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Faculty Keep on the Move During Site Visit to the Chicago Program

Published: April 28, 2012

Go to ACM Notes

Three professors from ACM colleges packed a lot into their recent trip to Chicago. They toured several of the city’s distinctive neighborhoods, visited a community-based environmental organization and had lunch with its executive director, and one of the professors led a workshop for students on transferable skills and knowledge. That was just in the first of their three days in the city.

All of the activity was an appropriate introduction to the ACM Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, & Urban Studies, where students spend a typical week on the move – from internships to classes to exploring the neighborhoods where they live to just being out and about in the city.

Visiting LVEJO

Carol Wickersham, Corina McKendry, Kim Wasserman, and Ted Thornhill during the visit to the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

Corina McKendry (Colorado College), Ted Thornhill (St. Olaf College), and Carol Wickersham (Beloit College) were in town to learn more about the Chicago Program. The visit was sponsored by ACM's Faculty Site Visits Program, a professional development activity that takes a group of professors each semester to experience an ACM off-campus study program in action.

For the opening excursion of the April 18-20 visit, Chicago Program staff led the way to Hyde Park, Bronzeville, and Little Village, giving examples of how the program integrates resources within the city's many neighborhoods into the curriculum.

One of the stops was at the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), a resource for the program's Core Course and a place where Chicago Program students have worked in internships. In its community outreach, LVEJO has been addressed challenges such as pollution from two local coal-fired power plants and trying to get more open space for parks.

Over lunch with the group, LVEJO Executive Director Kim Wasserman talked about the role of the organization in the community and the positive ways that they have been able to effect change, said Robyne Hart, Director of the Chicago Program.

Touring The Plant

On the tour of The Plant.

One of the features of a faculty site visit is that the participants contribute their expertise to the program. As Director of Community-Based Learning at Beloit College, Wickersham encourages the type of learning outside of the conventional classroom that is a staple of the Chicago Program curriculum. She facilitated a session for students on ways they can transfer their skills and learning from a community-based setting – such as in an internship – to what they do on their college campus.

The following day's destination was The Plant, a vertical farm and food-business incubator housed in a former meat packing plant in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. The tour of this unique enterprise was a joint field trip for students in the program's "Innovation and Entrepreneurship" and "Human Rights and Social Justice" seminars.

"The Plant is a lot of science and a lot of sustainability," Hart noted. "Their goal is not to waste anything." Small businesses housed in the building are raising fish and growing organic produce in such a way that waste from one operation is recycled into another. An anaerobic digester is in the works, which will use food scraps to provide heat and electricity for the building.

Ted Thornhill

Ted Thornhill leading a Core Course discussion.

A post-tour discussion on sustainability was led by McKendry, who teaches in the political science and environmental policy programs at Colorado College. Her research focuses on urban greening as part of a broader urban economic development agenda and the social equity implications of urban environmentalism. Chicago was one of the case studies in McKendry's dissertation research.

The site visit wrapped up with a Core Course discussion session led by Thornhill examining "New Racism in the Post Civil Rights Era: Interpersonal vs. Institutional Racism." A sociologist, Thornhill's research and teaching interests include race, ethnicity, racism, and antiracism, and he taught a course at St. Olaf College this year on "Race and Class in American Culture."

The fall 2012 ACM Faculty Site Visit will be to Costa Rica, where ACM operates a fall program focused on language and society and a spring field research program from the program's center in the capital city of San José. Faculty at ACM colleges who are tenured, tenure-track, or in other continuing appointments are eligible. The deadline to apply for the Costa Rica visit is April 30. See the Call for Applications for complete details.


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