focused certificate requires a solid foundation. But where (and how) do you begin? Let Chicago Studies help. We can guide you to both on-campus and community-based partners, trainings, programs, and experiences that can help you frame and focus your questions about the city, then help you develop the practical and self-reflective skills to explore them.

    If you're an upper-class student who's discovering the certificate later in your College career, you've probably already had these experiences (in one form or another). Our conversation with you will be more reflective, and aimed at helping us advise students who may want to follow your footsteps:  Who shaped your interest in the city?  What did you learn from them?  What opportunities would you recommend younger students take advantage of, in order to engage the city more deeply (and collaboratively) in their College years?

    Certificate students have identified a number of campus programs, offered by Chicago Studies' partners, as good "starts" to building a great certificate.  These include:

    • Chicago Bound (University Community Service Center/Institute of Politics)
    • Chicago Urban Experience (College Programming Office)
    • Seeds of Justice (UCSC)
    • Women in Public Service (IOP)
    • Neighborhood Schools Program in-school support (Office of Civic Engagement)
    • Jumpstart (NSP)
    • Maroon Tutor Match (NSP)
    • Bridging the Divide (IOP)
    • The Community Programs Accelerator (OCE)
    • Summer Links (UCSC)
    • Civic Knowledge Project (OCE)
    • The Fried Public Policy and Service Program (Office of Career Advancement)
    • Emerging Minds Project (Center for Identity + Inclusion)

    Students have also identified a wide range of community-based organizations with which they've build expertise in particular topics, developed critical skills, and made important connections in specific communities/neighborhoods. Chicago Studies can help connect you with these organizational partners based on an advising conversation (choose the length of conversation that works best for you).

    Documentation of your preparatory experiences may be submitted via the Chicago Studies Certificate Program Canvas site.  Email us for access to this resource.

    UChicago offers a wide range of classes that let students study aspects of “the City that Works,” including not only courses that take Chicago as their central theme but also classes that make it a principal example in exploring one or more urban issues. Some classes integrate community-based learning that directly engage you in the city’s diverse communities. The College's various departments collaborate with Chicago Studies and the Registrar to cross-list these classes as Chicago Studies (CHST) courses - you can find them by searching for CHST (Chicago Studies) when registering for classes; for the current/upcoming quarter, you can also consult the list on our website to see ALL offerings.

    To earn the certificate in Chicago Studies, you must successfully complete at least three such classes. Chicago Studies Quarters, offered each Spring, automatically fulfill this requirement. But if a Quarter doesn't fit into your academic plan, you can also propose, receive approval for, and complete a personally-defined, interdisciplinary sequence of three or more courses relevant to your personal certificate project. (Only one of these may be a required course for your declared major.) Instructions for submitting this proposal are available on the Chicago Studies Certificate Program Canvas site.  Email us for access to this resource, and schedule an appointment for advising on upcoming Chicago-focused classes that may match your specific interests.

    In some cases, your proposed list of courses may include classes that you focused on Chicago (e.g., by completing a final project that focused on the city), even though they weren't cross-listed as CHST classes.  In these cases, we'll ask you to provide evidence of that focus, e.g. by sharing samples of your work from that class.

    Approval of course sequences for the certificate is provided by the Faculty Director of Chicago Studies, who is also the Director of the Program on the Global Environment (academic home to both Chicago Studies and the College’s Environmental and Urban Studies major). Completion of the Certificate in Chicago Studies fulfills that major’s practicum requirement.

    Students in the College have extensive opportunities for Chicago-based experiential learning and engagement, including internships, apprenticeships, volunteerism, student organization leadership, community-based Federal Work-Study employment, and research fellowships. Some of these Chicago-based experiences may be connected to University programs such as the Jeff Metcalf Scholars Program, the Odyssey Scholars Fellowship, the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights Internship Program, College Research Fellowships, or the Office of Civic Engagement’s Summer Links program. Others may be citywide experiences students identify and obtain on their own, or in collaboration with the Office of Career Advancement. 

    You must complete at least 200 hours of relevant, direct engagement in Chicago (usually with a single partner or organization) and submit the name of a reference from a Chicago-based supervisor/collaborator in order to fulfill the requirements of the Certificate in Chicago Studies. You may complete this engagement either intensively (in a single summer or quarter through near full-time engagement) or longitudinally (over a period of several terms, through regular part-time engagement). Instructions for documenting your engagement are available on the Chicago Studies Certificate Program Canvas site.  Email us for access to this resource,

    Chicago Studies can provide advising on relevant Chicago opportunities, and can also help you network with other campus partners (including UChicago faculty engaging in Chicago-focused research). We can also help you evaluate how a particular engagement opportunity will contribute to with your overall certificate project.  Schedule an appointment with us to begin that conversation.

    To complete the requirements of the Certificate in Chicago Studies, students must propose and complete a capstone project (often, but not always, a B.A. thesis) that responds to a community-defined priority, answers a Chicago-focused question, or otherwise benefits a specific Chicago community. The project should clearly integrate students’ learning from their different experiences studying and engaging with the city across their College careers. 

    Capstone projects are as varied as the students that create them. They may be highly academic (e.g. a discipline-based research project, including B.A. thesis work that has been applied to a Chicago question or executed in collaboration with a Chicago partner), highly applied (e.g. a community-based program, community organizing campaign, or student-organized intervention), or somewhere in between (e.g. investigative journalism, a creative production, an action research product, a podcast series/documentary film, or an oral history collection). Click here for descriptions/examples of a range of capstone project types.

    Regardless of the form you choose for YOUR capstone, ALL Chicago Studies capstones must: 

    • demonstrate a meaningful connection to a Chicago community, topic, institution, or issue; 
    • evidence authentic connection(s) within Chicago’s diverse communities; 
    • build upon existing assets and networks; 
    • aim at relevant and meaningful impacts for any Chicago-based collaborators; 
    • integrate academic knowledges with community-based experiences; 
    • establish or extend a legacy with University and/or external partners; and 
    • be publicly presented, published, or otherwise shared with relevant publics, including community members who informed their design, content, and execution. 

    Click here for a rubric that can help you evaluate your capstone project (or project idea) in more detail. Instructions for documenting your capstone are available on the Chicago Studies Certificate Program Canvas site.  Email us for access to this resource,

    We can provide one-on-one advising and support in all aspects of developing your capstone project, including identifying appropriate partners and mentors, supporting the project’s particular engaged learning design, and (in some cases) providing supplemental micro-grants to support research and/or presentations of your work.  Schedule an appointment to discuss in greater detail

    All documentation associated with your fulfillment of the requirements of the Certificate in Chicago Studies should be submitted via the Chicago Studies Certificate Program Canvas site, which contains detailed instructions for fulfilling each of the above-described requirements. Email us for access to this resource, and/or schedule an appointment to let us know more about your interest in completing the certificate.

    In addition to the documentation of each of the specific certificate requirements, you'll need to submit an annotated bibliography (or an electronic portfolio/website) that summarizes the most important "takeaways" from your study of and engagement in Chicago. Whichever you choose to complete, this "summative" document should be understood as an opportunity to provide specific guidance for students who would be interested in "following in your footsteps," either in exploring similar questions about the city or in collaborating with similar communities to achieve their goals.  Detailed information about this important piece of documentation is available on the Certificate Program Canvas site.

    Documentation of all certificate program requirements should be submitted no later than 11:59 PM (Central time) on the last reading day of the term in which you plan to graduate.  All documentation must be submitted via the Chicago Studies Certificate Program Canvas site. Email us for access to this resource, or with any questions you have about the Certificate!

Still more questions? Schedule an appointment to talk with us.