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

Discover Chicago

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Autumn Discover Chicago Course Descriptions

Courses that will be offered during Autumn 2023 are noted with (2023) in front of the course title. ​


Despite popular conceptions that human life defines urban areas, cities always have been and are home to myriad forms of animal life interacting directly and indirectly with humans. Chicago, in particular, owes much of its historical development to its rise in the 19th century as the main US livestock processing center. In the present day, the city is home to a world-class zoo and aquarium, was ranked in the 2023 top-10 "best cities for dogs" by Forbes magazine, is an important location for spring and fall bird migrations, and has numerous managed beehives throughout the city. In this course we will explore several contexts of human-animal relations in the city, visiting key sites such as the Lincoln Park Zoo and a local animal shelter, and hearing from individuals involved in animal-related endeavors such as wildlife rehabilitation and companion animal rescue. Students will learn about Chicago's "animal history" and how this history shaped the city of today, and also the multiplicity of ways in which human and animal lives continue to intersect here in the present. In addition, by visiting sites and hearing from experts, students will develop in-depth knowledge of several areas that impact, among other things, the city's economy, legislation, natural environment, and social interactions.

This course will use the theme of art/creativity to investigate the expression of our experiences of social justice/injustice, conflicts in group (social identity groups, neighborhoods, etc.) and international arenas, and responsible peace-building. Students will discover some of the ways in which the arts occur in an urban environment, will look into social contexts and political action concerning the arts, see how people have used the arts and creativity to bring about positive change in society and communities. Students will learn to recognize the range of human expression of emotions, ethical assessment, reasoned dialogue, and personal responsibility that impact how the arts are analyzed, evaluated and used for certain purposes.  CLASS STRUCTURE: The class will be highly interactive and reflective during immersion week, will shift in the first half of the quarter to group discussions of readings as interpretive aids for the immersion experiences, and will conclude with the presentation of group projects designed by small groups, to be reported on in the final class meetings.  IMMERSION WEEK ACTIVITIES:  Students will visit the major art institutions as well as some dedicated to specific groups who have historically experienced marginalization, such as the DuSable Museum of African American History; the National Museum of Mexican Art; and the Illinois Holocaust Museum. We will also enjoy interacting through improvisation theatre exercises and use our service day to visit an organization that provides art expression to specific communities.

Big cities are often heralded for their access to great food. But the vibrant history of immigration and multiculturalism in Chicago makes it truly unique. From Michelin stars to mom-and-pop spots and international bakeries, Chicago offers more than just sustenance. In this course, we will explore how various waves of immigration, infrastructure, and politics set the table for Chicago’s dining tables. We will focus on the ways that food helps us understand cultures, communities, and ourselves. We will also learn the role that food plays in social justice and industry, and how Chicago is engaging in those spaces. We will visit a variety of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods and see how the history of those spaces are shared through their food. Modeled after the Settlement Cookbooks of the late 1800s, our class will culminate in the creation of our own Classroom-Settlement Cookbook that reflects on our heritages and brings them together to showcase our unique histories through recipes.

This course will explore the complex webs of support built within the Black Community. Students will experience the ways different Black professionals, activists, community care workers, spiritual leaders, and families create grassroots and community-based networks of care in the City of Chicago. We will take a systemic, historical, and intersectional approach to understanding communal care and social change.

This class is an introduction to the permanent and ad-hoc stages that add to the vibrancy of Chicago. The city's 77 neighborhoods all boast spaces where people gather, perform, and make their voice heard -- we cannot address all of them in our short-time together, but we will get a healthy start! Through the exploration of physical stages, historical sites of staging, and live performance opportunities, from the downtown theater district to outlying neighborhoods, we will examine how art, organizing, and performance is used to influence, persuade, and provoke change. Coursework will center on the communicative aspects of performance and voice, foundations of persuasion, active listening, and more.

Chicago is home to multinational companies, finance and accounting firms, entrepreneurial start-ups, and large organizations. How did the city transform during the past 100 years from the industrial revolution to become a present day center for international commerce? Students will explore the evolution of the Chicago economy through such factors as city politics, technology and innovation, and financial investment. The course will look at the impact of business on society and the contribution to city growth by business leaders. Students will consider whether and how large business has contributed to economic growth in a meaningful way. We will visit and/or have speakers from firms and organizations such as Deloitte, KPMG, McDonald’s, United Airlines, the IRS, Federal Reserve Bank, and Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Jazz is live improvisation, pulsing rhythms, terrific personal expression. Chicago owns a special place in the history of jazz from its early days right up to today. Chicago has given birth to, developed, and presented towering people and performances in jazz, and continues to do so. In this class, through great recordings and films, we’ll learn jazz from a Chicago perspective plus see and hear a live jazz performance at a famous Chicago jazz club. 

Chicago is a city of museums. From the major tourist attractions such as the Field Museum of Natural History to the small and obscure, such as the International Museum of Surgical Science, museums are part of the city’s fabric. This course seeks to connect these museums to the diversity and rich history of Chicago’s neighborhoods and immigrant communities. Through field trips, multi-media projects, readings, and lectures students will learn about Chicago’s history and how museums changed from “cabinets of curiosities” to spaces for social reform, and ultimately to centers for informal learning, historical preservation, and community engagement. Students will discover how the development of Chicago as a global city coincides with the evolution of the museum.

