Liberal Studies Program > First-Year Program > Course Descriptions > Explore Chicago
Expand selection to view full course description and instructor information.
Euan Hague, Geography
Chicago has a long history of political organizing and activism. This course explores that activism in the period after 1960. During the 1960s, organizations like the Students for a Democratic Society, the Black Panthers, Jobs Or Income Now (JOIN), the Young Lords and Rising Up Angry organized protests throughout the city and engaged in community building by providing services including free breakfasts, medical help and legal assistance. Visiting sites across Chicago associated with these organizations, students will understand the geography of activism in Chicago, meet activists who participated in these events, and learn how these organizations and their members worked to build a more socially just city that recognized the diversity of Chicago residents. Student will explore how activists and activism shaped individual and social realities in Chicago, and assess the legacies of this past on the Chicago of today.
Michael James, Geography
Marcia Good, Anthropology
Interested in finding your manipura chakra, using moxybustion to promote the flow of qi, or learning about the use of rua or manzanilla as medicinal herbs and how to cure mal de ojo or susto? This course explores these healing practices, among others, from Chicago’s different ethnic neighborhoods. Through a combination of field site visits, guest lectures and in-class activities, you will learn about Chicago’s rich cultural heritage from the perspective of health, disease and healing. Several times during the semester, excursions to ethnic neighborhoods will provide students with the opportunity to experience the unique culture of a community and observe the role of healing practitioners. Some of the topics we will cover include ayurvedic medicine from India, unani medicine from the Middle East, acupuncture from China, herbal remedies and sobadas from Latin America. Students will keep a detailed field journal, combining text and images, as they observe and interact. During the quarter, students will reflect on their field experiences and gain additional knowledge through guest lectures, readings, and in-class discussions.
Elizabeth Millán Brusslan, Philosophy
In this course, we will visit several important landmarks and discuss their aesthetic value. We shall use the city as our text and consider the city of Chicago as a kind of work of art. Since to fully appreciate anything at all, it is necessary to know something about its history and genesis, we will spend some time studying the history of Chicago, with a focus on the people and events behind the current layout of the city. In addition to introducing you to the city, this course will also serve as an introduction to philosophy, in particular to the branch of philosophy that deals with issues concerning beauty, that is, aesthetics. We might all agree that the view of the Chicago skyline from Buckingham Fountain or the view of the river from Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive is beautiful, but why do we agree? What makes a given thing or collection of things beautiful? Is a more diverse city a more beautiful city? Is a more beautiful city a more valuable city? In this course we shall explore such questions as we explore the city of Chicago.
Michael Roberts, College of Science & Health
Rock ’n roll, reggae, funk, R&B, hip hop, and rap would not be what they are – and possibly not exist – without their foundation: the blues. Affectionately known as “the blues capital of the world,” Chicago has arguably the richest blues heritage in the world. As a product of the Great Migration, African-American blues players – mostly from Mississippi – flooded to Chicago for a better life. The austere urban environment evolved their blues style: into a rougher, faster, more aggressive sound than what they played in their Delta home. This course will provide students with an opportunity to explore the city through at least five different neighborhoods that exhibit Chicago’s blues culture. Music, DVDs, articles and video clips will support class discussion about the relationship between Chicago and the blues.
Lin Kahn, The Theatre School
Diversity has strong presence in the dance community in Chicago. Students will understand the city of Chicago as they study this rich diversity in various neighborhoods through stimulating observation and thought provoking discussions with an experiential learning approach. Excursions include Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Thodos Dance Company, Joffrey Ballet Chicago, the Art Institute, and Athenaeum Theater in Lakeview. Students will grow in critical and creative thinking skills, observe rehearsals, attend a Chicago dance concert, and have meaningful in person conversations with Chicago choreographers to deeply understand Chicago history and diversity. We will learn about the Chicago 1893 Columbian Exposition through the award-winning story ballet “The White City” choreographed by Chicagoan Melissa Thodos and Ann Reinking.
Amy Tyson, History
The intimate spaces of homes have long fascinated people—many visit house museums, some try to decorate their homes to look like the past, and retro products fill home design centers. Moreover, interest in historic homes has gone beyond visiting them—reality television shows have even placed people into historic environments and left them to fend for themselves. In this course we will explore several Chicago-area homes and neighborhoods, paying careful attention to how the architecture and artifacts of these spaces lend insight into the changing nature of how Chicagoans have lived in this city from the 19th century to today.
