Liberal Studies Program > First-Year Program > Course Descriptions > Honors Discover Chicago

Honors Discover Chicago

​​Autumn 2020

Open only to students in the University Honors Program

HON 110

Bayo Ojikutu, English

On Chicago’s South Side, the 47th Street thoroughfare and the neighborhoods it concourses between Lake Michigan and the Dan Ryan Expressway go by a slew of historic euphemisms: the Black Belt, Kenwood, Bronzeville, Grand Boulevard, Blues Mecca, and the Strip. Lyrical tags coined and hummed by bluesmen, preachers, proletariats, panderers, and real estate developers. Ostentatious tags contrived by reverse carpetbaggers on the take, come to Chicago’s South Side in search of the Promised Land and all such a sacrosanct notion entails in the migrant imagination: freedom, hope, God, truth, survival, acclimation and at the very end of their trek, opportunity. We will engage 47th Street as a historic landing place for Black Americans migrating from the U.S. South. We will address that which so differentiates and complicates these three Chicago miles: its blue rhythms, its bourgeois pretensions, its parochial sensibilities, and its imposed yet embraced (and fiercely protected) demographic homogeny. In so doing, we will traipse through a place once so self-sustained, one which remains palpably insulated from the rest of the Chicago cultural landscape; a 47th Street that even in its raging blue irony, quite acutely reflects its Southern lineage, its urban industrial locus, and its American heritage.

Breanna McEwan, Communication

This course will Discover Chicago through the lens of augmented reality (AR) overlaying the city. This augmentation is available to use via smartphones (access to an iphone or android device will be required for this section). Augmented Reality combines and aligns real and virtual objects in the physical environment. Perhaps the current most well-known augmented reality system is the game Pokémon Go but augmented reality encompasses not only games a large variety of applications including virtually embedded art, engagement in historical sites and real time traffic applications. Chicago is uniquely positioned for a rich AR experience given the development of historical apps and burgeoning tech industry. We will use AR applications to explore multiple neighborhoods and sites such as the virtual reality lab and 1871 in Chicago through this unique modern lens. Our explorations will inform discussions of (dis)embodied experiences, methods of knowledge transmission, digital divides and literacies, and social implications.

  • Schedule compatible with both morning and afternoon lecture/discussion sections of BIO 191 General Biology I for Science Majors.
  • Schedule compatible with lecture sections of both CHE 130 General Chemistry I and CHE 120 General Chemistry IP.

Melissa Markley, Marketing

What do you think of when you hear “not for profit”? Most people would say a Red Cross blood van or a pet adoption center. This class challenges that perspective by taking an in-depth look at the variety of NFP’s around the city of Chicago. Through site visits and in-class discussions, students will have the opportunity to learn more about local Chicago nonprofit businesses and the multiple stakeholder groups involved with each. By meeting the leaders, civic-minded volunteers, charitable giving representatives from for-profit businesses, and the people each group seeks to support, students will gain a broad understanding of all it takes to make a non-profit successful. During the class, we will explore the environmental, social, economic and political challenges facing charitable organizations located in Chicago. Additionally, we will learn first-hand about the areas and people served across Chicago’s many diverse areas.

  • Schedule compatible with lecture sections of both CHE 130 General Chemistry I and CHE 120 General Chemistry IP.

TBD, School of Music

This course introduces students to the diverse musical offerings in the Chicago metropolitan area. Students will learn about the wide variety of music- and arts-related activities across many genres and musical styles. In addition to experiential components throughout the Fall Quarter, class discussions will focus on topics central to understanding Chicago's music scene in both its historical and contemporary contexts. Topics will focus on the relevance of the music industry as it relates to musicians, industry professionals, educators, and patrons; including fandom, race, gender, historical changes, music criticism, and current industry developments. Genres will span the diversity of the Chicago music community, including blues, folk, hip-hop, jazz, musical theatre, opera, rock, Western art and classical music, and various music of the world. Sessions will include lectures, open classroom discussion, and guest speakers.

