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Urban Studies

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Urban Studies Major Requirements

Urban Studies Minor Requirements

Course Descriptions


Director, Associate Professor Noah Toly

Assistant Professor, Christa Tooley


The Urban Studies program aims to foster understanding of the causes and consequences of the urban condition, the origins and implications of urban issues, and the presence and influence of the city in the world through interdisciplinary study and experiential learning. The program offers courses that 1) introduce cities; 2) present approaches to and methods of urban studies; 3) emphasize interdisciplinarity; 4) address key issues of urban life; and 5) examine the relationship between the Christian faith and contemporary urban challenges.

Wheaton in Chicago, a semester-long, residential, experiential program, while available to all Wheaton College students, is required of all Urban Studies majors and minors. During the Wheaton in Chicago program, students will intern with organizations in Chicago and select from among several available courses in Urban Studies. The Wheaton in Chicago program is offered every fall semester.

The program provides a foundation for graduate study in social science and professional fields while preparing students for possible employment in fields such as advocacy, community and economic development, cultural affairs, ministry, policy, planning, and design, public health, research, social enterprise, and social work, among others.

Requirements for the Urban Studies major are 40 credit hours.

28 credit hours of core requirements include URBN 112 The Social Life of Cities; URBN 231 Chicago; SOC 364 Urban Sociology; BITH 376 Theologies of Transformation: Public & Political Theologies in Urban Context; URBN 399 Pre-Field Preparation; URBN 496 Internship (or approved internship in another department); and URBN 494 Advanced Urban Studies Seminar. Students must also take 6 credit hours from the following courses: B/EC 347 Urban Economics; URBN 362 Global Cities; URBN/PSCI 385 Urban Politics.

6-8 credit hours of research design and methods:

2-4 hours of research design, either PSCI 215 Political Research or SOC 482 Social Research.

4 hours of research methods, either ANTH 482 Ethnographic Theory and Method; AHS 391 Community-Based Research in Urban Public Health; B/EC 375 Econometrics for Business and Economics; MATH 263 Introduction to Statistics; GEOL 371 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS); GEOL 372 GIS Practicum; SOC 383 Statistics.

6 credit hours of electives must be chosen from among the following courses:

AHS 378                   Community Health and the Urban Environment (4)

ART 329                    Community Art (3)

ART 351                    History of Art and Architecture II (4)

B/EC 347                  Urban Economics (2)

HIST 455                  American Urban History (4)

PSCI 355                   Race and the Politics of Welfare (2)

SOC 337                    Racial and Ethnic Relations (4)

SOC 355                    Social Class and Inequality (4)

SOC 359                    American Suburbanization (4)

SOC 364                    Urban Sociology (4)

URBN 352                Topics in Urban Studies (2)

URBN 354                Topics in Urban Studies (4)

URBN/PSCI 362    Global Cities

URBN 373                The City in Popular Culture (2)

URBN 383               Cities in the Global South (2)

URBN/PSCI 385    Urban Politics (2)

URBN 393                Placemaking in Urban Contexts (2)

URBN 495                Independent Study (2 or 4)


Requirements for the Urban Studies minor are 20 credit hours. These include URBN 112 The Social Life of Cities; URBN 231 Chicago; URBN 399 Pre-Field Preparation; BITH 376 Theologies of Transformation: Public and Political Theologies in Urban Context; URBN 496 Internship; and URBN 494 Advanced Urban Studies Seminar; and at least two credit hours of additional course work chosen from the list of approved core and elective courses for the major.

Students completing the pre-field, field, and post-field experiences of Wheaton in Chicago can complete the minor without additional coursework.

Urban Studies Courses (URBN)

URBN 112. The Social Life of Cities. Introduces the study of cities and their associated social phenomena, while crafting a biblically informed perspective upon various urban issues. Students engage a broad range of research upon cities in a variety of domestic and international contexts through class readings, lectures and multimedia presentations.  Key concepts which have been used to characterize the distinctiveness of urban life are introduced and discussed, with attention to the comparative experiences of contemporary cities. (2)

URBN 231. Chicago: An Introduction. Survey of the city's ethnic, economic, and institutional diversity will be presented through lectures, slides, and field trips. Special emphasis on the problems and promises of urban life. Diversity designation. (2)

URBN 321. Urban Issues and Active Faith. An interdisciplinary course designed to help students integrate their internship, classroom, and daily life experiences while living in the city under the Wheaton in Chicago program.