Lisa Sigel, History
This class will discuss the Great War and how it affected Chicago. Our city like all of America, stood on the periphery of the Great War. However, the cataclysm of the war was so immense that places thousands of miles away from the conflict were transformed. This course will uncover the ways that the Great War defined Chicago history. We will discuss the war itself. We will consider how the war amped up Chicago as an industrial and food supply center, how it deepened fissures around ethnicities and race, and how it forced people to choose identities in new ways. The Great War defines the Chicago culture’s ethnic and racial relations and memorial practices in ways that are hidden but still important. Even though the war ended a century ago, the war still has a presence here that we will uncover.
Susana Martinez, Modern Languages
This course explores the Latino communities of Chicago by taking an interdisciplinary approach to literature and popular culture. We will explore the important presence and contributions of Latinas and Latinos in the social, cultural, economic, and political development of Chicago. We will study issues of cultural identity, language, gender roles, and sexuality in the novels, poetry, essays, and short stories of such noted Latina writers as Sandra Cisneros, Ana Castillo, and Achy Obejas. We will learn about the similarities and differences among Chicago’s Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Central American communities.
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 Corban Sanchez at email@example.com.
Craig Sautter, School of Continuing and Professional Studies Forget the Cubs. Forget the Sox. Forget the Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks. Politics is Chicago’s #1 spectator sport. That’s because politics in Chicago touches almost all aspects of city life from trash collection to social services and taxes. Chicago’s politicians are often flamboyant although sometimes corruptible figures. (Since 1972, 28 aldermen have gone to prison.) They both delight and enrage voters and are constant “front page” news. This course will introduce students to Chicago’s political institutions: City Hall, its system of 50 wards, current aldermen and women, its mayor, its elections, and its raucous history of scandals and reform movements. Students also will debate contemporary political/social issues which come before the mayor and city council during the Autumn Quarter. And they will explore the exploits of some of Chicago’s most memorable mayors and political “bosses” from Long John Wentworth, who guided the city during the civil war and Carter Harrison I, who presided over the 1893 Columbian Exposition before his assassination to Chicago’s newest mayor, Rahm Emanuel. They will also meet some of its most famous aldermen, such as “Hinky Dink” Kenna and “Bathhouse” John Coughlin, “Lords of the Levee,” the old First Ward, to current office holders.
Salli Berg Seeley, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
The literary scene in Chicago is vibrant and original. Emerging and accomplished writers and Live Lit storytellers are working, reading, and performing all over the city. We are the original home of the Poetry Slam, which began in the mid 1980’s in a Near West side jazz club and has since become a national and international phenomenon. On any given night of the week, you can find a poetry open mic, and on almost any given night of the week, you can wander into a live storytelling event. In this course, we will read and discuss the work of contemporary and iconic Chicago authors. By day, we will visit some of the neighborhoods where these writers’ stories and lives unfolded. By night, we will have the opportunity to attend readings and lit performances. We will also experiment with our own creative writing, including an art-inspired activity at the Art Institute.
Keith Mikos, English
The Chicago Renaissance refers to a period of intense literary and artistic production emerging in Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871. Progressive novels, bold poetry, murky paintings, striking sculptures, and pioneering archi¬tecture together tell the story of a gritty, industrial, “city of big shoulders” that seemed to threaten the surrounding Midwestern prairie landscape, with its romantic veneration of nature and traditional small-town values. This course will examine a number of important Chicago-based authors and artists who shaped this era and the city’s artistic identity. We will read, view, and discuss a wide range of expressive forms—novels, poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture—to gain a deeper understanding of how Chicago has been artistically portrayed. More importantly, we will walk the city that inspired these artists, traveling in their footsteps to consider some of the locations that were important to them, and visiting a number of landmark institutions important for Chicago artists.
