Studying Chicago with Chicago Studies

Chicago Studies supports students and course instructors in studying Chicago both in and beyond the classroom.  We curate a listing of Chicago-focused classes across the College, and sponsor special curricular opportunities such as the Chicago Studies Quarter (each spring). For students, such curricular engagement can count toward fulfilling the requirements of the College's interdisciplinary Certificate in Chicago Studies. We also offer safety tips for students as they engage the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For instructors, we support virtual and in-person Chicago-based teaching with course/instructional design consultation, microgrants and logistical support for experiential learning "in" the city, and more.

"Chicago-Focused" Classes

Chicago-focused classes may include ANY of the following:

Fall 2020 Chicago-Focused Classes

The following courses explore aspects of Chicago's ecology, culture, politics, history, social structure, and economic life, either as their primary focus or as a significant example. Several explore topics or methods in urban studies using Chicago as a significant example or case study; many engage students directly in the life of the city’s communities, cultural institutions, or community organizations through in-person and/or virtual experiential learning and fieldwork.  All may contribute to fulfillment of the academic requirements of the College’s interdisciplinary Certificate in Chicago Studies, if taken as part of an approved sequence with other classes.

Cities by Design – Emily Talen
ENST 26005, GEOG 26005, PBPL 26005

This course examines the theory and practice of city design-how, throughout history, people have sought to mold and shape cities in pre-determined ways. The form of the city is the result of myriad factors, but in this course we will hone in on the purposeful act of designing cities according to normative thinking-ideas about how cities ought to be. Using examples from all time periods and places around the globe, we will examine how cities are purposefully designed and what impact those designs have had. Where and when has city design been successful, and where has it resulted in more harm than good?

Constitutional Rights to Liberty and Procedural Due Process in Chicago – Kyla Bourne
HMRT 22304

This seminar builds toward the draft of a viable research project on how constitutional rights to liberty and procedural due process have been historically applied (or ignored) in Chicago. Over ten weeks, you will learn how the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution relate to local law enforcement practice. Today, debate is fierce as to whether, and to what extent, these procedural rights are upheld or ignored in criminal law enforcement at the local level. You will be expected to join this debate in your own Chicago-focused research projects.

Education and Social Inequality – Lisa Rosen
EDSO 23005, SOCI 20297, CHDV 23005

How and why do educational outcomes and experiences vary across student populations? What role do schools play in a society's system of stratification? How do schools both contribute to social mobility and to the reproduction of the prevailing social order? This course examines these questions through the lens of social and cultural theory, engaging current academic debates on the causes and consequences of social inequality in educational outcomes. We will engage these debates by studying foundational and emerging theories and examining empirical research on how social inequalities are reproduced or ameliorated through schools. Through close readings of anthropological and sociological case studies of schooling in the U.S, students will develop an understanding of the structural forces and cultural processes that produce inequality in neighborhoods and schools, how they contribute to unequal opportunities, experiences, and achievement outcomes for students along lines of race/ethnicity, class, gender, and immigration status, and how students themselves navigate and interpret this unequal terrain. We will cover such topics as neighborhood and school segregation; peer culture; social networks; elite schooling; the interaction between home, society and educational institutions; and dynamics of assimilation for students from immigrant communities.

Environmental Justice in Chicago Sarah Fredericks
RLST 25704, ENST 25704, KNOW 25704, PBPL 25704

This course will examine the development of environmental justice theory and practice through social scientific and ethical literature about the subject. We will focus on environmental justice issues in Chicago including, but not limited to waste disposal, toxic air and water, the Chicago heat wave, and climate change. Particular attention will be paid to environmental racism and the often-understudied role of religion in environmental justice theory and practice.

Greater Latin America – Diana Schwartz Francisco
LACS 26386, HIST 26321

What is "Latin America," who are "Latin Americans" and what is the relationship among and between places and people of the region we call Latin America, on the one hand, and the greater Latinx diaspora in the US on the other? This course explores the history of Latin America as an idea, and the cultural, social, political and economic connections among peoples on both sides of the southern and eastern borders of the United States. Students will engage multiple disciplinary perspectives in course readings and assignments and will explore Chicago as a crucial node in the geography of Greater Latin America. Some topics we will consider are: the origin of the concept of "Latin" America, Inter-Americanism and Pan-Americanism, transnational social movements and intellectual exchanges, migration, and racial and ethnic politics.

