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Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Social Justice

Chicago, Illinois


Students participate in the following courses—see below for more detailed course descriptions:

  • Internship

  • Independent Study Project (full semester students only)

  • Seminar (choose two of the following four: Arts, Entrepreneurship, Human Rights and Social Justice, and Chicago Neighborhoods)

Note: There is a fall semester 12-credit option available to students from trimester/quarter schools, pending home campus approval.  Please contact ACM for more information. 


Instructor: Mary Scott-Boria

Required course, 4 semester credits

Click here to see a course syllabus

The internship is one of four academic credit-bearing components of the Chicago Program.  Students will have the opportunity to examine and gain insight into the personal value of this work experience as well as how it relates to their career goals and broader themes of work within society.  This is accomplished through a variety of activities that include workshops, readings, writing, and other reflective assignments structured and guided by the internship faculty.

Students will work for a total of at least 150 hours (typically 2-14 hours weekly), gaining exposure to and experience working in a career where they will learn specific industry and professional skills.  They will sharpen their knowledge of and ability to navigate various organizational settings.  They will gain insight into their own professional/career preferences, applying the academic experience to professional practice, with particular focus on work within an urban/city context, while adding value to their host site.  See examples of recent internship placements.

Independent Study Project

Required course (semester students only), 4 semester credits

Click here to see a course syllabus for instructor Jason Pallas

Click here to see a course syllabus for instructor Mary Scott-Boria

Under close mentoring, each student will develop a substantial project of his or her own design due at the end of the semester and presented professionally as part of the Independent Study Project (ISP) Festival.  The ISP is expected to be a rigorous project, both personally informed and engaging work for the student, which takes advantage of the unique opportunities and resources in Chicago. Considerable support will be afforded each student in the form of ISP group sessions at the beginning of the semester and one-on-one meetings with a faculty advisor throughout the term.  (Note: The Indepedent Study Project is available to full semester students only.)

Students will choose two of the following four seminar options:

Arts Seminar: Art and Experience in the City

Instructor: Susannah Papish

Elective course, 4 semester credits

Click here to see a course syllabus

This course will explore the art community in Chicago; visual art, performance, theatre, music, literature and more.  Designed for experiential learning, in this course students will visit the city’s arts venues, attend events, performances, and presentations from guest artists, and also explore a few selected neighborhoods. Our exploration will include academic readings, interviews, podcasts, exercises, individual and collaborative creative projects, as well as group critiques.  Assignments will require of the students an inter- & cross-disciplinary stretch of creativity and intellect. Mediums and techniques employed to complete the assignments will frequently be the student’s choice, from creative or research-based writing to traditional studio art (painting, drawing, sculpture, photography) and newer or multi -media such as combinations of video, sound and performance.

Through intensive reading, field visits to various neighborhoods and venues, research, discussion, collaboration and production, students will begin to discover and explore the arts and it’s interactions with the community in Chicago. In relation to individual works, students will develop a keen awareness of how the city and its art engage the senses.  This sensory information will be documented, analyzed, filtered and used to inform each project. Students will become immersed in Chicago's art community.  The goal of each student should be to grow as a critical thinker, to express oneself effectively through individual projects and communicate with others constructively, and to engage the class with generosity and rigor.

Entrepreneurship Seminar: Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Elective course, 4 semester credits

Click here to see a course syllabus

Entrepreneurship is about passion, innovation, creativity, problem-solving and adapting to change. Every successful organization needs to possess these components in order to remain competitive and sustainable. Entrepreneurship takes many forms and does not only exist in the “traditional” business realm.  There are countless examples of a bold entrepreneurial spirit in establishing new forms of organization, exploring new markets, creating new approaches to processes and, of course, developing new products.  Innovation is a tool utilized by entrepreneurs to create these new ways of looking at similar criteria.  Creativity enables individuals to think differently about any situation by continuously challenging the status quo.  Therefore, successful organizations need creative individuals that are obsessed with finding innovative approaches to current and future business dilemmas.  This seminar is intended to provide a foundation for understanding the field of entrepreneurship and innovation.  During this seminar, innovative approaches will be assessed, explored and critiqued in order to develop an appreciation for their entrepreneurial application to virtually any organizational setting.

This course is designed to utilize the city of Chicago as a laboratory where the activities of real world innovative entrepreneurs can be observed.  Chicago is a hot bed for start-ups and a city where creative resources are both bountiful and accessible in assisting entrepreneurs in launching their businesses.  This course will utilize experiences in the field to bridge theory and practice. Both traditional and “live” case discussions will feature stories of Chicago-based entrepreneurs and start-up businesses.  Students will develop the ability to recognize the many opportunities that exist in everyday life.  Exposure to diverse start-ups as well as non-traditional exercises in the course will serve as a catalyst for creative entrepreneurial inspiration.  Students will engage in experiences that are intentionally designed to force him/her to seek ideas from non-traditional business sources such as art and nature.

Human Rights and Social Justice Seminar

Instructor: Dorothy Burge

Elective course, 4 semester credits

Click here to see a course syllabus

Chicago has a long and rich history that includes protests and campaigns for social justice. These campaigns have addressed a number of issues, including labor, civil rights, military actions, immigration, education and policing. Many social reformers, such as, Jane Addams, Ida B. Wells Barnett, and Carter G. Woodson called Chicago their home. Chicago is known as the birthplace of the school of sociology; the place where community organizing emerged as a practice and profession and where social reform led to children’s rights. This seminar will look at contemporary social and human rights issues, with a special focus on restorative justice and race.

We will focus on a series of current Chicago case studies that will allow us to examine the intersections of race, class and culture. These case studies will also illustrate how institutional practices shape the quality of life for Chicago residents. In addition, we will examine the creative processes that communities may employ to achieve justice and self-determination.

The seminar will incorporate a variety of guest speakers, field visits, video, selected readings, and simulations to engage students and assist them in their development of an understanding of these issues. The seminar is also designed to encourage students to see themselves as vital agents of social change. We will gather as many perspectives as possible in order to determine where we stand and what actions can be taken to impact the system in a positive way.   

Chicago Neighborhoods Seminar

Instructor: Dorothy Burge

Elective course, 4 semester credits

Click here to see a course syllabus

The Chicago Neighborhoods Seminar aims to introduce the place and identity of Chicago. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and as such there is a synergy that permeates the local experience.  Students are provided with a unique opportunity to engage in place-based learning through this course.  Living in and examining neighborhoods provides a lens to better understand the complexity of Chicago as a diverse and continuously evolving city.

We will explore important questions that cross disciplinary boundaries. Guest speakers from around the city will spark discussions and reflection. Common readings and projects will prompt conversation, creativity, research, and exploration. Most importantly, this seminar will get you throughout Chicago to meet people defining culture, confronting problems, and reshaping businesses. Through it all, you will contextualize the Chicago you live and work in everyday within its own rich and complex history and imagine how the city’s identity might continue to evolve.

Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Social Justice

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Abdulsalam Oganla It's not everyday that we experience a life changing opportunity that gives us a taste of what the real world has to offer and at the same time shape and prepare us for what's to come. The ACM Chicago program not only offer this, but also instill the character of responsibility and community as well as identifying life changing decisions on a daily basis. It helped me realize the love I have for Chicago and cities in general as well as helping me make a ton of career networking connections

—Abdulsalam Oganla, Chicago: Arts, Entrepreneurship, and Urban Studies, Spring 2015

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