The city of Chicago is known for its colorful political history. Once the fastest-growing city in the world and a hub of water and rail transportation, Chicago was a place where there were money and power to be had, and the competition for them could get rough. At the best of times, governing Chicago was not a job for the faint of heart. This course will examine the political history of Chicago. We will think about how political leaders and institutions have shaped the city we see today—and vice versa. We will focus on four main themes: Urban Planning & Economic Development; Race & Immigration; Transportation & Infrastructure; and Local Government & Democracy.

Chicago’s Public Art and Murals will give you, the student, a look at the whole of Chicago. Much of what makes Chicago and what the people of Chicago feel as their values, can be seen in its Art. The student will tour Chicago’s neighborhoods and take on the values and issues that reflect the people of the various neighborhoods. The student will also get a chance to design a mural in reflection, mainly to show what they saw as valuable in their journey in and around the city.

This class is designed as an introduction to Chicago’s exciting spoken word performance scene. Students will attend spoken works/word performances representing a variety of styles, cultures, and venues. Students will have the opportunity to showcase their writings from the page to the stage.  By studying the stylistic and cultural diversity of Chicago’s spoken works/word community, students will learn more about the rich community life of DePaul and the city at large.

From Jane Addams to the Haymarket Labor Activists to the immigrant and refugee community organizers of today, Chicago has a history and a reputation for cultivating trailblazers who seek greater social change. Students will learn about these trailblazers, both past and present, and analyze their work through the lens of leadership studies and will dissect the different approaches these Chicagoans have approached creating change in society. We will learn about many types of change agents in Chicago and the different ways they express leadership. The course will begin with an Immersion Experience that will expose students to numerous leaders aiming to create change in the Chicago community. Once Immersion Week is complete, students will read about leadership theories, primarily the Social Change Model of Leadership. The course will then undergo an in-depth exploration of Chicago leaders to analyze the ways they seek change. For each Chicagoan/group of Chicagoans seeking to creating change, we will compare and contrast their methods of creating change, using the various leadership theories we learn about as a foundational base of analysis. At the end of the course, students will synthesize what they’ve learned into their own personal leadership philosophies.

  • Open only to students in the Generation Success initiative

To learn about and apply to the Generation Success initiative, designed to support first-generation college students, click: or email

This course introduces students to the cultural diversity of Chicago through an examination of ethnic identities and stories of immigration to Chicago over time, as they are represented in museum exhibitions and community centers around the City.  What ethnic groups constitute the city of Chicago?  When and why did they come here? How have they -- and have they not integrated with their new neighbors?  How do they negotiate ethnic distinctiveness in their new City?   Focusing on individual stories of arrival and identity construction (through art, and other manifestations of ethnic identity such as festivals and cultural centers), this course will encourage students to search for individual stories as a way to understand diversity -- and Chicago’s patchwork heritage -- one person and one group at a time.

In this course, students will be introduced to an often neglected, but extremely important, group within their urban community—the Dead. In Chicago, as in every human community, we live with our dead: we share our urban space with them, our customs, rituals, and laws regulate how they should be treated and where they can reside, they participate in our lives through individual memory and communal monument, from statues to street names, and they appear in our art, literature, and architecture. During Immersion Week, we will explore our urban geography for sites where our contemporary attitudes toward the Dead and Death (and, thus, the Living and Life) come to light: the museum, the cemetery, the morgue, and the mortuary. And we will study comparatively the different attitudes toward Death among some of the different peoples, cultures, races, and classes that make up our urban community in Chicago.

Digital Cinema in Chicago exposes students to the world of digital cinema production. Two sections of Digital Cinema in Chicago are being taught this Fall, a full course description for each section of this course can be found on Campus Connect.

This course will help students identify and explore their unique gifts in service of the common good. Taking our interior lives as a starting point, the course will gradually move into an exploration of the Vincentian legacy in Chicago today. What makes an education at DePaul University unique? What is the gift of the Vincentian family in Chicago? How are students called to be part of this living legacy? Immersion sites will focus on nature, houses of worship, Vincentian and Daughter of Charity social service agencies, art, architecture, and relationships with those on the margins. The topics studied will be directly related to the Immersion Week sites through articles, books, films and guest speakers.

This course will introduce students to Vincentian leadership theory and practice. Students will examine the Vincentian values that inform the socially responsible and ethical leadership framework called Vincentians in Action (VIA). Through site visit experiences and service-learning engagement at designated community-based organizations that serve a marginalized population, students will learn about the diversity and community-specific resources of Chicago from DePaul alumni and community partners who are Vincentian leaders. Students will explore what can be learned about themselves as reflective practitioners and spiritual human beings when engaging in this experiential learning process. Through the class discussions, DePaul alumni and Vincentian speakers, assigned readings, and writing assignments, students will reflect on their own beliefs and perceptions regarding socially responsible and ethical leadership. In doing so, students will analyze the implications of this specific way of Vincentian leadership in terms of reducing poverty and implementing systemic change in our society today.

This course will explore the rich history of immigration and culture among the Slavic and Baltic peoples of Chicago. During our excursions, we will tour historically Polish neighborhoods such as the "Polonia Triangle" (Milwaukee, Ashland, and Division streets), learn about the Ukrainian community in Ukrainian Village, and explore the legacy of central- and eastern-European peoples who labored in the Chicago Stockyards in the early part of the twentieth century. As we analyze and compare the ethnic components which are woven into the brilliant tapestry of Slavic and Baltic contributions to the city, we will visit museums, learn the origins of famous landmarks, and even sample some of the cuisine which these people have made into a staple of Chicago food culture. In tandem with our excursions, we will read historical literature about the arrival to and reception of Chicago as it was experienced by eastern-European immigrants.

