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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, Social Justice, and a fourth course to be determined)

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. 


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

Making Space and Innovating in Chicago click here to see a course syllabus

Food: A Metaphor For Life click here to see a course syllabus

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 seminar options:

Arts Seminar: Art and Experience in the City

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.

Social Justice Seminar: Human Rights and Creative Social Change in the Chicago Context

Elective course, 4 semester credits

Click here to see a course syllabus

Chicago is the birthplace of the school of sociology; the place where community organizing emerged as a practice and profession; where social reform led to children’s rights and social justice in many arenas.  In an era where the dialogue around “sustainability” speaks to processes of human endeavor, so too does social justice speak to notions of human rights that sustain the quality of life for all, and most importantly marginalized groups.   The central question of this seminar will be to explore how Human Rights and Restorative Justice are fostered in the American urban context.  Since the founding of Chicago in the 1800’s, the Chicago experience has been one of struggle around a number of competing interests to realize the human rights of the poor, women, people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, the disabled, and sexual minorities, etc.   Chicago has also been the center of creative reform and change; positively impacting the American social landscape. From Nobel Peace activist Jane Addams’ settlement house and juvenile justice reform movements, to the role of culture in neighborhood development and sustainability, the ingenuity of Chicago’s people made social change possible.

This seminar will look at contemporary social and human rights issues; with a special focus on restorative justice.   We will focus on a series of current Chicago case studies that will allow us to examine the intersections of race, class and culture and that will also illustrate how institutional practices shape the quality of life for Chicago residents.  We will also 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, selected readings, and simulated class exercises to engage students in developing an understanding of these issues, and to encourage them 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 Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Social Justice

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Taihua Li When I started the ACM Chicago Program, I was not sure if I would enjoy it. It turned out that I loved the semester in Chicago and I loved the people I met there. The Chicago Program gave me not only a chance to meet new people and build great networks in the city, but also to learn a lot of practical skills. I was amazed by how much I learned from the internship and now that I have finished the program, I have set my career goal to becoming a CFA. One semester in Chicago also taught me about the public transportation system and the skills needed to live in a city like Chicago. I will definitely go back to Chicago after I graduate because it is just a wonderful city to study, work, and live in.

—Taihua Li, Chicago Program (Entrepreneurship), Fall 2013

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