Ann Russo, Women's & Gender Studies
This seminar introduces students to Chicago women’s and feminist activism. You’ll meet community-based and student organizers and activists such as those who are mobilizing to address sexual assault, who are supporting women who have been unjustly incarcerated, who are creating art for resistance and social change, who are challenging institutional racism in the schools, who are working for immigrant justice, who work in domestic violence shelters, and more. We will visit organizations like the Women and Children First Bookstore, the Chicago Women’s Health Center, the Chicago Freedom School, Broadway Youth Center, and the Brave Alliance. And you’ll work with other students in the class to develop your own feminist activist project over the course of the class.
Joseph Socki, History of Art & Architecture
This course is about learning to understand and appreciate Chicago’s architecture—the techniques and styles in which buildings are made, their functions and how they are a part of the city’s history. To learn these things we take walking tours each week, look at buildings firsthand and talk with experts. We examine the lives and works of America’s most famous architects and visit many of Chicago’s neighborhoods. We take a trip to Oak Park, tour several of the city’s most important architectural monuments, and give our field experiences depth by reading and discussing issues such as how and why architects design buildings, and how the buildings they design affect people.
Michelangelo Giampaoli, Anthropology
Chicago’s historic cemeteries are a great way to experience the city of Chicago and many of its contemporary neighborhoods, while also learning about the vital history of the city. Cemeteries in the mid-19th century became places where individuals, families, and communities took great pains to erect monuments and markers that reflected the socio-economic, racial, religious, ethnic, and gendered ideals of their day. Information about families, immigration, social networks, and religious and secular communities can be gleaned from these monuments as well as many other important themes in local and national history. This course will use Chicago cemeteries as a way of exploring themes in the social history of Chicago, while introducing students to a variety of neighborhoods in the city. Students will be introduced to interdisciplinary study of cemeteries using documentary and material evidence as well as site visits to local cemeteries and lectures from local experts. Through these activities and explorations, students will be able to understand how the city of Chicago grew over time as well as many of the important social dynamics that have shaped people’s lives in the city on a very personal scale.
Joseph Clark, 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 regular excursions to music venues throughout the 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.
Nicholas McCormick, History
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.
Mary Jane Duffy, Art, Media & Design
Chicago’s visual art scene is varied and vibrant. The Hairy Who, Nonplussed Some, and False Image were self-titled groups of painters and sculptors who gained national recognition during the ’60s for their distorted figures, bright colors and irreverent attitudes. Since then art in Chicago has continued to develop and expand into an internationally recognized art community. This class will focus on Chicago art from the 1940s to the present: its major artists, influences, collectors, critics, and institutions. We will study the influence of art history, geography, politics and cultural movements on the development of a Chicago style. Students will explore Chicago art through lectures, readings, discussions, and field trips to some major museums, galleries, public and private collections with a focus on painting and sculpture by local artists.
Noel Barker, Sociology
Getting money and power in Chicago – What are the rules of the game and how have paths to success changed? What becomes of those left behind in the scramble? Quite a tale has been told in Chicago. We will be talking about a terrorist bombing for which innocent people were executed. How the Field, McCormick, and Pullman fortunes were created in struggles against their workers. May Day became the day of international working class solidarity but was forgotten in the city that founded it. Chicago’s ethnic diversity was fought by racist mayor Levi Boone. Chicago is the place where even the World Series was fixed. Nowadays airport contracts are more lucrative than brothel payoffs. Nelson called it a hustler’s town. Mike Royko said the official motto of “Urbs in Horto” (City in a Garden) should be replaced by “Ubi Est Mea?” (Where’s Mine?) Hip-hop calls it “getting paid.” We learn how Chicago does it.
Michael Abdul-Malik Ryan, Mission & Ministry
Americans, and many others worldwide, associate Islam with the Arabic language and Arab culture. Yet four nations in South and East Asia are home to more than 40% of the world’s Muslims. In the United States, and especially in Chicago, we often associate Muslims with Arab, Indian and Pakistani communities. But African Americans comprise between one fifth and one third of Muslims in the United States, and Chicago is home to the nation’s largest concentration of African American Muslims. In “Cultural Zones of Islamic Chicago” we will explore the origins and development of four Muslim communities: African American, Arab, Bosnian, and Indian/Pakistani. These communities trace their roots to three continents – Africa, Asia and Europe. How have these Chicago communities managed to survive and thrive, despite the adverse conditions of migration – voluntary or forced; culture shock and discrimination in a new homeland; and a contemporary world where a Muslim identity may put any individual at risk, whether he or she resides in Cairo, Damascus, Paris or Chicago?