"Philosophy is practice for death and dying." This course will address the philosophical, artistic, cultural, and local-historical aspects of death. What does it mean to die and experience the death of others? How do different cultures conceptualize, ritualize, mourn, and attempt to overcome death? How can we handle the existence of murder and our own participation in ecocide and consumption? How does media, film, art, and literature help or hinder our respect for and understanding of death? How can we learn to live with death and find beauty in being finite creatures? We will visit a diverse range of neighborhoods with guest lectures/guides to provide the richest Discover experience possible. Fear not: while this class is about an intense topic, it will include humor, celebration, and joy.

In this class you will learn about Chicago's "French connection," the city's many ties to French history and culture.  We will travel to diverse neighborhoods across Chicago, and bien sûr, we'll stop along the way to enjoy good food! Our visits will make you discover how much France has helped shape Chicago. Expect to kayak on the Chicago River as the 17th Century French explorers did. Learn why Chicago's most iconic street was recently renamed Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Lake Shore Drive in honor of a francophone. We will examine how France was a key cultural influencer in Chicago during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. We will also explore the French community's continuing cultural and financial influence with visits to businesses, museums and schools. Since our university's namesake, St. Vincent de Paul was French, included in our excursions will be a stop at Vincentian social services to see how they are empowering underprivileged communities to build a better future. During the autumn quarter, our guest speakers, readings, written reflections and discussions will enhance what we have observed and learned from our Immersion Week excursions. 

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

From Overwatch, to interactive theater, to Uno, to the NHL: games are happening all around us. Chicago is home to gameplay and game design of all sorts, including: professional sports, indie game studios, AAA studios, eSports teams, AR/VR labs and lounges, and maker spaces. In this course students will have the opportunity to watch and play games all over the city while learning the basic design principles and game scholarship necessary to analyze and write about them. With a focus on collaboration and research-informed design, students will form groups and work together to research a Chicago neighborhood, design a game that engages with some element of that neighborhood, and present their game to their classmates in a final presentation. Students do not need to have any programming or previous design skills to take this course.

Chicago is often thought of as the city of skyscrapers, but Chicago’s motto Urbs in Horto, a Latin phrase meaning “the city in a garden,” underscores the historical role of parks and green spaces in shaping the city as we experience it today. We will explore how influential city planners and landscape designers like Daniel Burnham, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jens Jensen and Alfred Caldwell created urban gardens and greens to serve a variety of needs from the nineteenth century to the present day. We will also discuss how contemporary green spaces including community gardens, nature preserves, roof gardens, and areas dedicated to urban agriculture reflect our values and our relationship to the natural world. Through readings and site visits we will explore both the aesthetics and social issues surrounding these urban green spaces, including access and gentrification, environmental concerns, and spiritual values.

This course studies immigrant Catholicism in Chicago through history, theology, sociology, art and architecture. We will visit ethnic Catholic parishes in Chicago—Irish, African-American, Chinese, Polish, Mexican, and more—meet interesting people, have some good ethnic food, and see some stunning churches and art. Throughout the course, we will study the various groups of Catholic immigrants who have made Chicago, and found a home away from home in the Catholic Church. At the same time, we will address larger questions about the Catholic Church, a community of 1.3 billion people that is simultaneously global and local. The Church is found in every part of the world, but the Church adapts to each local culture: a Catholic Mass in Kenya can be very different from a Catholic Mass in Poland. How does a local church be true to its local culture without excluding those from other cultures? How does the Catholic Church maintain both unity and diversity? This course uses the city of Chicago as a workshop to examine these questions.

How do we build a just and sustainable city? Chicago is home to a vast array of organisms and ecosystems vying for survival in our era of catastrophic, human-accelerated climate change. In this course we explore the various ecological justice movements that aim to save and improve our environment. We consider a wide range of individual efforts, short and long term policies, political tactics, organizational strategies, and governmental interventions. During immersion week, the class will take trips to several neighborhoods and visit organizations dedicated to slowing and/or reversing the effects of global warming, instituting widespread sustainable energy, and turning Chicago into a global beacon of hope. Our teaching team will help you process a deeper and restorative appreciation of the nature to be found in the city, nature that can be wild or cultivated, and at the same time develop a set of practical skills as students to contend with the seismic shifts in our world brought on by climate change.

This course will invite students to examine the skills and strategies needed to engage in effective human rights activism.  To begin the course, students will explore human rights activism in Chicago, past and present.  We will meet with local human rights leaders and visit historical locations, such as Haymarket Square.  We will use critical evaluation to discern what the strategies of social movements have been, and how human rights leaders engaged the public, policy-makers and others in the community in more recent times.  Through these interactions, students will examine at least 3 examples of how social change has occurred.  This might include examination of the movement to support DACA or Black Lives Matter.  Students will also have opportunities to develop activism skills for activism, such as how to engage the media, how to lobby a policy-maker, and how to strategize for long term social change.  This class will also engage in service learning.