Imagining Chicago’s Common Buildings – Luke Joyner
ARTH 24190, ARTV 20210, AMER 24190, ENST 24190, GEOG 2419, ARCH 24190

This course is an architectural studio based in the common residential buildings of Chicago and the city's built environment. While design projects and architectural skills will be the focus of the course, it will also incorporate readings, a small amount of writing, some social and geographical history, and several explorations around Chicago. The studio will: (1) give students interested in pursuing architecture or the study of cities experience with a studio course and some skills related to architectural thinking, (2) acquaint students intimately with Chicago's common residential buildings and built fabric, and (3) situate all this within a context of social thought about residential architecture, common buildings, housing, and the city. This course is part of the College Course Cluster program: Urban Design.

Intro to Genres: Division and Western – Garin Cycholl
CRWR 12117

This course explores literary responses to Chicago's boundaries and sites of contention through fiction, drama, poetry, and literary journalism.  We'll examine work by writers and artists including Saul Bellow, Lorraine Hansberry, Nate Marshall, Bruce Norris, and Studs Terkel.  How does one map the city's conflicts along zoning ordinances, street corners, playgrounds, and rumors?  What histories undergird the city's racelines?  In exploring these aspects of the city, where does a writer draw the boundary between fiction and nonfiction, between verse and prose?  Engaging these larger questions, participants will develop their own individual and collaborative creative responses to "the city in a garden."

Introduction to Black Chicago, 1893-2010 – Adam Green
HIST 18806, AMER 18806, CRES 18806, LLSO 28806

This course surveys the history of African Americans in Chicago, from before the twentieth century to the near present. In referring to that history, we treat a variety of themes, including migration and its impact, the origins and effects of class stratification, the relation of culture and cultural endeavor to collective consciousness, the rise of institutionalized religions, facts and fictions of political empowerment, and the correspondence of Black lives and living to indices of city wellness (services, schools, safety, general civic feeling). This is a history class that situates itself within a robust interdisciplinary conversation. Students can expect to engage works of autobiography and poetry, sociology, documentary photography, and political science as well as more straightforward historical analysis. By the end of the class, students should have grounding in Black Chicago's history and an appreciation of how this history outlines and anticipates Black life and racial politics in the modern United States.

Process and Policy in State and City Government – Clayton Harris
PBPL 28501

This course consists of three interrelated sub-sections: (1) process and policy in city and state government; (2) the role played by influential, key officials in determining policy outcomes; and (3) policymaking during and after a political crisis. Issues covered include isolating the core principles driving policy at city and state levels; understanding how high level elected officials can shape the course of policy; and determining how a political crisis affects policy processes and outcomes. Most of the specific cases are drawn from Chicago and the State of Illinois.

Toxic: Body Burdens and Environmental Exposures – Teresa Montoya
ANTH 23807, CRES 23807, ENST 23807

Toxicity is a pervasive and often elusive presence in our lives today. In this seminar class, we begin to address this condition by asking: what exactly is toxic? Who bears the burden of this classification? And, how then, are these understandings of toxicity defined and deployed in broader historical, political, and scientific contexts? From these preliminary questions, we explore the pathways through which toxic exposure, contamination, and fallout accumulates in disproportionate and uneven ways, especially for minoritized populations and upon Indigenous territories. Drawing upon a variety of social science literature and community-based research we trace these challenges through overlapping structures of race, class, gender, citizenship, and coloniality. This transnational and interdisciplinary orientation will acquaint students with case studies of exposure across different scales and geographies, from Chernobyl to Chicago. Through mixed approaches of ethnography and media curation, students will also have the opportunity to research and document their own cases studies of body burdens and environmental exposure.

Urban Design with Nature – Sabina Shaikh, Emily Talen
ENST 27155, PBPL 27156, GEOG 27155, BPRO 27155

This course will use the Chicago 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 Chicago'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 is part of the College Course Cluster program:  Urban Design.

