Chicago Studies Quarters & Sequences

Multi-course, Interdisciplinary Explorations of Chicago Topics

Chicago Studies Quarters mirror the University's Study Abroad programs, especially those based in cities, that advocate civic literacy, contact, acculturation, and excursion as companion dimensions of learning. Structured as two or three simultaneous, interconnected classes to which students can apply as a bundle, Quarters offer students in the College the opportunity to immerse themselves in Chicago with distinguished instructors versed in aspects of the life and history of the city's diverse communities. Each Quarter's classes are organized around a common theme and utilize field trips, guest speakers, engagement with stakeholder groups and leaders, and directed undergraduate research to enrich course readings and assignments.  Some Quarters -- labeled as "immersive" -- mandate enrollment in all Quarter classes (usually because of multi-course project requirements); others -- sometimes described as "course bundles" -- permit a la carte enrollment and open the remaining available seats to other students after the Quarter's application period has closed. 

Sample Chicago Studies Quarter Themes

    This three-course bundle offered students of any major the opportunity to engage with current and previous moments of “Chicago-style adaptation” in our city’s storied theatre community while honing their practical skills as writers, innovators, and collaborators.  Classes -- taught by three distinguished theatre professionals in their own right -- incorporated voices and insights from throughout Chicago's vibrant, diverse performance communities, and culminated in members of the CHST cohort meeting as an ensemble with instructors to develop collaborative work influenced by Chicago theatre's responses to the frame-shifting questions raised by the pandemic.  

    TAPS/CHST 23000 - Introduction to Directing with Shade Murray (associate artistic director, Red Orchid Theatre)
    Wednesdays 9:10 AM - 12:10 PM

    This course employs a practice in the fundamental theory of play direction and the role of the director in collaboration with the development of textual analysis. By examining five diversely different texts using three different approaches to play analysis (Aristotle, Stanislavski, Ball) students begin developing a method of directing for the stage in support of the written text. In alternating weeks, students implement textual analysis in building an understanding of directorial concept, theme, imagery and staging through rehearsal and in-class presentations of three-minute excerpts from the play analysis the previous week. The culmination is a final five-minute scene combining the tools of direction with a method of analysis devised over the entire course.

    TAPS/CHST 23800 - Playwriting:  Writing Utilizing Improvisation with Evan Linder (playwright, "Byhalia, Mississippi","5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche"; founding co-artistic director, New Colony Theatre)
    Mondays 9:10 AM - 12:10 PM

    This course incorporates the spontaneity and freedom allowed by improvisation into the writing process. In addition to focusing on the natural rhythms and nuances of modern communication, the class will also learn to write for individual performers and ensembles. Through these improvisations, the students focus on developing unique voices for each character. Students read scenes from contemporary plays which emphasize spontaneous and realistic dialogue. Students have weekly assignments that further explore the characters they are writing. Each class includes an active roundtable discussion of the weekly assignments as well as collaborative exercises that further explores the voices of their characters. In addition to the weekly assignments, students write three complete scenes that will receive readings by their classmates.

    TAPS/CHST 24550 - Evolution of Improvisation in Chicago with Heidi Coleman (director, dramaturg and game designer; senior lecturer, Theater and Performance Studies; founder of Chicago Performance Lab; founding member, The Fourcast Lab, an alternate reality game collective)
    Mondays 12:40-3:40 PM

    This course traces the history of improvisation for performance, beginning with the "High Priestess" Viola Spolin's work exploring the educational and social benefits of play at Hull House through Paul Sill's development of The Compass Players in Hyde Park to include the rise (and fall) of Chicago companies such as Second City, The Neo Futurists, The Annoyance, and IO. The course will investigate recent changes in Chicago leadership, as well as the impact of COVID-19, and will include attendance at performances, student presentations, and practice-based workshops.