Every year, on or around March 17, Chicago residents and many, many visitors to the city watch as boats dye a portion of the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day. Everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day, or so the saying goes. But a century before this tradition began in the 1960s, Irish immigrants and Irish Chicagoans were blamed for everything from crime to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Anti-Catholic prejudice combined with other forms of bigotry to hamper Irish lives in myriad ways through much of the 19th century. The Irish responded by focusing their energies on building their own institutions -- churches, schools, and what we'd think of today as social-service providers -- institutions that became remarkably successful and opened many different paths to success for Irish immigrants and their children. Many of these continue to serve Chicagoans of many ethnicities today. This course will examine the transformation of the Irish experience in Chicago, concentrating on the political and religious aspects of that experience but also looking at the preservation and transmission of Irish sport and culture, whose original bearers in the 19th century would be very surprised by the “cool factor” these activities and arts now enjoy. We will also become familiar with the challenges still faced today by those who come to Chicago from Ireland and do not start quickly on the legal path to U.S. citizenship.

This course will give students an inside look at the Chicago criminal justice system by traveling throughout the city and taking first hand tours of our city’s courthouses, jails, police department, medical examiner’s office and forensic laboratory. In addition to experiencing first-hand how our system works, they will also hear from prominent speakers including experienced Police Officers, Prosecutors, Defense Attorneys and Judges who will be able to describe to them the “Chicago way.” Students will be able to evaluate their own experiences of the immersion week and what they learned from the guest speakers of how our modern justice system works and compare that to the past decades issues of race inequality, societal influence & corruption. Finally, students will use all of this information to identify the problems that still exist, and promote how Chicago’s citizens can continue to work towards making it a system that promotes justice for all people. 

In this course we will analyze how Latin American migrants to Chicago have pursued entrepreneurial endeavors and established businesses that have become cornerstones of the city’s cultural and economic life. Immigration from Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean to Chicago has created markets for products and services that allow Latina/o businesses to thrive. We will examine the urban geography of Latina/o business and pursue an anthropological analysis of the dynamics that allow Latina/o businesses to exist. Transnational flows of goods, money, and people indicate that the dynamics that shape immigrant businesses are part of a hemispheric economic process. Together, we will learn about the transnational economic policies that generate out-migration and the structures of immigrant labor and consumer markets in the U.S. Midwest. We will examine the foundations of ethnic entrepreneurship and specifically Latina/o-owned businesses in Chicago in order to better understand immigrant economic, social, and cultural integration into the city.

While no knowledge of Spanish is required, if you are planning to take this Discover 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:

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 Discover 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:

Chicago is the world’s capital for improvisational comedy. Home to Second City, iO, ComedySportz, the Annoyance Theatre, and more, Chicago has been the training ground for some of the greatest performers – Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler, and many more. But beyond sitcom stars and feature film favorites, the fundamental skills of improvisation have infiltrated businesses and boardrooms around the world. But why has improvisational comedy made its home in Chicago? How did improv get its start in the city? And how has the art form been shaped by the richness of the diverse Chicago neighborhoods in which the comedy style has grown? Or, conversely, how have the improv institutions of Chicago shaped the neighborhoods they call home? In this course, students will discover and explore the unique relationship between Chicago and improvisational comedy, a relationship unlike any other between any major city and any other art form. Students will learn the tenets of improvisation, hone their comedic skills, visit integral training centers and neighborhoods that shaped improv, and witness firsthand how the skills and tools from improvisational comedy translate into real world, practical applications. After participating in this course, students will have an appreciation for the diversity and richness of Chicago’s neighborhoods and their populations through the lens of improvisational comedy. Additionally, students will acquire the skills and tools to help them shed their inhibitions, try new things, and appreciate the importance of simply saying, “Yes, and...” all skills that will help them navigate their college and post-college careers. 

The urban center that is Chicago goes by many names including “The Windy City,” “The Second City,” and “Chi-Town,” but perhaps more importantly to its population of more than two and a half million residents, Chicago is simply known as “home”—and as the saying goes, home is where the heart is. In this course students will explore the dynamics of love, committed relationships and other matters of the heart, Chicago style. On this journey students will experience first-hand several of the culturally unique and diverse neighborhoods in the city while simultaneously learning about the role that love and committed relationships play in the lives and communities of Chicago residents. Using a theoretical lens rooted in the principles of Relational Communication, students will examine the phenomenon of love in a wide range of contexts from romantic love, to familial love, to love and compassion for one’s community. Students will also study the lifecycle of interpersonal loving relationships including their initiation, development, maintenance and dissolution/termination, as well as reflect on the role that love has played in shaping their own sense of identity and connection. 

Humans share the city of Chicago with many other species -- not just our pets and the plants in our gardens, but also with wild plants and animals. A stop-light camera close to DePaul has recorded a coyote regularly crossing the large six-way intersection on the Northeastern edge of campus at night. The main topic of the course is urban ecology -- the study of this wildlife and how it fits into an urban ecosystem. We will study what Chicago's wild animals eat and how the wild plants create their own food; exactly where each of the species lives within the city; and how individuals of one species interact with members of different species -- their friends and their foes. We will also consider interactions within species such as courtship, reproduction, parenting, group living and competition. A second theme will be how human Chicagoans relate to these organisms -- how we view them and how they interact with us. We will discuss why some people have positive views of certain wild species and others view them negatively. For most of these species, there is a variety of opinions on how the urban population should be managed -- we will investigate these options and discuss their merits. During immersion week, the class will take trips to various Chicago Parks to observe the city's wildlife. On these field trips, plants and birds will often be the focus because we can observe them -- mammals often are in hiding. There will be more of an emphasis on animals when we are in the classroom and as subjects of the main assignment.