The World's Columbian Exposition: Science, Race, Gender, & Music at the 1893 Chicago World Fair – Ashley Clark
HIPS 29639, HIST 25021, GNSE 25021, CRES 25021

This course surveys the sights, sounds, and tastes that filled Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance between May 1 and October 30, 1893. During those six months, over 27 million people flocked to Chicago's south side from across the United States and beyond the Atlantic to experience the marvels illuminating the World's Columbian Exposition. Visitors weaved their way through the newly-designed Midway Plaisance, where they passed exhibits of "authentic villages of native peoples" in "traditional" garb until they reached the entrance of the American White City--or, as it was presented, "the apex of civilization"--where exhibits and lectures on the newest theories and innovations filled 200 Neoclassical buildings under 100,000 incandescent lights. Walking up the Midway demonstrated progress in human development in tune with the main topic of the White City's Congress of Evolution-Social Darwinism. In this course, students will learn about explicit displays of "progress" during the Gilded Age and will be challenged to interrogate allegories of it at the Columbian Exposition. Together, we will practice close-reading of primary and secondary texts, close-looking of images and objects, and close-listening of music and sounds. We will investigate how "progress" was staged and cogitated in terms of: Evolutionary theory, Race, Gender, Music, Architecture, and Technology.

The Business of Non-Profits:  The Evolving Social Sector – Christa Augustina Velasquez
PBPL 24751

Led by an experienced practitioner, this course aims to provide both an intellectual and experiential understanding of the contemporary nonprofit sector. In addition to a seminar component examining the rapidly evolving social sector, students engage in a hands-on consulting project for a Chicago-area nonprofit involving analysis, reporting, and presentation. This course satisfies the Public Policy practicum WINDOWS requirement.

Documenting Change:  Narrative and Memory in Turbulent Times – Kathleen Cavanaugh
HMRT 24689

Students in this course (embedded in the HMRT/Civ "bundle" in Fall 2020) will contribute to the Pozen Center's new documentation project which is designed to archive these quite extraordinary moments of change in the global landscape amid Covid-19 and Black Lives Matters. The shape and form of these projects can vary.  Some students may adopt an ethnographic approach--detailing stories of their own immediate family or community as they respond to (or participate in) policing, protests or to document the impact of Covid19.  Students may opt to work individually or in small groups; depending on the proposed project.  The mediums through which to construct these projects will necessarily vary (including but not limited to interviews, audio, video, photography and survey data) and ultimately with be stored in an dedicated history archive in Special Collections at the Regenstein Library.  The course instructors will work with students over the quarter to develop the methodological skills they need to undertake their own individual or group projects.

Environmental Justice Field Research Project I – Raymond Lodato
ENST 26255, PBPL 26255

This two-quarter sequence will expose students to real-world policy-making questions and field-based research methodologies to design an environmentally based research project, collect data, conduct analyses, and present findings. In the first quarter, we will follow a robust methodological training program in collaboration with University partners to advance the foundations laid elsewhere in the public policy studies program. In the second quarter, this expertise in a full range of research methodologies will be put into practice to tackle public policy problems in the city and neighborhoods that surround the University. PBPL 26255 and PBPL 26355 satisfy the Public Policy practicum Windows and Methods requirements.

High Intermediate Modern Standard Arabic – Noha Forster
ARAB 30201

High Intermediate Arabic, the modern track, provides students with a full academic year to activate the language and grammar studied in the first two years, while expanding their cultural and literary knowledge of the Arab world. This three-quarter sequence is taught in Arabic and focuses on all four language skills. The purpose of this sequence is conceived of functionally (what can students do) rather than with an eye to finishing a given textbook. It will have reached its objective if each student leaves with a clearly improved ability to produce oral and written Arabic in a variety of contexts (personal and professional correspondence, description, prescription, comparison narration, argumentation, etc.), to listen and understand spoken MSA, and to read a variety of texts (short stories, a novel, media writing, poetry, social media, opinion pieces, etc.) and a deepened understanding of the diversity of the Arab experience. An important component of the course is taking the learning outside the classroom: through visits to an Arab neighborhood, interviews of Arabs in Chicago, producing a play.

Holocaust Object – Bozena Shallcross
REES 27019, ANTH 23910, HIST 23413, JWSC 29500

In this course, we explore various ontological and representational modes of the Holocaust material object world as it was represented during World War II. Then, we interrogate the post-Holocaust artifacts and material remnants, as they are displayed, curated, controlled, and narrated in the memorial sites and museums of former ghettos and extermination and concentration camps. These sites which-once the locations of genocide-are now places of remembrance, the (post)human, and material remnants also serve educational purposes. Therefore, we study the ways in which this material world, ranging from infrastructure to detritus, has been subjected to two, often conflicting, tasks of representation and preservation, which we view through a prism of authenticity. In order to study representation, we critically engage a textual and visual reading of museum narrations and fiction writings; to tackle the demands of preservation, we apply a neo-materialist approach. Of special interest are survivors' testimonies as appended to the artifacts they donated. The course will also equip you with salient critical tools for future creative research in Holocaust studies.