  • Open only to students in the School of Music

James Montgomery, Environmental Studies & Sciences

This course will explore the interactions between Chicago and its physical environment. The first part of the course will focus on Chicago’s physical geographic setting, geologic history, ecosystems, and water bodies. This will emphasize how the physical environment affected the location and development of the city of Chicago. The second part of the course will discuss the environmental impacts of Chicago’s growth and development on its air, water and natural resources. This will emphasize how the city’s growth, in turn, affected the physical environment. Experiential components of the course may consist of a canoe trip of the Chicago River, a tour down the Illinois and Michigan Canal, a scientific boat excursion on Lake Michigan, a tour of the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant and a visit to the Chicago Botanic Gardens to explore the Chicago Wilderness.

  • Schedule compatible with both morning and afternoon lecture/discussion sections of BIO 191 General Biology I for Science Majors.
  • Schedule compatible with lecture sections of both CHE 130 General Chemistry I and CHE 120 General Chemistry IP.

Leah Bryant, Communication


The purpose of this course is to examine the different types of loss that we are likely to experience throughout our lives. The types of loss that may be addressed in this course include: the death of a loved one (e.g., family member, pet), the loss of a relationship (e.g., divorce, breakups), and the loss of identity (e.g., traumatic life events, transition to adulthood). From a life course perspective, this course will examine beliefs and spirituality, loss legacies, healing, and resilience. Experiential components of the course may consist of trips to various Chicago institutions such as museums, cemeteries, a funeral home, an animal shelter, sites of famous deaths, and other locations around the city that offer a unique perspective on loss in society.

Cheryl Bachand, History of Art & Architecture

This course explores Frank Lloyd Wright and Chicago architecture. It studies the invention of the skyscraper and how new ideas and methods influenced Wright. The class uses walking tours to learn about late 19th-century Chicago and tours a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Prairie Style home. Visiting early Chicago houses also illustrates how radical Wright’s home design was and how much it influenced the way modern houses look and function. The course uses readings and research, videos and discussion to evaluate Wright’s place in modern architectural history and his profound effect on building types such as the home, the church, the museum and the office building.

  • Schedule compatible with lecture sections of both CHE 130 General Chemistry I and CHE 120 General Chemistry IP.

Carolina Barrera-Tobón, Modern Languages

Chicago has always been a city of immigrants, one of the most linguistically diverse cities in the United States and the most segregated one. This course proposes to discover and explore Chicago by means of ethnographic studies of language and historical narratives. An ethnographic perspective requires attention to local-level, “insider” meanings that students will explore by a research process and by observing the communities themselves.

While no knowledge of Spanish is required, if you are planning to take this Explore Chicago course, now could be the perfect opportunity to learn Spanish or to develop your existing Spanish skills by taking a concurrent Spanish language class -- beginning, intermediate or advanced -- depending on past experience or results of the language placement test. For more information, contact Tania Rodriguez at

Karen Scott, Catholic Studies


What does it mean to call Chicago a “city”? For example, are cities vast networks of roads, buildings, and institutions? Sets of ethnic communities living side by side and interacting together? Are cities more like living and growing biological organisms, or more like sacred communities seeking God and beauty together? What makes Chicago a unique kind of city, and what makes it a city like other cities that have thrived over time and space? To answer these questions, this class will study some of the ways in which the urban spaces and life of modern Chicago are similar to, and different from those of cities that thrived during Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance in the Mediterranean world and Europe. We’ll explore some of the Chicago institutions and people that connect Chicago to the Middle Ages. And we'll visit sites in Chicago that give us information on urban spaces both today and in the Middle Ages: museums, churches, and libraries.

  • Schedule compatible with both morning and afternoon lecture/discussion sections of BIO 191 General Biology I for Science Majors.

