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Urban Studies

Visit Program Website


Urban Studies Major Requirements

Urban Studies Minor Requirements

Course Descriptions


Director, Associate Professor Noah Toly

Assistant Professor Christa Tooley


Through interdisciplinary study and experiential learning, the Urban Studies program fosters 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. The program offers courses that 1) introduce cities and urban life; 2) present approaches to and methods of urban studies; 3) emphasize interdisciplinarity; 4) address key issues of urban experience; 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 work with organizations in Chicago and select from among several available courses in Urban Studies and Biblical & Theological Studies. Students will have opportunities to earn general education and major credit. The Wheaton in Chicago program also emphasizes leadership, mentoring, and vocational discernment and includes student life and spiritual formation programming. 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.

22-28 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) or URBN 296 Practicum; and URBN 494 Advanced Urban Studies Seminar. Students must also take 6 credit hours from the following courses: ECON 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; ECON 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.

4-12 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)

ECON 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)


Global Cities

URBN 371

Race, Poverty, and Reconciliation

URBN 373

The City in Popular Culture (2)

URBN 383

Cities in the Global South (2)


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 (or approved internship in another department) or URBN 296 Practicum; and URBN 494 Advanced Urban Studies Seminar; and two to six 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 296. Practicum. Supervised field placements and mentorship in urban contexts. Students must have sophomore standing to be eligible. Provides opportunities for vocational discernment and requires students to think through the ways in which their field experience will inform the coursework they will complete as juniors and seniors. (4)

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 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. See AHS 391.

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 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, 2015



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