By Sarah Miller, Third-Year Student and Civic Journalist for Chicago Studies


On Thursday, November 7th, the Chicago Studies Program of the College and University Community Service Center (UCSC) hosted the first Faculty Fireside Chat of the academic year featuring Susan Gzesh, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Program and Senior Lecturer in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division.

Gzesh became intrigued with the efforts of African-Americans to appeal for civil rights and an end to segregation to the United Nations after reading Carol Anderson's book, Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1945-1955.

She began to research African-American human rights issues in her own backyard, growing up in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago. Her curiosity led her to the dank stacks of the Regenstein Library where she made a monumental discovery: a copy of the petition W.E.B. Du Bois wrote to the UN on the behalf of the NAACP, which to her surprise contained two chapters written by two influential African-Americans from the South Side of Chicago - Earl B. Dickerson (J.D. '20), the first African-American to graduate from the University of Chicago Law School and William Ming, the first African-American law professor at the University of Chicago and the first faculty member at a non-segregated law school.

For Gzesh, whose research on police torture that took place at a station on 90th and Cottage Grove during the 1970s and 1980s under the supervision of former Chicago Police Detective Jon Burge, this discovery was especially fascinating. At the time, she and other Chicago-based human rights activists had been working to bring this case of police torture before the United Nations Committee Against Torture as a violation of human rights. After reviewing the cases in which police detectives beat their suspects, mostly African-American males, in order to coerce confessions, UN Commissioners condemned the Chicago police's torture.

"It was pretty exciting because, here are these big predecessors who have blazed this trail that we want to take up again," Gzesh explained.

One of the key questions Gzesh addressed in the chat was why, after 67 years, W.E.B. Du Bois or someone acting in his stead had not attempted to deliver his petition to the United Nations. According to Gzesh, American isolationism throughout the late 20th century and the Cold War drove the aversion of international appeals. However, since 2005, there has been a renewed interest in bringing cases of human rights violations occurring on the South Side of Chicago, including, not only the Chicago police torture cases, but cases that pertain to the rights of housing and affordable education.

"In a system where they feel they are in a closed political system where [marginalized individuals] cannot seek justice, they seek to go outside of the political system to achieve this justice, because outside attention will shake up things a little bit," Gzesh said.


For more information about check out the links below:
Susan Gzesh's Faculty Page
Human Rights Program at the University of Chicago D'Angelo Law Library
Article on W.E.B. Du Bois' An Appeal to the World

Chicago Ideas Week Draws Community and Industry Leaders for Annual Summit


By: Sarah Miller, Third-Year Student and Civic Journalist for Chicago Studies

The third annual Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) summit is scheduled to take place downtown from Monday, October 14 to Sunday, October 20. The summit will feature nearly 200 speakers, including astronaut Buzz Aldrin and "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory, and will draw an anticipated 25,000 attendees. The majority of CIW events are open to the public, and tickets to each event cost $15.00. Most of the events are 90-minute panel discussions with three to six speakers who will discuss a certain topic or theme.

This year, the CIW talks will focus on 30 distinct themes, including environment, entrepreneurship, and education. Several of the talks have a direct focus on the city of Chicago and social justice, such as:

• "Chicago: Big Shoulders, Big Future" on Tuesday, October 15 at 4 p.m.
• "Education: State of the Student" on Thursday, October 17 at 4 p.m.
• "Witness: I Changed History" on Sunday, October 20 at 4 p.m.

In addition to the events above, the CIW will host exclusive, behind-the-scenes look into Chicago businesses and institutions and master classes that will feature hour-long conversations between two journalists in their field of expertise.

For additional information about Chicago Ideas Week, visit their website and click here for a complete schedule of events.

Submit Your BA Thesis Today for the Chicago Studies Annual Journal


By: Christopher Hansen, Communications Intern for Chicago Studies

The Chicago Studies Program of the University Community Service Center (UCSC) invites you to submit your Chicago-focused senior thesis for consideration in the Chicago Studies Annual Journal.

Each year, University of Chicago undergraduates conduct original research on various aspects of Chicago - politics, history, culture, etc. - and produce publishable work in upper-level classes and BA thesis colloquiums. Students now have the opportunity to submit their work for publication in "Chicago Studies: An Annual of Undergraduate Research on the Chicago Region."

The Chicago region continues to be an academic laboratory for the University of Chicago, and the Journal showcases some of the best academic work about the city produced by undergraduate students. The first volume was released in Autumn 2008.

Eligible papers must:
• deal with some aspect of the Chicago region;
• contain original research;
• have been completed by a University of Chicago undergraduate as a component of a class or degree requirement; and
• be nominated by a faculty member.