URBN 331. Comparative Urban Studies: Cities of South America. Urban studies concerns the causes and consequences of the urban condition, the origins and implications of urban issues, and the presence and influence of the city in the world. With respect to causes and consequences of the urban condition, cities have much in common. With respect to the origins and implications of urban issues, they often differ greatly. This course explores significant similarities and differences between various cities of South America. Every other summer, part of URBN in South America. (2)

URBN 351. Chicago II: Contemporary Issues and Controversies. This course examines seven contemporary issues or controversies in Chicago, considering the ways in which those are representative of U.S. and global urban experiences as well as the ways in which they play out idiosyncratically in the Chicago landscape. Each issue or controversy will be examined over the course of two weeks and will include at least one guest speaker and at least one field trip.

URBN 352. Topics in Urban Studies. Selected topics, designed to give added breadth and depth to the understanding of cities and Urban Studies. May include such subjects as “The Chicago School” of Urban Studies, Urban Planning & Contemporary Environments, and The City in Film. Occasional. (2)

URBN 354. Topics in Urban Studies. Selected topics, designed to give added breadth and depth to the understanding of cities and Urban Studies. May includes such subjects as “The Chicago School” of Urban Studies, Urban Planning & Sustainable Environments, and The City in Film. Occasional.

URBN 362x. Global Cities. See PSCI 362.

URBN 371. Race, Poverty, and Reconciliation. This course examines the social, economic and spiritual factors involved in racial reconciliation and overcoming poverty and how people of faith are developing strategies to build bridges across racial and economic barriers.

URBN 373. The City in Popular Culture. Explores common representations of the city as they emerge within the media of popular culture.  These characterizations of the city are critically considered within frameworks of anthropological analysis and therefore highlight issues of meaning, practice, history and human agency. (2)

URBN 383. Cities in the Global South. Cities in the global south today face a variety of challenges, requiring careful negotiation through policy and everyday practice.  This course introduces students to the particular issues which colonial histories and peripheral participation in global markets have produced in some key cities of the global south.  Strategies and innovations for future development are presented as possibilities for local agency and transformation. (2)

URBN 385x. Urban Politics. Diversity designation. See PSCI 385.

URBN 391x. Community Based Research and Public Health. Theory and practice of public health program planning and evaluation in partnership with community public health organizations in urban Chicago. Students will integrate principles of community building and organizing to address community-identified health issues in the context of social change. Emphasis will be placed upon the development of faith-based cultural humility for the recognition and empowerment of existing healthy community assets for the improvement of urban health and quality of life. Quantitative and qualitative research methods will be utilized and integrated throughout all phases of health planning and program evaluation. Prerequisite: AHS 378 or AHS 381.

URBN 393. Placemaking in Urban Contexts. Explores the processes by which particular configurations of history, identity and landscape are transformed into identifiable and meaningful places in the construction and development of cities. Case studies will be drawn from multiple cities around the world, including Scotland, China, and Africa and will examine the use of local and global narratives, images, and logics, highlighting the socially contested and constructed nature of this process. (2)

URBN 399. Pre-Field Preparation. Prepares students for undertaking a field experience in Chicago with the Wheaton In Chicago program.  Through correspondence with a faculty member in Urban Studies, students are introduced to relevant practical issues and challenges, particularly related to cross-cultural competencies, as well as many resources which will be available to them through the duration of their experiential education program.  This course equips students to maximize the impact of their urban field experience, develop practical intercultural skills, and positively and holistically contribute to life in a community. (0)

URBN 455x. American Urban History. See HIST 455.

URBN 485. Integration Seminar. A capstone paper that evaluates and integrates the totality of the student's urban studies experience in the context of a Christian worldview. (1)

URBN 494. Advanced Urban Studies Seminar This capstone course requires integrative, interdisciplinary reflection upon emerging urban forms, urban field experiences, and vocation. Undergraduate students must have completed and urban field experience (e.g., Wheaton in Chicago) or internship prior to enrolling in the course, unless they secure the consent of the Urban Studies Program Director. (2)

URBN 495. Independent Study. Directed reading and research during the student's urban field experience. (2-4)

URBN 496. Internship. Supervised field experience in an urban setting, usually Chicago. The internship is designed to meet the particular interests of the student, as well as the needs of the host organization and neighborhood. Graded pass/fail. (8)

Revision Date: June 1, 2013



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