    This three-course bundle included a policy-focused classroom course, a deliberative seminar, and an intimate reading/research colloquium, each led by a distinguished scholar-practitioner.  Students in the quarter explored the workings of Chicago political life from three complementary angles:  the structures of policymaking as enacted in Chicago and in Springfield (with Clayton Harris III); deep explorations of case studies arising from the history of the city and the work of its most famous adoptive son, former President Barack Obama (with Leila Brammer); and mentored, deep research into the practice of Chicago political life with a focus on Chicago's storied 10th Ward (southeast Chicago, with John Mark Hansen).

    PARR/PBPL/CHST 16300 - Public Deliberation and Community Engagement: Chicago to the Obama White House with Leila Brammer, Director of the Parrhesia Program
    Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:40-11:00 AM

    This course explores important decision points in Chicago history and the Obama Administration. Through deliberation theory and historical, social, and community-based research, students will understand and translate critical decisions through designing deliberative materials for use in Chicago schools and communities. Public deliberation theory explores how to inform and engage citizens in inclusive informed deliberation and collective decision making. Course readings in community deliberation, decision-making, and argument and scaffolded assignments provide the foundation for students to research, frame, and develop materials for use in the community. Students will choose their area of focus--either Chicago and/or an Obama decision--and through peer testing and review learn about a variety of civic issues and tools to navigate and facilitate effective public engagement and decision-making processes.

    PBPL/CHST 28501 - Process and Policy in State and City Government with Clayton Harris III, Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs at Lyft and instructional professor in Public Policy
    Mondays and Wednesdays 6:00-7:20 PM

    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.

    PLSC/CHST/PBPL 24202 - Directed Readings in Chicago Politics with John Mark Hansen, Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the College
    Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:20-5:40 PM

    This course will offer a "deep dive" into the history and practice of Chicago Politics, with a focus on Chicago's storied 10th Ward (Southeast Chicago), led by historian and Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science John Mark Hansen (author of The City in a Garden:  A History of Hyde Park and Kenwood).  Possible readings include:  Gosnell, Machine Politics: Chicago Model; Greenstone, Labor in American Politics; Pacyga, Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago; Innis-Jimenez, Steel Barrio; Cohen & Taylor, Making a New Deal; Hirsch, Making the Second Ghetto; American Pharoah; Sellers and Pacyga, Chicago’s Southeast Side; Sellers, Chicago’s Southeast Side Revisited; Rivlin, Fire on the Prairie.  The colloquium will also include Zoom conversations with current and former leaders in Chicago politics, and (conditions permitting) a guided bike tour of the Southeast Side for those who wish to participate. Individualized projects will be decided in collaboration with enrollees' specific interests.

    Water has been an essential and defining element in the life of the city of Chicago since its founding. From its origins in 1833 as a trading post built on the swampland beside a mud-choked river, to its explosive growth by 1893 into a teeming metropolis ringed by skyscrapers, smokestacks, stockyards and rail lines, Chicago’s epic rise embodies the way water may write the destiny of a city and its citizens. In 1860, a team of engineers—and a company of thousands of laborers equipped with jackscrews—accomplished the monumental feat of raising the city’s streets and buildings five feet above lake level to allow for proper sewer drainage. In 1887, another group of engineers contrived the reversal of the flow of the Chicago River to safeguard the city’s drinking water from industrial pollution and runoff from the Union stockyards. At the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, a central attraction was the network of canals and lagoons connecting the white pavilions housing the wonders of the industrial age. A plentiful supply of water helped make Chicago “hog butcher to the world,” furnishing the city’s mammoth stockyards, slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants.

    Visitors to Chicago in the 19th and early 20th centuries marveled at “the river of contradictions” weaving through the enormous city on the shores of Lake Michigan. Chicago was a place of architectural splendor and unchecked squalor, a home to titans of industry and to the millions whose labor powered the colossal steel manufacturing, meatpacking and railroad industries that defined the “Empire City of the West.” Its population – shaped by a floodtide of immigration from abroad and the American South – was divided by racial and ethnic conflicts but also immeasurably enriched by the creativity and dynamism of its diverse residents.

