Recently in University history Category
The City as a Resource for Learning
This Winter, many UChicago students will be advising local
non-profits, driving along 100 miles of the
According to Bart Schultz, the director of the Civic
Knowledge Project and the teacher of next quarter's What is Civic Knowledge? and The
Chicago School of Philosophy, Chicago is a critical resource for students
of political and social movements. Though UChicago is sometimes known for its
cloistered campus and inward-focused lens, "part of the point of my courses is
to suggest that the actual history of the
In fact, the hands-on activities that his and other Chicago Studies course emphasis are exactly how Dewey wanted UChicago students to learn, he adds.
"Both courses offer the opportunity to combine classroom and
experiential learning... [the
Schultz is team-teaching What is Civic Knowledge? a special "Big Problems" course for College third- and fourth-years, with Margot Browning, Associate Director of the Franke Institute for the Humanities and Director of Big Problems.
"We really range across the history of
"We're not interested in teaching 'here are the three branches of government.' [Civic Knowledge] is actually about the basis for community organizing, civic friendship, a healthier and more participatory democracy," he says.
The Business of Nonprofits
In Debra Schwartz's class, the Business of Non-Profits, students will be doing more than studying community activism; they'll be consulting with and advising local non-profits and then presenting their work to the rest of the class. Schwartz will also bring local non-profit leaders in to speak to the class.
"We cover the history of the non-profit sector and, much of
it is rooted in work in
Like Schultz, Schwartz links the value of her course
"Some of the most influential leaders were Jane Addams and
her colleagues, some of whom were on our faculty. One of the great insights
they had at the time was that
She adds: "I don't think you can get quite the depth of experience without this hands-on piece, if you want to really understand the role that a nonprofit plays and how difficult it is to do nonprofit work well."
Non-Profits is an
offshoot of the CS-RSO Campus Catalyst, and enrollment is limited to
participating students. The non-profits range from the
"It's a very diverse group of students," Schwartz said, ranging from Economics majors to Public Policy, Art History and Physics students. "I think it's great, because the kind of organizations we work with have diverse" services and goals.
Judy Hoffman is bringing Chicago Studies to her Documentary Film Production class.
As part of this two-quarter-long sequence, students will work in groups to document either a portrait of a Chicagoan, a social issue or an historical narrative.
"This is a cinematic social inquiry, using the city as a laboratory for investigation," Hoffman says. "I try to encourage [my students] to get off campus and look at the city and its people, to figure out what really needs to be said."
Past projects have ranged from profiles of
The course, according to Conzen, will examine the role cities play in national and regional urban networks. He will lead students to the Regenstein library to view its collection of historical Chicago maps and documents, and on a hundred mile-long fieldtrip along the historical Illinois-Michigan Canal, stopping in the small towns "that make up the Chicago hinterlands" along the way.
Conzen says the benefits are clear:
Woodlawn, the low-income neighborhood just south of the University of Chicago campus, has a deep history of conflict and resolution with its ivory-tower neighbor. If you ask third-year graduate student Mark Hopwood, trying to understand this complicated relationship is exactly why students should venture south.
Hopwood, a member of SSN, shared community lore about the 1893 World's Fair, legendary organizer Saul Alinsky, and the street gang the Blackstone Rangers, with a dozen students and other residents of Hyde Park on the SSN's annual tour of Woodlawn last Sunday afternoon. The tour began on 61st and Ellis Ave in front of the new South Campus dormitory, and proceeded West along 63rd St. to the Cottage Grove commercial district.
"Woodlawn was never a particularly upscale neighborhood," Hopwood said. "But it was a place where you would come to have fun, kind of like the Coney Island of Chicago"
As the group walked Hopwood traced the arc of Woodlawn's development, from a swampland settled by Dutch immigrants in the 1950s to the home of the sprawling Columbian Exposition of 1893, to its current status as a diverse, up-and-coming lakeside neighborhood.
Hopwood was joined by Wardell Lavendar, a community member who has called Woodlawn home for the past 53 years, and has the memories to prove it:
"This street used to be lined with businesses," he said, gesturing to the brick row houses lining 63rd St., once the South Side's commercial district. According to Wardell, commercial activity in the community dropped off substantially when the Green Line, which used to run East above 63rd St. from Cottage Grove to Kimbark, was torn down.
More to know about the University and Woodlawn:
*The University of Chicago made an agreement with the community activist group The Woodlawn Organization (TWO) that it will not develop the campus south of 63rd St.
*In the 1960s, Woodlawn was home to the Black P. Stone Rangers, Half a civil-rights organization and half cocaine-trafficking street gang, the Stones were the most powerful gang in Chicago until an FBI-led crackdown.
*Saul Alinsky, a community organizer famous for the mass power tactics he outlined in his book, "Rules for Radicals," organized in Woodlawn, Back of the Yards, and other Chicago neighborhoods around issues of race and tenants' rights.
How are you getting to know your neighbors?
Links to get you involved in Woodlawn:
UChicago's South Side Solidarity Network's website
One of the least-appreciated but most fantastic resources on campus is the Special Collections Research Center in the Reg. Among its many resources are thousands of documents, rare manuscripts, letters, photographs, and ephemera that have been collected since the University's founding in 1892. Presidents' papers, students' notes, yearbooks, student publications, and assorted RSO paraphernalia are all easily accessible, and can provide more nuance to history than a secondary account ever could. The archivists and librarians in Special Collections are tremendously knowledgeable and helpful in turning the myriad resources into usable material, making primary research an absolute pleasure.
Last winter, I was enrolled in the Chicago 1968 course, which involved a good deal of archival research. I focused on student activist groups in the late sixties, and turned up a surprising number of parallels to current activist RSOs. The New University Conference organized a walkout at Billings Hospital that was uncannily similar to the battle SOUL (Students Organizing United with Labor) and campus and hospital staff waged last year to secure a fair contract. The Chicago Women's Liberation Union and Chicago Women's Union held a conference with workshops that prefigured several of the Feminist Majority's events from spring quarter 2008.
Below I've summarized some of my findings about one student group, including citations to the relevant archives in Special Collections. Check out the finding aids to see if the RSOs you're involved in have precursors. Were they working for the same things your group is today? Was membership similar? Were their hairstyles particularly ridiculous? All good questions.