“Chicago is not just a host, in this context. It has become a partner in sharpening your insights about the world,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “But it’s also important to see that you’re giving back, producing scholarship that increases our understanding of the city. Chicago Studies offers students in the College a fundamental point of engagement so that they might form reciprocal relationships with the city.”
By using their resources and knowledge in a respectful, conscientious way, students can become true partners to the city, according to Skrable: “We’re laying the groundwork for students to use their skills and curiosity, now or in their professional roles later in life, to answer questions for the Chicago community.”
Given the events of the past year, Skrable has found Chicago Studies programming to be more in-demand—and more necessary—than ever before.
“As both Chicago’s diverse communities and our University community find ourselves in a liminal space, reckoning with all that we’ve learned about ourselves in the extreme challenges of the past two years, I think we’re ever more aware of how much we have to learn from one another and how much we have to offer one another as we build a better future for everyone in our city.”
The city as a classroom
As Chicago Studies has expanded, the program now offers a certificate to recognize students who have made a positive impact on the Chicago community throughout their academic journey. This option is open to students of any discipline, and can encompass anything from academic research in the city to pre-professional experience to advocacy work. Tailored to their specific interests, certificate requirements are meant to help College students see how the classroom and the city truly connect.
As the multimedia specialist for Chicago Studies, third-year Akwe McDaniels produced videos for tours throughout the city to familiarize students with various neighborhoods, as well as historic buildings on UChicago's campus. This role has transformed her understanding of herself as a student and Chicago resident.
“Our learning tends to be so theory-heavy, and it sometimes feels like there isn't a way to push beyond that into the outside world,” she said. “By engaging with Chicago Studies and learning more about the city, I've honestly been able to connect the classroom to the city in ways that I didn't necessarily think I'd be able to.”