    Access and proximity to water defined class and race boundaries, with the affluent, established in neighborhoods near the shoreline of Lake Michigan while the working class filled the city’s west side, far from the water. In 1919, 17-year-old Eugene Williams unintentionally drifted across the boundary separating white and black swimming areas at the 29th Street Beach, and white supremacist mobs retaliated in a six-day riot, killing Williams, burning down hundreds of black families’ homes and murdering dozens of black residents.

    This Chicago Studies Quarter invited undergraduates to grapple with questions about the place of water in the history, society, culture, geography, and economics of this metropolis, and in the lives and work of the people who have called Chicago home. The three courses in the offering encouraged students to use water as a theme to flow across disciplines, and to tell new stories drawn from the 188-year arc of Chicago’s existence.

    ENST/CHST 21310 - Water:  Economics, Policy and Society with Sabina Shaikh, Director of the Program on the Global Environment
    Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:20 AM - 12:40 PM  
    Cross-listed as ECON 16510, PBPL 21310, GLST 21310, LLSO 21310 

    Water is inextricably linked to human society. While modern advances in technology and new economic and policy mechanisms have emerged to address water stressors from overconsumption, development pressures, land use changes and urbanization, challenges continue to evolve across the globe. These problems, while rooted in scarcity, continue to become more complex due to myriad human and natural forces. In addition to water quality impairments, droughts and water shortages persist, putting pressure on agricultural production and urban water use, while the increased frequency and severity of rainfall and tropical storms, already being experienced globally, are only projected to grow in intensity and duration under climate change. Students will explore water from the perspective of the social sciences and public policy, with attention on behavioral dimensions of water use and water conservation. Qualitative and quantitative approaches to examining how humans use and affect water will be considered, with particular applications to Chicago and the Great Lakes region. Prerequisite: One economics course (ECON 198, PBPL 200, ENST 218 or equivalent)

    CRWR/CHST 12147 - Intro to Genres:  The River's Running Course with Stephanie Soileau
    Mondays 9:10 AM - 12:00 PM - Fulfills ARTS CORE requirement
    Cross-listed as ENST 22147

    Rivers move -- over land, through history, among peoples -- and they make:  landscapes and civilizations. They are the boundaries on our maps, the dividers of nations, of families, of the living and the dead, but they are also the arteries that connect us. They are meditative, meandering journeys and implacable, surging power. They are metaphors but also so plainly, corporeally themselves. In this course, we will encounter creative work about rivers, real and imaginary, from the Styx to the Chicago River and the Amazon. Through poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and film, we will consider what rivers are, what they mean to us, and how they are represented in art and literature. Rivers will also be the topic and inspiration for our own forays into creative writing. Students will be asked to keep a reading notebook as well as to produce weekly creative and critical responses for class discussion. 

    IRHM/ENST/CHST 20335 - Writing Chicago's Histories with Nora Titone (Dramaturg, Court Theatre)
    Fridays 9:10 AM - 12:00 PM

    Narrative history and biography persist as some of the most vital and culturally resonant forms of popular writing in a period of shifting habits of media consumption. Works of popular nonfiction—such as Isabel Wilkerson’s Great Migration epic, The Warmth of Other Suns, Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, and Doris Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln—have the power to reach beyond academic audiences and shape a citizenry’s understanding of its past and its present. The practice of narrative history and biography, accordingly, is a uniquely fertile way to participate in the civic life of a metropolis. Anyone researching and writing about Chicago necessarily grapples with its complex history, engages with its deep problems and explores its great opportunities. Writing Chicago invites students to dive into this city’s vast and varied archives to bring to light hidden stories and forgotten lives, and to practice first-hand the related crafts of narrative history and biography. Classes will be dedicated to exploring the collections of research libraries and museums across Chicago, including the Newberry Library, the Chicago History Museum, the Pritzker Military Library and the Special Collections Division of Harold Washington Library. After surveying a wealth of primary sources that relate to the theme of water—music, oral history recordings, newspapers, letters, diaries, political cartoons, photographs, artworks and maps—students will choose an individual research project inspired by a specific set of local archival materials. They may investigate a person, a major historical event or episode, an organization, a building, a business, a neighborhood, a social movement or an artwork, associated with any period in Chicago’s history from 1833 to the present.