While no knowledge of Arabic is required, if you are planning to take this Explore Chicago course, now could be the perfect opportunity to learn Arabic or to develop your existing Arabic skills by taking a concurrent Arabic language class -- beginning, intermediate or advanced -- depending on past experience or results of the language placement test. For more information, contact Corban Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy Abbate, Sociology
This course is designed to introduce students to one of the most critical and intriguing health issues in history—the AIDS epidemic. Students will learn about the diverse range of individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS and the range of prevention, education, treatment, and advocacy services that are offered throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. As students interact with those who live with HIV/AIDS and who provide AIDS-related services, they will experience the human face of AIDS, and will explore the social, psychological, political, religious, and legal dimensions of this epidemic. This course will cover the following topics in the AIDS epidemic: history and epidemiology; transmission and disease progression; education and prevention; traditional medical and psychosocial treatment; spirituality and alternative treatments; housing and hospice care; policy and advocacy. The course is also designed to present a multicultural perspective on the AIDS epidemic, thus students will interact with individuals and agencies representing a range of ages, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic statuses, and serostatuses (HIV+/HIV-).
Geoffrey Farina, School of Music
This course will introduce students to Chicago’s revolutionary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and to the vibrant experimental music scene the group has inspired. Formed in 1965 in Chicago’s black Southside by children of the Great Migration, the AACM began as a nonprofit devoted to "nurturing, performing, and recording serious, original music.” At a time when black jazz musicians, audiences, and critics often conflated individual musical expression and instrumental virtuosity with a symbolic freedom from the insidious effects of racial segregation and discrimination, the AACM pioneered a set of collective musical practices that challenged the soloistic foundations of jazz, and launched a series of music-related civic actions and education initiatives that would redefine the relationship between art and activism. In the wake of their 50th anniversary, the AACM claims over 150 of Chicago’s most prominent progressive musicians as members, and an influence that pervades every corner of Chicago’s dynamic experimental music scene. First-wave AACM bands like the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Great Black Music Ensemble aggrandize the Chicago Jazz Festival, as a new generation of members like Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, and Saalik Ziyad continue the group’s legacy. Chicago’s most celebrated progressive musicians like Michael Zerang, Hamid Drake, and Ken Vandermark espouse the AACM’s collective performance principles at the Hungry Brain, Elastic Arts, Comfort Station, and other AACM-inspired artist collectives. Delmark and Nessa, the local record labels that first championed the AACM, have survived decades of record industry turmoil, and have inspired new generation of Chicago-based labels dedicated to local experimental music. Through live performances and other outings, students will experience this living music revolution that has transformed Chicago both sonically and socially.
Lucia Marchi, Modern Languages
“Libraries are the memory of mankind” (Goethe). Inevitably, the complex history of a diverse metropolis such as Chicago is reflected in its book collections. This class aims to read some of this history by exploring different city institutions. After a short introduction on the function of libraries and archives, the students will be exposed to four institutions that serve a wide variety of readers and neighborhoods. The DePaul Richardson Library tenders to the needs of an academic community in Lincoln Park, while also preserving the memory of its founders through the Vincentian collection. The Chicago Public Library represents the American effort at democratizing culture according to its core political and ideological principles. We will explore its Chinatown branch, devoted to a changing Chinese community. An important piece of civic history, the Chicago Black Renaissance, shapes the mission of the Center for Black Music Research, hosted at Columbia College. At the world-renowned Newberry Library, an independent research library open to the public, students and scholars can explore local and European history, and discover the history of the book through its beautiful rare manuscripts and early imprints.
Meg Heffernan, English
In this course, we will use the considerable resources of Chicago—its museums, architecture, churches, and theaters—to deepen our understanding of the early modern period. The course will be divided into four units: Renaissance art, drama, spirituality, and architecture. In our unit on Renaissance painting, we will use the Art Institute’s considerable resources; when we study Renaissance theater, we will learn about the events at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. We will explore Renaissance spirituality by working at a Vincentian mission, and we will complement our study of Renaissance architecture by exploring the use of Roman Renaissance architecture by Chicago eastern European immigrants when building Chicago churches. Throughout, we will ask such questions as the following: How is the early modern period central to Chicago’s identity as a world-class city? Why did the “founders” of Chicago’s arts and cultural community actively seek out the resources and culture of the early modern period? What are the “uses” of the European Renaissance to Chicago?
