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Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Urban Studies

Chicago, Illinois

Independent Study Project (ISP)

Students in the Chicago Program pursue an Independent Study Project (ISP) related to their academic and professional goals.  Ideally, these will be projects that draw on the city’s resources to create something original: e.g., a research paper, a service project, a work of art, or a business prospectus.  Students may also find ways to link their ISP with their internship.  All students will share their final products at the end of the program. (Note: The spring trimester option does not include an independent study project.)

  • Arts – Students interested in the Arts may have projects that are creative in nature or scholarly, as long as they engage directly or indirectly with the Chicago experience.  Students students may find inspiration outside of the Chicago Program curriculum, by participating in arts-related classes or workshops around Chicago,  as a way to further explore and develop their arts. Throughout the process, students will bring works-in-progress to share with their peers and teachers for feedback and guidance.  Special effort will be invested in cultivating a safe environment of trust and respect.  In the end, students will decide how best to share their individual work in a broader context.
  • Entrepreneurship – Students interested in Entrepreneurship will typically craft their own project developed through a process of experimentation and exploration in the Entrepreneurship seminar course.  This seminar introduces key concepts for initiating and implementing an entrepreneurial pursuit, and through the ISP process, students will have a sounding board to develop their ISP proposal and craft smaller projects into a final product.  Projects can take a variety of forms, but must be focused on subjects related to entrepreneurship and innovation. 
  • Urban Studies – Students interested in Urban Studies have projects that tend to grow out of the program's unique concept of placing students in clustered living situations in various neighborhoods of the city.  As students live as residents of one of Chicago's many diverse and unique communities, they actively engage in the life their neighborhood, learning about the assets of the community and the needs and issues experienced by its citizens. Guided by the faculty, students meet with residents and organizational representatives during the first part of the program to learn about their neighborhood as a mircocosm of the city, while gaining valuable life skills in negotiating space and accessing city resources. As the program progresses, students construct their ISP, providing an opportunity for them to research a specific area of interest and to learn how their efforts impact the local and larger communities in which they live.

Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Urban Studies

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Eric Anderson I chose to study off-campus because I often wondered whether months and months spent in a liberal-arts bubble were really preparing me for "real life." The ACM Chicago Urban Studies program didn’t just prepare me for that real life, but made me a full participant in Chicago social movements and structures. As I left the program, I felt empowered to be part of whichever community I inhabit, and to understand how to approach that role in a bigger picture. I am also now conscious of the constant interaction between my privilege and marginalized communities. The Urban Studies program made me a real citizen of Chicago and the world. I met people in their real context, often without the usual safety nets. I tested my own values and reached concrete goals. Above all, it reminded me to dignify all humanity.

—Eric Anderson, Chicago Program (Urban Studies), Spring 2009

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