    This two-course bundle offered students the opportunity to leave the traditional classroom -- and get just a little ways off-campus! -- to participate in an ongoing project of imagining, then (re)constructing an historic building in the Woodlawn neighborhood.  Built as a space of worship almost 100 years ago and re-imagined as a carbon-neutral residential/creative space, this site will be the focus and location of a collaborative learning community's efforts during the Spring term, guided by a visual artist and two technical experts.  The bundle offered students of any field the opportunity to learn by doing, building a range of skills (including, but not limited to project management, sustainable design, and landscape architecture) while shaping the revival of a once-abandoned piece the built environment for a new and sustainable life.  Both of this quarter's classes included design studio time and supervised, socially-distant, hands-on work on-site within walking distance of campus, as well as related technical and skills-building workshops.

    ARTV 22319 - Carbon Neutral Building: A Design - Build Course with Amber Ginsburg (visual arts) and Eric Eickler (sustainability engineer, Forge Projects)
    Fridays 9:10 AM - 12:00 PM

    This design-build course - taught as a Zoom/in-person hybrid - is site specific, working at and with a 1923 building within walking distance from the Logan Center for the Arts. Working with experts in the fields of carbon neutral design and mechanical practices, you will participate in and be privy to both the design and discrete elements of the actual retrofitting of an historic structure as a carbon-neutral residential and creative space.  No design or building skills required. 

    ARTV 22320 - The Integrated Garden: A Design Course with Amber Ginsburg (visual arts) and Charlie Vinz (landscape architect, Adaptive Operations)
    Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:00 - 2:50 PM

    This design course - taught as a Zoom/in-person hybrid and as a companion class to "Carbon Neutral Building" - considers the natural environment context of the same structure.  Embedded in the long and flourishing history of community gardens and greenscapes across Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood (home to Frederick Ohmstead's designed landscapes for the 1893 World's Fair, including Jackson and Washington Parks), this course will consider both historical habits and imagined futures as we work together to design a garden within walking distance from Logan Center for the Arts. The design will include water harvesting, composting, insect interactions, land rituals, lived and archived knowledge of plants, sun patterns and human patterns of engagements across the site as well as outward into Woodlawn's contemporary community of gardening artists and activists.  No previous gardening/landscape experience required. 

    The Calumet Quarter is jointly sponsored by Chicago Studies and the Program on the Global Environment (home of the Environmental and Urban Studies major) during the spring term of even calendar years.  The program dates back to 2008.  For more information, visit PGE's website.

Students who apply to enroll in all classes in a given Chicago Studies Quarter bypass the normal bidding process so as to ensure enrollment in all that Quarter's classes.  Determination of each Quarter's cohort is made by its instructors upon review of applications.  In some classes, and at instructor discretion, any seats remaining in the Quarter's individual classes may then be made available for bidding and registration by other students as usual.  Once the normal bidding process has opened, students can no longer be guaranteed admission to all the classes in a Quarter.

In some cases, instructors prefer to sequence multiple classes, to permit deeper exploration of a topic through multi-quarter engagement or to allow students to participate more fully in a community-based project whose timeline does not match that of UChicago's typical 9-week term. Normally, each course in such a sequence functions as a standalone class; in these cases, Chicago Studies can assist students who wish to continue in the sequence with securing a place in the following course(s) with instructor permission.  In rarer cases, a sequenced course's enrollment may be limited to students who have successfully completed the first course(s) in that sequence. This determination is made by the instructor(s) of the sequenced classes.

Classes in a Chicago Studies Quarter or course sequence are automatically cross-listed as "CHST" classes and thus contribute to the academic requirements for the College's interdisciplinary Certificate in Chicago Studies.  Some Quarters/course sequences may fulfill other programs' requirements as well, depending on theme, etc.  Inquiries about a particular Chicago Studies Quarter (or about teaching in/offering a Quarter or sequence of classes) may be directed to Chris Skrable, Executive Director of Chicago Studies & Experiential Learning and Assistant Dean of the College.