Rebecca Cameron, English

Using Chicago as a base, this course will look at the international artistic movement of modernism, known for its rule-breaking experimentation with style and its shocking subject matter, in relationship to the time period in which the movement flourished in Chicago in the first half of the twentieth century. The modernist arts are exceptionally well represented in Chicago: modern artists including Picasso, Chagall, and Miró created several of the public sculptures displayed in the Loop; major modernists are featured in the Art Institute of Chicago; and the city features buildings designed by influential modern architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. Chicago also provided an infrastructure and an inspiration for several modernists: Harriet Monroe’s groundbreaking Poetry: A Magazine of Verse published major modernist poets; Jane Addams’ Hull House provided a Chicago venue for several controversial modernist plays, at times even provoking death threats; and Bronzeville’s “Black Metropolis” served as base for several African American poets, artists, and musicians. As we study works of modernist art across the city, we will consider how the artists were responding to cultural, historical, and social changes taking place in the first decades of the twentieth century, including significant developments in the roles and rights of women, African-Americans, and the working classes; major international wars; technological innovations; and the rise of consumer culture. We will see how these modern developments were felt throughout the city, from the vibrant jazz scene on the South Side, to workers’ demonstrations on the west side (supported by political radical Emma Goldman), to dance halls and picture palaces in the north, to the Century of Progress International Exposition of 1933-34.

  • Schedule compatible with lecture sections of both CHE 130 General Chemistry I and CHE 120 General Chemistry IP.

Barrie Borich, English

How do artists make sense of their lives in the city—using the “I see,” “I want,” “I remember,” first-person point of view? How might personal documentary, memoir, and self-portraiture works help the rest of us find our place in the intimidating metropolis? Chicago has over nine million people inhabiting its city and suburbs, and this population density might lead us to believe individuals don’t matter, but what gives Chicago vitality is the interplay of many, each particular story complex, full, and inseparable from the parts of city where the story occurred. In this course, led by a working Chicago memoirist, we look at how authors, visual artists, and performers use memory and observation to make books, photographs, paintings, and live lit monologues that illuminate common experience and witness, helping us see how to live within the metropolitan roar. We will read from older memoirs that describe loving and surviving in the Chicago that used to be, as well as contemporary autobiographical writings that grapple with, and pay homage to, city life today. We will travel to neighborhoods described in the stories we read, and visit big and little museums to consider how established and outsider artists of the city have created their own ways of seeing themselves clearly, even while encompassed by the throng. We will also attend a Chicago nonfiction storytelling event—part of the city’s thriving live lit scene. Students will keep an urban observation and memory daybook—which will include a bit of first-person creative work about their own experience of the big city—as well as write short response and analysis papers.

  • Schedule compatible with both morning and afternoon lecture/discussion sections of BIO 191 General Biology I for Science Majors.
  • Schedule compatible with lecture sections of both CHE 130 General Chemistry I and CHE 120 General Chemistry IP.

Michael Edwards, Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Food, shelter, healthcare, education, work... These are the five pre-conditions necessary for the “pursuit of happiness” that the Declaration of Independence identifies as each person’s “unalienable right.” Without them the pursuit of happiness risks becoming a hopeless, Quixotic quest. Yet not all Americans have access to these basic necessities. Some go hungry, some are homeless, some lack health insurance, some attend poorly funded and unsafe schools, some do not earn a living wage. Who are they—the poor and the near-poor? What are their lives like? What assistance is available to them? What more may be done to help them? What is the best solution—a free-market economy, government intervention, private charitable efforts,...? What obligation do I as an individual and we as a society have to help our fellow human beings? These are the issues and questions around which the experiential and seminar components of the course will take shape. The issues that you the students choose to explore, the further questions that you generate, the research and the service that you undertake will add to this structure. Throughout the quarter, we will explore sites and community organizations addressing issues such as food access, housing, environmental justice and employment training in neighborhoods on the north, west and south sides of Chicago.

  • Schedule compatible with both morning and afternoon lecture/discussion sections of BIO 191 General Biology I for Science Majors.

Coya Paz Brownrigg, The Theatre School

Chicago is the second largest theatre center in the United States. Productions and artists nurtured in Chicago’s theatres regularly receive attention and acclaim nationally and internationally. However, the primary goal of most Chicago theatrical productions is to connect with audiences from Chicago and its surroundings. Chicago theatre companies produce a varied assortment of plays and communicate with audiences drawn from many different communities. This class will look at the work of some of Chicago’s theatre companies and examine how they connect to and create communities in the city. What specific communities are served by the theatres (economic, ethnic, political, social)? How do theatre makers interact with their communities and with their colleagues? How does ethical theatre making impact both the product and the process of theatre makers? By examining Chicago’s theatrical activity, we hope to be able to better understand the way the various communities that make up the city interact on a variety of levels.

  • Open only to students in The Theatre School