Students from all academic disciplines within the College are eligible to submit. To be considered, submissions must be formatted in a Microsoft Word document and sent via email by Friday, July 21 to Martha Merritt, the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Development, at

Chicago Studies Program Seeks to Foster Chicago-Focused Senior Theses


By: Jane Bartman, Third-Year Student and Civic Journalist for Chicago Studies

On Monday, June 3, the Chicago Studies Program of the University Community Service Center (UCSC) hosted students who wrote or are planning to write a senior thesis on a Chicago-focused topic for an engaging dinner discussion.

The event drew over 15 undergraduates from a variety of majors and areas of study, including Pre-Med, Public Policy, History, International Studies, and Sociology, who expressed interest in topics ranging from refugee communities in Chicago to the city's criminal court system.

Attendees offered suggestions for ways that the UCSC could support their research, from compiling a list of completed Chicago-related theses to offering a travel stipend for students conducting fieldwork or archival research elsewhere in the city.

Students were enthusiastic about the chance to focus their major undergraduate research project in a city as diverse and dynamic as Chicago. Third-year Karlyn Gorski said, "Researching in Chicago means I can immerse myself and create a project that I really care about."

If you have additional suggestions on how the Chicago Studies Program could support your BA research, please email

On Thursday, May 2, Matthew Skoller was a guest lecturer in Intensive Study of a Culture: Chicago Blues, an anthropology course taught by Professor Michael Dietler in which students examine Chicago blues as a distinct musical genre and cultural phenomenon. Skoller is the second of three local musicians who will give guest lectures as part of a Course Connection through the Chicago Studies Program of the University Community Service Center (UCSC).

Watch the video here.

For more information about this Course Connection, visit the links below:
"Living (and Hearing) History: Chicago Blues Musicians Share Music and Perspectives with UChicago Students" by Jake Smith
• "Chicago Blues" Course Connection Photos

By: Christopher Hansen, Communications Intern for Chicago Studies

On Tuesday, May 14, the Chicago Studies Program of the University Community Service Center (UCSC) and the Neighborhood Schools Program (NSP) co-sponsored the spring quarter's second Faculty Fireside Chat featuring Marisa de la Torre. De La Torre, Director for Internal Research Capacity at the University of Chicago Consortium of Chicago School Research, met with students to discuss the effects of school closings on displaced students based on her research studying past school closings in the city of Chicago.

If you were unable to attend the Faculty Fireside Chat or are interested in learning more about the issue, the Chicago Studies Program recommends reading the reports below:

When Schools Close: Effects on Displaced Students in Chicago Public Schools

Authors: Marisa de la Torre and Julia Gwynne
Published: October 2009

Final Report: CPS School Closings
Author: Commission on School Utilization
Published: March 6, 2013

By: Jane Bartman, Third-Year Student and Civic Journalist for Chicago Studies

From Thursday, April 25, through Saturday, April 27, the University of Chicago hosted a conference entitled "Chicago and the Built Environment," an initiative of the Urban Network of the University of Chicago. This three-day conference explored the spatial history of Chicago.

Tim Samuelson, cultural historian of the city of Chicago, delivered the conference's keynote address. In his speech, Samuelson led the audience on a journey through the city's history, as reflected by changes in architectural styles and the city's built environment. Samuelson started off by asking "What was the magic that made Chicago famous?" His talk identified key themes that have shaped much of Chicago's unique culture: the "three In-s" of ingenuity, innovation, and insecurity. Samuelson said that the city's ability to "apply unusual solutions to any given problem" comes in large part from a desire to prove itself equal to older, more-established cities. He credited this drive for making Chicago great: "it's a good incentive that keeps Chicago trying things... as long as it doesn't lose its insecurity, it will always be on its toes."

Friday's events included a series of panels and a Resource Fair. The panels discussed topics such as "Infrastructure" and "Past and Future" and featured a wide range of panelists including University of Chicago faculty as well as community leaders, historians, and architects.

On Saturday, panelists led a tour of Chicago's built environment. The tour stopped at five sites of particular significance in the city's history: the Union Stockyards, the Illinois and Michigan Canal, the Monument to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the City Farm, and the Haymarket Riot Memorial.

For more information about the conference, check out the links below:
"Chicago and the Built Environment" Conference
• The University of Chicago's Urban Network

By: Sarah Miller, Second-Year Student and Civic Journalist for Chicago Studies

On Monday, April 22, the Chicago Studies Program of the University Community Service Center (UCSC) hosted the spring quarter's first Faculty Fireside Chat featuring Harold Pollack, Professor in the School of Social Service Administration and the University of Chicago Crime Lab Co-Director.