Victoria Hohenzy, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
Spending time in nature, basking in the filtered green light, smelling the sweet soil, listening to the leaves crunch underfoot, brings calm to our busy, urban lives. Green spaces nurture both our bodies and minds, and in our rapidly developing world, taking the time to slow down and connect with our natural environment is essential to our well-being. In this course, we will explore Chicago as the “city in a garden,” considering the ways in which nature is a preserved and essential part of of our home. Site visits and readings will explore how spaces like parks, conservatories, nature museums, green rooftops, and urban farms reflect our relationship to the natural world and our efforts to sustain it.
Tricia Hermes, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
Students will learn about the origins and purpose of the “ghost story” as both an oral and written tradition. Ghost stories, as well as traditions surrounding death, vary based on culture. This course will explore cultural traditions on the topics of death, belief in the supernatural, and the ghost story narrative. These issues will be explored in the context of Chicago’s culture and history. Cultural traditions from the cities major cultural groups will be included (i.e. Día de los Muertos, Irish wake, All Hallows Eve traditions, etc.). Excursions will provide supplemental learning experiences and could include the Chicago Ghost Tour, a visit to the Mexican Fine Arts Museum for the Día de los Muertos exhibit, and a Chicago Historical Society tour of Graceland Cemetery.
Daniel Kamin, International Studies
What lessons can be learned from the experience of one of Chicago's earliest minority groups? With eight excursions to different sites around Chicago culminating in visits to one of Chicago's major league ballparks and the best kosher restaurant in the city, this course will introduce students to a vital community which contributes to the ethnic and religious diversity of Chicago. After an initial discussion about American pluralism, we will explore the history of the local Jewish community from its immigration to Chicago to the present day. Being Jewish is primarily an ethnic identity reflecting Jewish civilization for some Jews, while for others it is more of a religious identity. This class will explore this seeming dichotomy while placing the Jewish-Americans into the context of all ethnic, racial, and religious groups in America, most particularly minorities. Thus, the course is a valuable learning experience for all students, particularly those that see themselves as ethnic, racial, or religious minorities in order to see how such groups in America can both express and develop their own identities in the context of being part of America's common civilization. We will focus on the current demographics of Jewish Chicago as well as on the community’s religious and cultural life, and on understanding issues of concern to the community. We will be visiting a number of Jewish organizations, institutions, and synagogues. We will examine the self-definition, public relations and advocacy work of Chicago’s Jewish community with an eye towards the diversity of opinion and experience which exists within it as well as indications of commonality between the sites we visit. We will cover local, national, and international issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to get a picture of where the Jewish community, in its diversity, stands and commits time, energy, and resources. We will also examine how the local Jewish community interacts with the greater community here in Chicago as well as more broadly. The course will give students a sense of how the Jewish community fits into the social and cultural fabric of Chicago.
Sonia Antolec, Political Science
This course will give students an inside look at the Chicago Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice Systems by traveling throughout the city and taking first hand tours of our city’s courthouses, jails, and police department, among other locations. 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 class excursions and what they learned from the guest speakers of how our modern justice system works or is flawed 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.
Aaron Lefkovitz, History
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. This course looks at music in Chicago through the lens of three distinct categories. By focusing on race, ethnicity, and a sense of place, students will be able to ground their experiences listening to, experiencing, and studying music, in the field and the classroom, and through historical and political understandings, thereby enriching their knowledge and introduction to the study of music and study of Chicago. The city and its music will be the focal point of the course, even as students will make connections to and be able to trace routes and pathways between the music of Chicago and its residents and genres' transnational migrations. Exposing students to a variety of Chicago’s neighborhoods and subcultures, a variety of genres will be discussed, spanning the diversity of Chicago and its musical expressions, including blues, folk, hip hop, jazz, musical theatre, opera, rock, Western art and classical music, and various “world musics.” Discussions will focus on topics central to understanding Chicago music histories and their relationships to the transnational cultural politics of race, ethnicity, and a sense of place. Chicago’s role as a major center for music, where distinctive forms of blues (greatly responsible for the future creation of rock and roll), and house music were developed, will be analyzed, along with the city’s centrality to the “Great Migration” of poor African-American workers from the South into the industrial cities that brought traditional jazz and blues music to the city, resulting in Chicago blues and “Chicago-style” Dixieland jazz. In addition to live performances and other outings, class sessions will include lectures, open classroom discussions, and guest speakers.