Public Policy Practicum:  Interview Project on Policing – Chad Broughton
PBPL 26304

This one-quarter practicum in qualitative methods aims to develop interview research skills-including instrument design, questioning, transcription, thematic analysis, and write-up-in the context of a mini-BA thesis trial run. The topic of this version of the practicum is policing in America. Students will engage in several in-class interviews with informants with wide-ranging vantage points on police-citizen relations as a social and policy issue including scholars, activists, police officers, and policy-makers. Meant to prepare Public Policy students for the BA thesis process, each student, using in-class interviews conducted by students-and supplemented by interviews, observations, and other data exercises of their own-will formulate a question related to policing and construct the component parts of their own "Mini-Thesis," which they will submit at the end of the quarter. In addition, this course will have an ExoTerra component in which students will develop-based on what they've learned in class-a system of policing and punishment de novo as part of an educational role-playing game. Students can volunteer to participate in this component all quarter. Open only to Public Policy Studies majors. Can fulfill either the "Methods" or "Windows" major requirement. Strongly recommended for third-year students.

Understanding the Built Environment – Katherine Taylor
ARTH 20700, ARCH 20000

This thematic course aims to equip students with the basic skills and knowledge required to analyze architecture and the urban environment. It provides an introduction to the methods and procedures of the architectural historian. These include such practical tasks as understanding architectural terminology, reading and interpreting architectural drawings, engaging with buildings "on site", and studying buildings in urban context, relative to surrounding buildings, street networks and public spaces. At a broader level, the course will entail critical discussion about the relationship between architecture and society, the building as a historically specific object that also changes over time, the cultural representation of architecture, and modes of perceiving/experiencing the built environment. The format is a discussion seminar based on readings, assignments, virtual visits and meetings with guest speakers.

Applied Research in Environment, Development, and Health -- Sabina Shaikh
ENST 21700

This course engages students in collaborative research on topics that connect the environment, health, agriculture and development. After identifying a shared theme, students will design and commence a plan of research with the goal of producing content including reading lists, research and policy briefs, data visualizations, maps, blog posts and web content, as well as creative media such as podcasts. Students will also apply their findings to programming surrounding the Frizzell Speaker and Learning Series for 2020-21 by identifying possible keynote speakers and curating other events. Students are strongly encouraged but not required to enroll in both the autumn and winter courses to gain the full benefit of a sustained research experience.

Geographic Information Science I – Kevin Credit
GEOG 28202

This course introduces students to a wide range of geospatial technologies and techniques in order to explain the basic theory and application of geographic information systems (GIS). To do this, students will use open source or free software such as QGIS and Google Earth Pro to complete GIS lab exercises that cover a range of topics, including an introduction to different types of geospatial data, geographic measurement, GIS, principles of cartography, remote sensing, basic GIS mapping and spatial analysis techniques, remote sensing, and specific geospatial applications such as 3D modeling and geodesign. By providing a general overview of geospatial technologies, this course provides students with a broad foundational knowledge of the field of GIScience that prepares them for more specialized concepts and applications covered in future GIS courses.

Linguistic Ethnographies – Susan Gal
ANTH 21610

Ethnographies are the classic statements of anthropological knowledge. What does an ethnography look like when it is focused on linguistic practices? How does one read such a document? How does one create such a document? First task is reading: What are some of the novel directions in the ethnographic study of communicative form? We consider recent developments in the writing of monographs on specific topics as: language and materiality, literacy, media and forms of mediation, slang and other youth styles, among others. Close reading and critique of these books provides the basis for seminar participants to write their own ethnographic papers, based on original research done during the course. The final few sessions of the course will discuss the ethnographic projects of participants.

