The Chicago "Bean" reflecting the skyline in Millennium Park

Collaborating across Campus and City

Chicago Studies regularly convenes and/or contributes to scholarly collaborations between campus and city. These offer opportunities for students, faculty, and external partners to engage more deeply around topics of common interest, both in and out of the classroom, across disciplinary lines, and often over multiple years. We are able to resource these initiatives with generous funding from the Arlo Cathey Endowment, which (together with the College Curriculum Innovation Fund) supports diverse project activities including new courses, community-based Teaching Scholars, funded undergraduate research and employment, and related para-curricular programming.  See our Grants page for additional examples of Chicago Studies funding at work.

Interested in learning more about one of our current initiatives or collaborating with us on a future project? Contact or schedule an appointment with Chris Skrable, Executive Director of Chicago Studies & Experiential Learning and Assistant Dean of the College.

Olmsted Bicentennial

2022-2023 marks the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), widely considered the father of American landscape architecture and designer of New York's Central Park, the 1893 World's Fair campus/Jackson Park, and many of the South Side's park and recreation areas, including Washington Park and the Midway Plaisance. Olmsted also played a little-studied role in the design of the University of Chicago campus. Chicago Studies is collaborating with the Architectural Studies program, UChicago Library's Special Collections, the Office of Facilities, the University's architects, UChicago Arts, and Chicago historian Julia Bachrach to explore Olmsted's abiding influence on our city as well as uncover the Olmsted plan for the Quad.

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A Century on 55th Street (1920-2020)

A Century on 55th Street (1920-2020) is a paid Winter quarter (2023) undergraduate research opportunity sponsored by Chicago Studies and hosted by Open Studio on Wednesday evenings. The program will include specialized training in historical research methods that participants will then apply to assigned blocks of 55th Street in Hyde Park and Washington Park. Our goal is to gain granular insight into ten decades of changes in our neighborhood, including those due to the Great Migration, urban renewal, and subsequent civic (dis)investment. Our research will contribute to an open-access resource and digital archive that will serve as a stepping-off point for future classes, public programming, and further investigation.

Application opens 11/16/22. For more information, visit

The Calumet

Since 2006, the Program on the Global Environment has sponsored regular immersive quarters studying the Calumet region, which includes southeast Chicago and northwest Indiana between the Calumet River and Lake Michigan. Since 2018, these have been offered as Chicago Studies Quarters.  Chicago Studies has also collaborated with the Field Museum, the Chicago Parks District, the Calumet Collaborative, and local artists and activists to sponsor events, hikes, and classes about this fascinating region, which so clearly demonstrates the problematics of deindustrialization, ecological restoration, and community development.

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Environmental Graphiti

Environmental Graphiti® is a collection of over 75 digital paintings derived by Chicago artist Alisa Singer from a chart, graph, map, word or number representing a key fact about climate science. Chicago Studies is partnering with Singer, the Program on the Global Environment, the Committee on Environment, Geography, and Urbanization, and the Office of Sustainability to expose not only Singer's existing work but also her praxis (and the urgent messages it communicates) to new audiences in Chicago and beyond. The collaboration (currently projected for 2022-2024) will involve the researching and visualization of data on the Chicago region's changing climate, science communication, multi-audience STEM education and curriculum development, graphic design, and marketing.

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Studying Oak Woods

Funded in part by a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant awarded to the Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies, "Studying Oak Woods" is an interdisciplinary, collaborative teaching initiative that uses Woodlawn's historic cemetery as a basis for telling the multifarious histories of the South Side of Chicago, in particular the histories of Jews and African Americans and the interactions between them. Through courses and events, including a Spring 2023 Chicago Studies Quarter, this initiative explores the interrelation between race, religion, ethnicity, immigration status, and socio-economic factors as they have shaped the area, while also aiming to develop curricular material about the site that can be used by other educators in Chicago and beyond.

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Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers

Court Theatre has acquired the rights to Greg Kot's 2014 biography of Chicago-born music legend Mavis Staples, I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the Music that Shaped the Civil Rights Era. Kot is the former music critic for the Chicago Tribune, editorial director of the music platform the Coda Collection, and co-host of Sound Opinions. Playwright Tyla Abercrumbie is leading the work of adapting the life of Mavis Staples for Court's stage. Chicago Studies is collaborating with Court, Kot, Abercrumbie, Theatre and Performance Studies, Music, Religious Studies, and the UChicago Women's Board on a series of courses, internships, and research projects that will map out the rich historical landscape occupied by Staples, excavating the essential characters and key events--social, political and musical--that the play will eventually explore.

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