Ellen Schaal, Environmental Science & Studies
Natural history is a scientific study of organisms and natural objects, especially their origins, evolution, and ecological roles. As the third most populous city in the nation, Chicago is rich in ecology and evolution-related resources, such as the Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and our very own DePaul campus. This course provides students some insights into the types of natural history-related activities and conservation efforts carried out by people who work at those organizations. The course explores issues such as the structure and dynamics of ecosystem, biodiversity and its conservation, and the Earth and Chicago’s geologic history by utilizing these resources.
Jason Winslade, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse Dubbed Dubbed “Psychic City” by journalist Brad Steiger in the 1970s, Chicago has long been an epicenter for esoteric currents, alternative spiritualities and progressive philosophies. In the 1890s, the jewel of Chicago’s skyline was the famous Masonic Temple Building, one of the tallest buildings in the world at the time, designed, owned and occupied by the fraternal order of Freemasonry. In the 1920s, Chicago was also home to one of the few American temples of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, an esoteric group highly influential in the development of modern Western Occultism. Chicago has served as the home base for noted occultists and esoteric philosophers such as Paschal Beverly Randolph, Paul Foster Case, Emma Curtis Hopkins, William Walker Atkinson, and even the notorious Aleister Crowley, for a time. Chicago continues to nurture countless organizations, communities and individuals who continue these esoteric traditions, including Kabbalists, Wiccans, Yogis, and Theosophists, as well as Santerians, Vodun and Hoodoo practitioners. Focusing on prominent individuals and organizations that have benefited from Chicago’s diverse population and progressive foundation, we will study our local manifestations of these belief systems and movements, within the cultural context of modern American mysticism and esotericism. Further, we will address how this local “occulture” has influenced mainstream thought, rhetoric and values, particularly within the realm of contemporary politics and activism.
Tom Denlinger, Art, Media & Design
“Landscape” has multiple meanings. Traditionally it has meant the natural environment as seen and considered by human beings. Landscape is a construct, a human perception that cannot exist without us. Today the term broadly encompasses everything seen in the world around us, both natural and “built.” Cities, too, are landscapes, the quintessential human remaking of the natural world, and they define themselves by the structures we build. What do the buildings and infrastructures, decorated by history, teach us about Chicago’s roots, its present and its future? In class we will study the physical, architectural, social and cultural histories of several Chicago neighborhoods, such as the Loop, Gold Coast, Lakeview, Lincoln Park and others. How has the use of the land changed over time? How has the visual appearance of the built environment evolved? First-hand observations, aided by the camera, will be our starting point. Photographs remember everything and may later confirm our notions or invite a re-evaluation. With pencil and camera, we will walk the streets gathering impressions and interviewing residents. Readings, viewings, guest speakers and, primarily, first-hand observation will provide context for the neighborhoods we explore and study. Although the use of a camera is required, no prior photographic experience is needed. Several site visits will be required, not all during class time.
James Rudyk, Public Policy Studies
This class explores how race and power have shaped Chicago politics in the past and continue to shape it today. As we examine such recent events as the cover-up of the 2014 police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and the 2019 election of Lori Lightfoot, Chicago’s first female African American mayor, our understanding will be informed by both studying the historical context and hearing different viewpoints directly from community residents, politicians, and community organizations from across the city.
Alexios Rosario-Moore, College of Education
From the 1963 school boycott to the 2012 teacher's strike, the history of public education in Chicago has been marked by conflicts over educational inequality. This course explores the history of school segregation and racial inequality by reviewing the policies that have deepened the divides between communities. During the semester we will talk with teachers, policymakers, and activists in order to understand how school segregation is linked to housing policy while visiting the most affected neighborhoods in order to explore the relationship between school closures, gentrification, and the changing demographics of the city.