Books. Magazines. Newspapers. Art. We tend to think of these items as inanimate objects, and not about the intentions of the individuals and communities that produce, distribute, and conserve them. In this class, we will explore Chicago as we ask ourselves about privilege, diversity, human dignity, and urban sustainability; how these concepts interact with printed works and the lives of Chicagoans. We will visit Streetwise to see how street magazines help combat homelessness, and Semicolon bookstore -- Chicago's only Black-owned bookstore with a focus on children's literacy efforts. We visit community art spaces and get to see how the artistic community participates in Chicago's print scene. We will visit Newberry Library to learn more about their special collections and printed works history.  The American Writer's Museum is ready to welcome us back, and we explore The Art Institute as a group.  We will learn all about print making at the Chicago Printmaker's Collaborative!

This course focuses on privilege as an essential and complex facet of social justice work. This broad concept encompasses the intersecting social statuses of such things as race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, class, and religion. Through this course students will demonstrate an understanding of how privilege, power, and oppression affect society at large and Chicago specifically. We will not cover these societal realities merely as abstract concepts, but rather as powerful entities that influence the lived experiences of all people. An important facet of this course will be students plotting their own social location. We will continually reinforce not only why a specific aspect of privilege is important to grasp, but also where we as individuals stand in relation to this privilege. The desired outcomes are twofold. First, students will be challenged to develop the cognitive abilities necessary to critical engage such topics. Second, they will confront how their own social status interplays with both privilege and oppression.

Puerto Rican Chicago represents seventy years of community building by migrants from the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. This course will introduce first-year students to the Puerto Rican experience and showcase how Chicago is a national center for Puerto Rican pride, politics, arts and culture. We examine migration history, labor recruitment and early settlement, and ongoing transnational life amid the debt crisis and a resurgence of the debate over political status, and explore the social, cultural, political and economic landscape of the Humboldt Park neighborhood. We examine housing, health, LGBTQ rights, and see how issues of labor, gender, family, and race and racism shaped those early struggles and gave rise to major institutions, schools, and community centers. We visit a host of sites on the Near Northwest Side, and dialogue with community leaders, poets, artists, and practitioners of bomba y plena music and dance. We study how the community has organized against gentrification, after a series of historic Chicago displacements, and the centrality of the pedacito de patria [little bit of the homeland] that is Division Street in Humboldt Park.

While no knowledge of Spanish is required, if you are planning to take this Discover 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:

Queer Chicago explores Chicago history, politics, activism, and community resources as they pertain to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, pansexual, intersex (LGBTQIA+) people and their allies. Through the lens of exploring Chicago’s LGBTQIA+ resources, students will gain a better understanding of gender, sexuality, identity, politics and current issues and trends within LGBTQIA+ communities in Chicago and beyond. The course will examine the topic of “Queer Chicago” with attention to five broad themes: race; socioeconomic class; gender identity; gender expression; sexuality; disability; community. These themes are woven throughout Immersion Week and the classroom portion and will provide frameworks for assignments throughout the course.

The greater Chicago area is home to two national laboratories (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory), numerous museums with a wide range of science exhibits, and an incredible number of practicing scientists from throughout the world. Students in this course will have the opportunity for a full-day visit to Argonne, and will explore several of the city’s museums. The visits will give students insight into how and where current scientific research is done, provide opportunities to meet with scientists who are actively involved in forefront research, and offer a glimpse of the many ways that locals and visitors to Chicago learn about historic scientific findings through exhibitions. During the quarter, students will explore the ways in which scientific knowledge in various fields has evolved and will consider such questions as: How do discoveries in one scientific field impact the development of other fields? How is the evolution of science dependent on the characteristics of the scientists? What are the sources of funding for current scientific research? Does scientific work occur in unexpected places?

This course examines the current landscape of news media in Chicago, which has the third largest media market in the country. This rich journalism ecosystem includes print, tv, radio and online sources. We will address major issues facing news organizations today, including the transition from print to digital formats, the role of social media, economic pressures, and fake news. We will discuss media ownership issues by using local news outlets as examples. This class will visit a variety of news media outlets with different ownership models, including large media conglomerates, non-profit media, and public broadcasting. The class will address the lack of gender and racial diversity in U.S. newsrooms, and how that might influence content. We will also discuss alternative news outlets including the Chicago Defender, WVON, the Chicago Reporter, and La Raza. Overall, the class will explore the role of journalism in a democracy, and how news media can spark social change.

This course provides students with a basic understanding of major world religious beliefs and expressions as well as global spiritual practices, all of which nourish the soul and enrich life. In addition, global citizenship will be enhanced as students explore the nuances of world religions while personal enrichment will unfold as students examine and participate in spiritual practices inspired by global spiritual traditions. All aspects of the course are considered through the Vincentian lens that upholds the dignity of all people. Examination of world religions includes visits to Chicago's interfaith houses of worship while exploration of global spiritual practices calls for student participation in various forms of meditation, yoga, mindfulness exercises, labyrinth prayer and more. These experiential learning activities are tied to assigned readings and videos, class discussions, and various writing projects such as reflection papers, journaling, and on-line peer discussions. Team projects will encourage collaboration and a final writing project and class presentation focused on deeper exploration of a chosen religion or spiritual practice is required.