Pollack's Fireside Chat, entitled "Reducing Gun Violence: What Works and What's Promising?" showcased the Crime Lab's 2009 study that examined strategies to improve social-cognitive skills in teenage boys in seven Chicago public schools. According to Pollack, the study was premised on the understanding that improving social-cognitive skills among young people could help to reduce youth gun violence.

In his discussion, Pollack explained that multiple issues contribute to the problem of youth gun violence, such as poverty, racism, inequality - the "failure of every social policy."

After extensive research of police records in Chicago, Pollack concluded that the majority of homicides caused by gunshots were perpetrated by young, impulsive men during altercations. He also found that most homicides were "gang-related" in that gangs illegally sell firearms to people.

During his talk, Pollack compared crime rates in the United States to those of 11 Western countries. While the United States has crime rates that are comparable or lower than other countries, Pollack showed that its homicide rate is strikingly high compared to that of its industrialized peers.

"There are way fewer dead bodies in those countries, but they have every other social problem we have," Pollack said.

Although Chicago is often hailed as the "murder capital" of the country, Pollack said that gun violence is on decline, pointing out that homicide levels in Chicago were half of what they were 20 years ago.

For more information about Pollack's Faculty Fireside Chat, the 2009 Crime Lab study, or the Chicago Studies Program, check out the links below:

Harold Pollack's Faculty Page
Chicago Studies Program
UChicago Crime Lab
This American Life Feature on Harper High School, mentioned in the Faculty Fireside Chat

By: Sarah Miller, Second-Year Student and Civic Journalist for Chicago Studies

The Field Museum and Chicago Working-Class Studies co-sponsored a rough-cut screening of the documentary Exit Zero on Saturday, April 13. The documentary, which narrates the history of deindustrialization in southeast Chicago, is based on a book with the same title written by MIT Professor, Christine Walley. Exit Zero was produced by her filmmaker husband, Chris Boebel.

"The [Field Museum] has been very interested in the region since its founding. As a museum of natural history, it is very interested in environmental issues as well," said Mark Bouman, the Chicago Region Program Director at the Field Museum.

In addition to the documentary screening, the all-day event included a tour of the Field Museum's "Restoring Earth" exhibition and two panel discussions titled "Preserving the Heritage" and "Conserving, Restoring, and Renewing: A Panel of Local Environmental, Community, and Labor Activists."

"This is a story that since I was a teenager I really felt I needed to write. There is not a lot of language about the things I want to talk about," Walley explained during her introduction to the film.

"The [Exit Zero Project] works against more conventional narratives and histories," said Boebel. "It's about the expansion of class inequality in the U.S., and it is meant to be a multi-generational project as a way of thinking about the past and the future."

For more information about the Exit Zero Project, the Field Museum, and Chicago Working- Class Studies, check out the links below:

Exit Zero Project
Chicago Studies Feature on Exit Zero Project
Restoring Earth Exhibition at the Field Museum
Journey Through Calumet: Communities in Motion in Southeast Chicago and Indiana, past exhibition at the Field Museum
Chicago Working-Class Studies

EnvisionDo Hosts Chicago GastroConference on Saturday, April 13


By: Jane Bartman, Third-Year Student and Civic Journalist for Chicago Studies

On Saturday, April 13, EnvisionDo will host the Chicago GastroConference from 11am to 5 in Ida Noyes Hall. Journalists, restauranteurs, entrepreneurs, and academics will offer their take on topics ranging from ingredient sourcing and farming practices to issues of food access and sustainability in the city of Chicago. The day will consist of a series of panels, and attendees are welcome to attend some or all of the events.

The schedule for the GastroConference is as follows:

11:30am - 12:20pm | Panel Session 1
All About Ingredients
Running the Restaurant: Challenges of Restaurant Ownership

12:30pm - 12:50pm | Keynote
Barry Nalebuff, Co-Founder of Honest Tea

2:00pm - 2:50pm | Panel Session 2
Entrepreneurship in the Food Industry I
Crafting the Culinary Experience

3:00pm - 3:20pm | Keynote
Justin Massa, Founder of Food Genius

3:30pm - 4:50pm | Panel Session 3
Entrepreneurship in the Food Industry II
Food and the Social Good: Health, Access and Sustainability

GastroConference tickets are free for University of Chicago students, $10 for University of Chicago affiliates and non-University of Chicago students, and $20 for the general public, and can be purchased here. Registration sign-up for University of Chicago students is now full, but students can join the waitlist for the event.

The event will take place at Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 East 59th St. Chicago, IL, 60637.

All attendees must present ID at the entrance.