Chris Green, English
We will not only read some of the most important Chicago literature, but we will also walk the places and spaces at the heart of these writings. We will explore a range of contemporary Chicago works about a variety of themes as diverse as urban nature and youth violence. We will also read books from contemporary Chicago writers such as Kevin Coval, Stuart Dybek, and Alex Kotlowitz. These different voices share common themes about Chicago’s immigrant experience, diversity, work life, and influence on those who grow up and grow old in the city. You will read critically and creatively, at times analyzing the texts’ style and themes, and at others using the texts as models for creating your own poem, short story, and essay about Chicago. Furthermore, we will venture into the city—taking inspiring walking/writing tours.
Margaret Lanterman, Art, Media & Design
After the Great Fire, Chicago rebuilt itself into one of the world's grandest cities. Sculpture has been a key ingredient in that greatness. Learn how sculpture has worked to shape history and reflect the city’s Midwest and immigrant values. Discover what motivated the movers and shakers of this youthful town to recruit talented sculptors from around the world. Politics, financial secrets, altruism and heroic far-sightedness all played a role in moving Chicago from the mud of a wild, provincial town to the sophisticated world-leader that it is today. Sculpture is one lever that has kept that progress moving forward.
Mark Wodziak, Sociology
Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the country. On the surface, it might look like Chicago’s segregation is the product of class (the invisible hand of the market), or that people prefer to live by people who look like them. In reality, segregation in Chicago is caused by racist policies and practices; i.e. housing discrimination and structural racism. Throughout this course, we will examine how Chicago became segregated by exploring the various mechanisms through which this occurred. We will discuss: redlining, panic peddling, restrictive covenants, and blockbusting, and explore how even Chicago mayors were/are involved in creating and reinforcing policies that promote racial segregation. We will make the connection between these policies and their impact on people. In particular, we will see how they result in the creation of food deserts resulting in neighborhoods where over 50% of the population have stage 2 kidney disease. Through field excursions to the Bronzeville, Bridgeport, and Humboldt Park neighborhoods of Chicago, we will see first-hand the process of racial change. We will analyze the similarities and differences between ethnic enclaves and hypersegregated African American communities. For example, neighborhoods like Chinatown and Humboldt Park may appear to share similarities with hypersegregated communities, but they are qualitatively different. Lastly, we will explore the often simplified and misunderstood process of gentrification, paying particular attention to those that this process negatively and disproportionately impacts.
Janelle Walker, First-Year Program The Maxwell Street neighborhood on Chicago’s Near West Side has had a colorful past, acting as port of entry for many immigrant and migrant populations, as home to a world-famous open-air market and retail district, and as the birthplace of electrified Blues music. For years, the city of Chicago and the University of Illinois engaged in a concerted “clean up” of the area, moving the market, displacing the community, demolishing the built environment, and eventually creating a new neighborhood called “University Village.” The historic outdoor market has been relocated three times, downsized, upscaled, and regulated. Just to the south of the Maxwell Street area lies Pilsen, a predominately Mexican neighborhood in the early phases of gentrification. It is facing many of the same issues and challenges that Maxwell Street once did. We will make field trips to Pilsen, the Maxwell Street neighborhood, and the Maxwell Street Market, as well as other Chicago places that inform our ongoing discussion of gentrification and urban change. What we see and hear on these trips will add to our discussions of the City of Chicago’s attempts to beautify/sanitize its public areas and the implications of this for neighborhood culture, community, place, and issues of social justice. The course will consist of academic readings and discussions, observation, interviewing and documentation at the Maxwell Street Market and in Pilsen, guest speakers, student presentations, and field trips as a class using public transportation.
Nick Kachiroubas, School of Public Service
Students taking this course will explore the world of politics within Chicago and gain an understanding of the structures of government that make up the larger governmental system in which “things get done.” Particular focus will be on the City of Chicago; Cook County; and State of Illinois exploring each system of government and the major policy issues that each unit of government is currently dealing with. Students will learn about the interactions between the various levels of government and how they complement and compete with each other for resources. As a culminating learning experience, students will participate in a team project where they become specialists about a particular ward within the City of Chicago. A variety of guest speakers and visits will be arranged to allow students to hear firsthand from political reporters and elected leaders including a visit to Chicago City Hall and the City Council Chambers.