This course examines numerous areas of athletics that encompass the town’s ultra-competitive landscape. Whether it be Cubs and White Sox baseball, soccer, 16" softball, horse racing, the media or otherwise, this course captures everything sports related to the Windy City. For example: Do you know what might make one a Cubs or Sox fan? Or what goes into covering a sporting event or story as it gets presented to the Chicago public? Also, how ethical is gambling; and what are its effects on the city—even when such wagering is presented in a legal fashion? Those questions and more will be answered during the quarter as we take sports and see them in a new light, with a deeper meaning, as we consider how they affect Chicago’s people and culture. Whether our class is at a ballpark, playing beside legends from a sport this locale boasts as its own, or trying to convert a 7-10 split, each student will thoroughly enjoy and learn more than he or she could have ever thought about the Chicago sporting world.

From the peripatetic philosophers of Ancient Greece to the streets of twenty- first century Chicago, the writer as walker has garnered special cultural significance and symbolism. But nowadays, walking is seen most often as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Or worse, as unnecessary to modern life, for walking has been replaced by planes, trains, and automobiles. We have become drivers and passengers that have forgotten how to walk—walking “as a cultural activity, as a pleasure, as an ancient and profound relationship between body, world, and imagination” (Rebecca Solnit, 2000). This course seeks to turn us into walkers and to return a rhetorical and aesthetic wonder to the act of walking. We will walk to write, composing “urban encounters” that combine the “joys of looking around” with “the deep pleasure of making connections” with the people and places of Chicago (Helen Liggett, 2003). By studying and practicing the art of walking, we will use the material of everyday life—the rhythms and experiences of the streets of Chicago, its people, places, and things—as construction material for our compositions. We will read about the history of walking alongside the history of Chicago to become urban explorers charting the changing people and landscapes of our city’s neighborhoods. Walking becomes a way of literally and figuratively writing ourselves into Chicago. Assignments will include a walking journal, a multimedia essay, and a multimedia map of Chicago to be collected into an atlas. By wandering Chicago with wonder, we will write Chicago as a relationship among body, world, and imagination. 

Our society often measures success and value in purely economic terms. Using Chicago and a variety of faith traditions as a lens, students will explore the intersections of wealth, poverty, and God in the city and their own lives. Direct experiences of society’s “wealth” and “poverty” will initiate reflection and conversation on questions related to human value, the nature of community, and social responsibility. Students will visit sites associated with both poverty and wealth and explore economic, religious, personal narrative and other texts for insights that will equip students to ask big questions about their own social, economic, and spiritual identities.

This course will introduce students to women’s leadership in Chicago and the living legacy of St. Louise de Marillac. Students will learn about the life of Louise de Marillac, a woman who radicalized the role of women in 17th century France by founding the Daughters of Charity with Vincent de Paul. Tracing historical moments such as Chicago’s great fire, settlement houses, racial injustices in the 1960s, and today, students will examine the leadership of the Daughters of Charity caring for those most in need. During immersion week, students will witness firsthand how Louise’s legacy continues in Chicago through social work, education, healthcare, child and elder care, women’s empowerment and spirituality. Through class discussions, speakers, readings, documentaries, and writing assignments students will analyze the implications of women’s leadership in transforming society and caring for the common good. Students will reflect on their own beliefs, values, gifts/talents and perceptions regarding women’s leadership to explore their role as socially responsible leaders in our world today.

Not too long ago, if you were asked what comes to mind when you think of Chicago’s north side baseball team, you might’ve mentioned the green ivy, the bleachers, and a blue W on a white flag. You might’ve also mentioned lovable losers, Bartman, and an extremely vindictive goat. Today, the ivy and bleachers are still there. But the W flies more frequently. And Bartman has been forgiven, the goat’s curse has been squashed, and the term lovable losers no longer applies—all because a certain team in 2016 ended a 108-year drought and won the World Series. So how did this happen? In this course, we’ll not only examine the Cubs’ transformation, but we’ll take a look at the history of the Cubs franchise; we’ll learn more about Wrigley Field and how its presence in Wrigleyville impacts local residents and businesses; we’ll examine what it means to be a Cubs fan; and we will, of course, attend a game. So put on your caps, bring along your lucky talismans, and we’ll find out if this year will be (again!) THE year. 

People commonly mistake numbers as representing objective truth. From politics to the media, people have their own motivations for providing numbers that support their own narratives. However, as educated citizens, it is our job to understand numbers in a more nuanced way. This class will challenge students to think critically about what numbers tell us, their limitations, how they can be used to deceive, and the ethical issues that arise when we use numbers. By visiting a diverse group of organizations, such as museums, for profit and non-profit organizations, universities, and government agencies, students will explore Chicago from a numerical perspective.

From ringing bells in Mitchell Tower in Hyde Park to listening to recorded silence in the Lincoln Park Conservatory we will discover the wide variety of sounds Chicago has to offer. We will use this rich diversity of sound as our springboard to achieve a fuller picture of our Chicago community and begin to think about the city from both a historical as well as a scientific perspective. We will think about how our creation of sounds and music has evolved from pre-historic times to the present day. We will ask how sound technology has influenced human activity as well as an urban environment like Chicago. For example, how does the invention of the telephone make skyscrapers possible? 

In this class we will explore, through the lens of Peace, Social Justice and Conflict Studies, topics of socioeconomics, gentrification, and community building in neighborhoods such as South Shore, Chinatown and Pilsen and by the end of the course produce a documentary presenting the voices of Chicago’s neighborhoods.

