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Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Urban Studies

Chicago, Illinois


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

  • Internship

  • Core Course

  • Independent Study Project (full semester students only)
  • Seminar (choice of Arts, Entrepreneurship, or Urban Studies)

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.

Core Course - Chicago: A City of Many Dimensions

Required course, 4 semester credits

Click here to see a course syllabus

All Chicago Program students enroll in our interdisciplinary Core Course, which 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 how the arts, entrepreneurship, and socio-political issues intertwine by asking 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. And, most importantly, Core Course will get you into Chicago to meet the people making its art, defining its culture, confronting its problems, and reshaping its business.  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.

This course builds upon a number of learning objectives. At the end of the semester, students should expect to: be knowledgeable about the historical and contemporary issues in Chicago that are critical to other major cities; feel empowered to explore Chicago as a resident/citizen rather than a tourist; utilize the asset-mapping framework effectively; practice expressing and reflecting in non-traditional ways through diverse set of assignments; consider complex issues from multiple perspectives; engage in informed debate and dialogue; better understand history as it relates to the current condition; gain practice in applying appreciative inquiry; gain an understanding of Chicago's neighborhoods as critical connections to the ways a global city functions; accept challenges beyond their comfort zone; and apply concepts in new and varied contexts.

Note: In Fall 2015, ACM will be piloting a new initiative where students will choose from one of two modules for the last two weeks of the program.  These will be a "practicum" component of the Core Course, and are a chance for students to take the skills they've learned throughout the semester and apply them in real-world contexts.  Students can choose to stay in Chicago and participate in a Career Boot Camp or go to London, England to apply what they've learned in Chicago to another global city.  More information on these new modules can be found here.

Independent Study Project

Required course (semester students only), 4 semester credits

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.)

  • Recent Independent Study Projects related to the Arts
  • Recent Independent Study Projects related to Entrepreneurship
  • Recent Independent Study Projects related to Urban Studies

Students will choose from one of the following three 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.

Urban Studies 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, & Urban Studies

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Ann Kenseth Chicago, what a city! I find myself immersed in a city and culture quite foreign from the small town where I go to college. It’s huge, overwhelming, and in the beginning, a bit scary- but, what fun! The Urban Studies Program opened my eyes to human rights issues and social issues I never knew about. The best part is that you’re out of the classroom, exploring so much of the city. I also enjoyed having my thoughts on issues I completely disagreed with and being able to share them in a safe place. This program gets you in the heart of the city, and the program is really what you make it.

—Ann Kenseth, Chicago Program (Urban Studies), Spring 2009

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