Introduction to Urban Sciences – Luis Bettencourt
ENST 24600, GEOG 24600, PBPL 24605, SOCI 20285

This course is a grand tour of conceptual frameworks, general phenomena, emerging data and policy applications that define a growing scientific integrated understanding of cities and urbanization.  It starts with a general outlook of current worldwide explosive urbanization and associated changes in social, economic and environmental indicators. It then introduces a number of historical models, from sociology, economics and geography that have been proposed to understand how cities operate. We will discuss how these and other facets of cities can be integrated as dynamical complex systems and derive their general characteristics as social networks embedded in structured physical spaces. Resulting general properties of cities will be illustrated in different geographic and historical contexts, including an understanding of urban resource flows, emergent institutions and the division of labor and knowledge as drivers of innovation and economic growth.  The second part of the course will deal with issues of inequality, heterogeneity and (sustainable) growth in cities. We will explore how these features of cities present different realities and opportunities to different individuals and how these appear as spatially concentrated (dis)advantage that shape people's life courses. We will show how issues of inequality also have consequences at more macroscopic levels and derive the general features of population and economic growth for systems of cities and nations.

Pandemics, Urban Space, and Public Life -- Evan Carver
ENST 20170, GEOG 20170, HLTH 20170, PBPL 20170, ARCH 20170

Much of the cultural vibrance, economic strength, and social innovation that characterizes cities can be credited to their density. Put simply, cities bring people together, and togetherness allows for complex and fruitful exchange. But togetherness also brings risks, notably from infectious disease. A pandemic feeds on propinquity. "Social distance," while a short-term public health imperative, is antithetical to the very idea of the urban. In this seminar, we will explore these competing tensions in light of current and past disease outbreaks in urban settings. Drawing on a range of texts from history, design theory, sociology, and anthropology, as well as cultural artifacts like film, graphic memoir, and photography, we will engage questions like: How are the risks of contagion balanced with the benefits of density? How are such risks distributed throughout society? What creative responses have architects, urban designers, and planners brought to this challenge? Most importantly, how can we respond constructively to the challenge of pandemic to create cities where the benefits of togetherness are maximized, perhaps even improved on compared with the pre-outbreak condition? Students will have the opportunity to propose design or policy interventions to help their own communities cope with the present coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis as it is unfolding and to return to post-pandemic life more vibrant than ever.

Urban Ecology in the Great Nearby -- Alison Anastasio
ENST 24550

Places like the Great Barrier Reef, Great Smoky Mountains, or Great Outdoors elicit ideas of a nature that is far away and often presumed to be "pristine." Not only are these presumptions worthy of interrogation, but they may limit our understanding of the natural world that is in close proximity to humans. In this course students will use our restricted geographical movement during a pandemic as an opportunity to focus on hyperlocal urban ecology: that of the Great Nearby. What can we learn about our neighborhood and its human and non-human residents through close observation in a finite geographic area? What are the benefits, scientifically and socially, of understanding the Great Nearby? What are the challenges of place-based ecology, especially in scaling up to make regional and global connections? Using an ecological lens to investigate the urban landscape up close, students will learn the importance of observation as it relates to forming hypotheses to understand the world, as well as revealing the urban natural world that we may not have noticed before. Grounded in the rigor of urban ecology, place-based research, long-term monitoring, and their application, students are expected to be actively outdoors in their local urban environment throughout the quarter.

Writing the City -- Evan Carver
ENST 20180

How do great writers convey sense-of-place in their writing? What are the best ways to communicate scientific and social complexity in an engaging, accessible way? How can we combine academic rigor with journalistic verve and literary creativity to drive the public conversation about urgent environmental and urban issues? These are just some of the questions explored in WRITING THE CITY, an intensive course dedicated to honing our skills of verbal communication about issues related to the built and natural environments. Students will research, outline, draft, revise, and ultimately produce a well-crafted piece of journalistic writing for publication in the program's new annual magazine. Throughout the quarter we will engage intensely with a range of authors of place-based writing exploring various literary and journalistic techniques, narrative devices, rhetorical approaches and stylistic strategies.

Chicago Studies Quarter

The Chicago Studies Quarter mirrors the University's Study Abroad programs, especially those based in cities, that advocate civic literacy, contact, acculturation, and excursion as companion dimensions of learning. Offered in Spring each year, the Quarter is open to up to 20 College students by application.

Students in the Quarter immerse themselves in Chicago through three interrelated classes, taught by distinguished instructors versed in aspects of the life and history of the city's diverse communities. The classes are organized around a common theme and utilize excursions, guest speakers, and engagement with stakeholder groups and leaders to enrich course readings and assignments. On Fridays, the cohort participates in trips to relevant sites in the city, including restaurants, cultural centers, ecological and historical sites, and advocacy institutions.