It’s tempting to think of a metropolis as huge as Chicago as a monolith—a single, huge enormity—but we all know that there are really many Chicagos, sometimes changing character entirely from one block to the next and each of these characters has its own story. In this course, we will discover how various Chicago story-tellers have made their little slices of Chicago come alive in their work, and we will discover some of these neighborhoods for ourselves. We will look at some of Chicago’s most famous literature, stories that famously characterize Chicago and we will look at more recent attempts to tell different Chicago stories. Throughout we will pay attention how Chicago’s stories embody the social issues of the city.

“Digital Eye Chicago” is designed to examine the city by venturing into its many diverse neighborhoods using a digital camera as a tool of observation and inquiry; to learn how other photographers have depicted the city; and to develop your own relationship to the city through the act of photographing it. Our subject will be the city itself and the many ways in which we observe it. First we will consider the observations of others who have come before us by looking at how Chicago photographers have pictured the city. We will think about how neighborhoods are structured and how each of these neighborhoods has a distinctive history and architectural, social and cultural imprint. This we will do with our cameras in hand, asking questions and letting the images stand in for answers (and sometimes prompting further questions). You will be conducting research and writing short essays about various neighborhoods that will be included along with your photographs in the capstone project for the course, a neighborhood photo book. Although the use of a digital camera or appropriate mobile device camera is required, no prior photographic experience is needed. Several site visits will be required, not all during class time.

In this course, students will explore the city of Chicago through creative drawing and research. We will become familiar with a variety of locations in the city through a combination of site visits, readings and discussions. We will draw on site to get to know the places as they currently are, research their histories to learn about their past identities, and encounter them through the works of contemporary and historic artists in order to see how they have inspired works of art in the past. Students will create a sketchbook that incorporates on-site drawings, information from readings, and independent research to produce a multi-faceted view of the city of Chicago.  The course does not assume prior formal study in drawing, but students should have the desire to immerse themselves in drawing and explore it enthusiastically. The definition of drawing done in this course will be broad and inclusive of a wide variety of techniques and approaches, and experimentation with materials and processes will be encouraged. The course will include instruction in the basics of observational drawing as well as a variety of contemporary and nontraditional practices. Students will be introduced to the work of a variety of artists both historic and contemporary, and they will meet several contemporary Chicago artists whose works explore place and history.

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.

“Let ’er go!” With those words, in 1900, the City of Chicago completed one of the greatest engineering feats in human history—the reversal of the Chicago River. After decades of industrial pollution ruined the city’s drinking water supply and threatened the future of Chicago, city leaders hatched an audacious plan, to break through a nearby continental divide and completely reshape Chicago’s watershed. And it worked! Today, Chicago, the third most populous city in the United States, is a product of its environment—“nature’s metropolis” according to environmental historian William Cronon. Environmental history, described as “one of the most vital” and “fastest growing” fields in American history, examines the intersection of human action and the natural world, and tells stories like that of the reversal of the Chicago River. Here we go! During Immersion Week, we will explore Chicago’s exciting environment. Activities will include canoeing on the Chicago River, hiking the elevated 606 Trail, exploring Northerly Island, and taking a “toxic tour” of the Little Village neighborhood.

German-speaking immigrants to Chicago arrived during a time of intense industrialization and growth within the city, helping to make much of what we recognize as Chicago today while shaping its labor movement through radical politics. But Germany’s status as an enemy in two world wars resulted in a backlash against German immigrants and their descendants in the US, causing the German presence in Chicago to be virtually effaced. This course investigates the various and significant contributions made by Chicago’s German community, the palpable traces that group has left, while delving into more contemporary aspects of a German presence in Chicago, which range from revolutions in architecture and cutting edge visual arts to a healthy business community. Our site visits will take us from Lincoln Square, Chicago’s German neighborhood, to landmark architectural sites in the Loop and elsewhere and into the Art Institute of Chicago, the crown jewel of Chicago’s art scene. And along the way we'll find time for stops in quieter places where Chicago’s German heritage remains undisturbed.

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

We will discover Chicago on the Gigatour. That is to say, we will study the City of Chicago with a view to its manner of supplying the necessities of life. Water, air, food, warmth, transportation, communication, leisure and entertainment — these are just a few of the things a city needs to supply its population. For a city and (sub)urban area of eight million people, the task is daunting. We will begin by studying the Burnham Plan for the City of Chicago, and the Wacker Manual, and we will travel to sites such as: the Eisenhower Expressway, Illinois Institute of Technology, Oak Street Beach, the Stockyards, the Farmer’s Market at Daley Plaza, Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago Board of Trade, the City Recycling Center, Graceland Cemetery, and the Field Museum. Students will write journal entries for each of our visitations on the Gigatour — so named because of the gigabytes it contains — and they will study maps, transportations, plans and other such keys to the City. 

What does health mean to you? Is it larger than the mind, body, and spirit? As health involves a sense of togetherness, community, and society at large these concepts and access to resources will be explored. This course introduces students to a wealth of community health resources afforded to Chicagoans while pondering the true meaning of health. Through strategically selected readings, films, site visits, and course discussions of topics that compare societal health agendas at the national, state, and local levels, students will gain a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which health disparities are approached at the community level. During immersion week, students will visit community health organizations in various prominent neighborhoods within Chicagoland and review the diverse nature of health issues, often dictated by community access to resources and need. Finally, students will explore the roles of communication in outreach services through some of the city’s current health initiative by reviewing various media forms including billboards, mass transit, social media, and more!

