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Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Social Justice

Chicago, Illinois

Areas of focus

The ACM Chicago Program has three primary areas of focus: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Social Justice. Students have the opportunity to explore one of these topics in-depth, or participate in classwork and projects across these disciplines.

Chicago Program: Arts focus

There’s just something inspiring about Chicago.  It is the home of world-renowned arts organizations like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Steppenwolf Theatre, and the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s the birthplace of gospel music, improv acting, and slampoetry.  And it may just be the best urban environment in America today for young artists to discover themselves, their careers, and their artistic voices.  Chicago has provided inspiration to artists as varied as Frank Lloyd Wright, Muddy Waters, Tina Fey, David Mamet, Ed Paschke, Sandra Cisneros, Wilco, Ira Glass, Bill Murray, Audrey Niffenegger, and Kanye West.  Will it inspire you?

Creative Arts is one of the three primary focal points of the ACM Chicago Program.  Students with interests in a broad range of the arts – music, theater, dance, film, fine arts, creative writing, and related liberal arts – are introduced to the creative process as it is expressed within the context of a major urban arena and by the individual students themselves.  In addition, students are asked to consider and apply their examination of the creative process within the broader context of their experience living and working in the major urban center of Chicago.  Students will attend arts-related events, interact and develop contacts with a wide variety of Chicago-based artists, and learn to recognize and express creativity in everyday life.  Click here to see recent independent study projects in the area of the Arts.

Chicago Program: Entrepreneurship focus

Building a successful business from the ground up epitomizes Chicago.  Simply put, there isn’t a better place to experience entrepreneurship and innovation in action.  Chicago is home to historic figures like Montgomery Ward, who built the first catalog business and fought hard and long to preserve the lakefront of Lake Michigan from commercial development.  It’s also home to internet-based companies like Groupon and Sittercity, both of which started small and grew to be the largest websites of their kind in the world.  Inventive thinking and creative problem-solving have always been deeply rooted in the fertile soil of Chicago.  With a bustling downtown business district that showcases everything from Fortune 500 companies to ground-breaking startups, Chicago offers students a valuable opportunity to see how companies are built and can compete in this new era of the global marketplace.

Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation is one of the three primary focal points of the ACM Chicago Program.  Students interested in this topic are introduced to the central themes of entrepreneurship – creativity, innovation, and problem solving – as the fundamental tools of successful businesses and organizations of all types.  Students are asked to consider and apply these themes within the broader context of their experience living and working in the major entrepreneurial center of Chicago, and to develop the skills required for developing successful innovative approaches to business dilemmas.  Students will interact with a wide variety of businesses and organizations, develop contacts with Chicago-based business leaders and entrepreneurs, and learn to recognize entrepreneurial opportunities in everyday life.  Click here to see recent independent study projects in the area of Entrepreneurship.

Chicago Program: Social Justice focus

Chicago is a city with a pioneer spirit.  From its phenomenal rebirth after the Great Fire, to the massive social reforms resulting from Jane Addams’ Settlement House movement, to the election of Barack Obama as the first black President of the United States, it has always challenged itself to respond to the needs of its citizens.  Whether pursuing public policy concerns, community development, racial and economic justice, complex politics, education, healthcare and quality of life, or the environment, the people of Chicago have always been actively engaged in the important social issues of the day.  It’s also a city of tremendous diversity, with cultures and ethnicities from around the globe, living in neighborhoods that have evolved to possess their own distinct personalities, viewpoints, and values.  Chicago is the perfect laboratory for creative social change – through participation in public discourse, active involvement in civic issues, engagement with current social justice priorities, and by working shoulder-to-shoulder with those who make a difference in the lives of everyday people.

Social Justice is one of the three primary focal points of the ACM Chicago Program. Students interested in this topic engage in a thoughtful and challenging introduction to the complexities of life and society in Chicago. Since the program's inception in 1969 as the Urban Studies Program, students have examined major sociological and political issues of the day through the personal perspectives of Chicago’s community leaders, politicians, and activists, as well as through traditional scholarship on the subjects of public policy, community development, social justice, politics, gender, race, and ethnicity in American urban societies. Students will actively engage in the life of a distinctive Chicago neighborhood – living and learning as citizens, meeting with local residents and organizations to learn about their neighborhood, and learning how their efforts impact the local and larger communities in which they live. Students will become skilled in the language and actions of social change, as they meet with experts and insiders from government, the media, social service agencies, and community groups, to observe how communities and groups shape public policy and negotiate for power and resources. Click here to see recent independent study projects in the area of Social Justice and Urban Studies.

Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Social Justice

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Jennifer Tongen My semester with ACM in Chicago was an incredible growth experience for me. I learned how to live independently in a big city while maintaining course work, traveling across the city for classes, and working two days a week at an interactive internship. This semester felt like a step into the real world that was much needed in my life. I realized my passion for entrepreneurship and creativity within business, which has now reshaped my life and future goals. I believe the ACM Chicago Program was a turning point in my college career and I would not have the opportunities and ambitions I have today had it not been for my time spent there.

—Jennifer Tongen, Chicago Program (Entrepreneurship), Fall 2011

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Who we are

The Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) is a consortium of independent, liberal arts colleges in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Colorado.