In this course, students learn about how the sense of "place" in Chicago is constructed through historical and geographical intersections of industry, culture. Along the way, students will learn basic mapping techniques to help them conceptualize the layout of the city. Even something as simple as a Chicago style hotdog reflects a complex urban legacy of immigration and food industry stretching generations. Students will learn geographical and historical methods of thinking about the urban environment through excursions such as visits to museums, historical archives, and historic theaters to understand how Chicago has developed from an industrial city that defined itself through production of food and industrial projects, to a global metropolis where finance and real estate intertwined with international markets are now among the largest industries in the city. Students will learn holistically about the history and urban development of the city that was once described as "The City of Big Shoulders" and is now the home of "The Bean" through film, field trips, and mapping exercises. At the conclusion of the course students will have learned practical cartographical skills for drawing and mapping urban environments, in addition to being introduced to basic geographical and historical perspectives on urban environments. Focus will be given on perspectives outside of the "hegemonic" (mainstream) in urban spaces while examining development from industrial city to global metropolis, including disability activism, people of color, LGBTQ perspectives, and labor movements.

In this course, we explore different aspects of Chicago's role as a leading international city. Topics we will cover include: representation of foreign governments in Chicago, Chicago as a center of international trade and tourism, immigration and multiculturalism in Chicago, foreign students in Chicago, foreign policy analysis and bureaucracies in Chicago, the activities of local groups in international issues, the coverage of foreign news in the local media, and the efforts of the City of Chicago’s government to promote its standing as an international city. We will take several field trips to visit relevant and interesting locales, and we will have occasional guest speakers as well. 

Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic minority in the United States and currently make up 16% of the population. Unlike other single group Latino communities around the country, Chicago has the most diverse Latino population in the United States. In addition to sizable Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Central American communities, there are smaller Latino communities from most Latin American countries. To best benefit from the rich cultural, political, and economic diversity of those communities, this course will explore the causes and effects of Latino immigration to the city through the eyes of the immigrants.

While no knowledge of Spanish is required, if you are planning to take this Discover 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 Eunice Amador (

We often think of the city as something separate and distinct from nature. Nature is something that exists “out there,” away and different from human culture or civilization. This course questions those ideas. We will learn how nature is an integral part of the city of Chicago and by extension, every place on earth. At the same time, what we think of as the natural world has been everywhere “cultivated,” that is, shaped by human activity. We will learn about parts of the city thought of as natural as well as places that we would not ordinarily think of as natural. We will also examine work taking place within Chicago that enhances urban nature and our relationship with it. As we face the challenges of climate change, it is more important than ever to understand our complex natural-cultural realities. Our teaching team will help you achieve a greater appreciation of the nature to be found in the city, gain a deeper understanding of how culture affects nature, and develop a set of tools to contend with changes in our world driven by climate change.

“Photographing Chicago” is designed to examine the city by venturing into its many diverse neighborhoods using the camera as a tool of observation and inquiry; to learn how other photographers have depicted the city; and to develop your own relationship to the city through the act of photographing it. Our subject will be the city itself and the many ways in which we observe it. First, we will consider the observations of others who have come before us. We will be looking at how Chicago photographers have pictured the city by visiting their studios, looking at their photographs, and having the opportunity to ask questions about how and why they make their work. We will think about how neighborhoods are structured and how each of these neighborhoods has a distinctive history and architectural, social, and cultural imprint. This we will do with our cameras in hand, asking questions and letting the images stand in for answers (and sometimes prompting further questions). You will conduct research and write about either an historical or contemporary Chicago photographer, reflect on the neighborhoods we visit, and make a neighborhood photo book. Although the use of a camera is required, no prior photographic experience is needed. Site visits will be required, not all during class time.

In this course students will learn about the architecture, politics and history of the Chicago park system, taking a psychological perspective. Exploring several parks, observing, experiencing and taking field notes, we will look into the history and development of the city’s particular landscape architecture with an emphasis on how built and natural environments affect individual and collective psychological experience. We will also meet and discuss with a Chicago landscape architect. With this perspective we will explore topics of well-being, identity, social interaction and social justice in light of Chicago’s unique and diverse population and history. Understanding the influence of green spaces on how people experience themselves and others will serve as a basis of navigating, identifying and establishing personal places of recreation and retreat, in the city’s wide range of green spaces.

This course introduces students to the Chicago tradition in the fast-growing field of nature and science writing. Students will visit Chicago research venues such as the Illinois Medical District, the Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum, as well as a local academic lab. They will meet with researchers and leading professionals in science and nature communications, tour a medical communications consultant, a public information office, and one fun natural venue in Lincoln Park. They will write one press release, one feature article and one short essay. Absolutely no previous science or health background necessary.

In this course we will explore how various Chicago storytellers of all kinds have made the city come alive in their creative work. The axis of this course will be the tension between the individual and the communal. In the words of the writer Aleksander Hemon: “Chicago was built not for people to come together but for them to be safely apart.” Thus, we will notice how different the Chicagos can be from each other and what they may share. In the process, we will learn a little about Chicago’s incredible cultural diversity and explore some of the neighborhoods and communities that have generated individual and communal stories. We will also discuss the social issues that Chicago stories embody. By the end of the quarter, you will produce your own Chicago story in the form of a podcast, essay, or essay-video.

​ ​