November 22nd, 2010
Coming Home Again: Chicago Center 1970-2010
Chicago Center’s 40th Anniversary coffee table book is a powerful retrospective of our 40 year history, and includes the stories of 20 alumni from 1970-2010 as well as reflections from founders, current and former staff members, and lots of photos.
Excerpt from Preface by Scott Chesebro, PhD
“I’m often asked if Chicago Center keeps track of alumni or has any data on the impact of our programs on participants once they leave. My usual response is that we don’t do a good job of tracking alumni and that we have never had the resources to do a study of those who have done the program. When Phil Schmidt, History Professor at Southwestern College asked me if he could spend his sabbatical with us, I immediately knew what I wanted him to do. This book is the culmination of his sabbatical project and involved many hours of travel, interviews, transcripts, writing, editing, layout, and graphics and finally publishing. Many others besides Phil became committed and involved in the project. I now have an answer to the question posed above.
Phil Schmidt spent his sabbatical travelling to different parts of the country to interview people that I selected for the project. Out of the interviews, Phil Schmidt and Ashley Holloway, along with an editing committee which included Tiffanie Beatty and Megan Crawford created the stories included in the book. Alleigh Schmidt, Lane Cheseboro, and Cameron Siefkes helped transcribe the interviews. Tricia Fensky, a student in the Summer Session of 2010 and a senior at McPherson College designed the book and took responsibility for mounting photos and all of the graphics. Emily Nelson managed the project and brought all of the pieces together.”
Raj Biyani Excerpt
As General Manager of the CIO/Product Group Strategic Initiatives team at Microsoft Industries, Raj Biyani offers students this advice. “The major your focus on will prepare you for the first three to five years after college. And in fact, you may be at a disadvantage to your peers at more focused institutes like MIT or the University of Waterloo, which are great computer science programs. But when it comes to your life five years and beyond, its liberal arts education that’s going to ground you and enable you to learn what you need. And so I would put the Chicago Center experience in the context of a liberal arts education, because in a lot of ways Chicago Center is an immersive liberal arts program in the midst of a city.”
Any LaChance Excerpt
“…a woman was speaking named Christina Martinez and as she was speaking I said to myself ‘that’s what I want to do. I want to do what she’s doing.’ After she was done talking I went up to her and said ‘I really liked what you had to say and I’m just wondering how did you get into this kind of work? How did you get here?” …Amy LaChance later earned a Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy with a specialization in Community Development; the exact credential Christina Martinez told her about. After completing her MUPP, Amy was hired as the Senior Resource Development Associate at Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago. “Interestingly, Christina ended up working here later on as the Neighborhood Director at our Back of the Yards office. And I told her one day, ‘you don’t know me, and you don’t know this but you’re the reason I’m here.’”
Phyllis Cunningham Excerpt
“…it’s away from the whole notion there’s somebody who has all the knowledge. That knowledge is the knowledge, rather than the fact that our job is making spaces for people to create their own knowledge and that knowledge is not defined by a group of people, but rather knowledge is something created by all people.”—Phyllis Cunningham, CCULC co-founder
To purchase the book please visit our homepage
November 15th, 2010
By Ben Cook
The Chicago Center for Urban Life & Culture was founded in 1970, and since then has helped thousands of college students make Chicago their classroom. The Chicago Center serves students from more than 30 liberal arts colleges and universities by providing practicum opportunities in all academic majors as well as urban teaching and social work in Chicago.
The Chicago Center engages students with urban resources, realities, and issues through a first voice pedagogy which uses the city directly as a teaching resource.
Upon arrival, students share apartments in the heart of Hyde Park (1327 E. Hyde Park Boulevard). They receive a one – or two-week course in the culture of the city, attending a variety of different religious services, plays, music, venues, museums, and festivals throughout the city.
After touring of the city, students are steered towards an internship that will challenge their particular academic interests.
StreetWise has hosted six interns from the Chicago Center in the last three years, including Brenna Daldorph, whose August 5, 2009 cover story won ‘Best Feature’ at this year’s North American Street Newspaper Association (NASNA) awards.
Rachel Sylwestrzak, the most recent intern, told us about her experience with the Chicago Center and interning at StreetWise.
“I was interested in publishing, and StreetWise was one of the contacts that the Center game me.” Sylwestrzak said. “It wasn’t the exact idea I had in mind, but I thought that working here would challenge me, in addition to giving me an inside look at a lifestyle that I hadn’t really been exposed to. I’m glad I came here, because it worked out great. One thing that was kind of big for me – I live in the suburbs, and we don’t have public transportation. One of the things the Center stressed was how to use the CTA to get around the city. So, it’s made me more comfortable when I have to go out to different locations for stories,” She continued.
“I got to cover a few city hall meetings, which is something I’d never got to do before. It was very interesting and definitely something I will remember from my experience here in Chicago.”
Sylwestrzak concluded, “The Chicago Center is very supportive of the internship. I like how they let us take charge of the experience. It’s been a perfect fit.”
Marit Ehmke interned at StreetWise through Chicago Center in January 2009. Reflecting on her experiences, she said, “I learned a lot of new things, met a lot of great people, and experience what life in Chicago is really all about. Working at StreetWise reminded me of how important it is to help out in when, where, and any way you can.”
For more information about the Chicago Center for Urban Life & Culture, visit www. chicagocenter.org, or call 773.262.1313
November 10th, 2010
Hyde Park Herald, November 3, 2010
The Chicago Center, located here in Hyde Park, could very well be the most important neighborhood institution you’ve never heard of. Tucked away in the office space at 1515 E. 52nd Pl., the center has spent four decades bridging the gap between urban communities and those that attend university with an eye to studying them, teaching in them and otherwise working in those places. Scott Chesebro, who heads the center, describes it as having more in common with, for example, a living abroad program than with a more traditional urban studies format.
We don’t think of ourselves as a service learning program. We don’t think of ourselves as a vista-type education program [We are] an urban education program that utilizes the city and its resources as an educational tool,” Chesebro said.
Students at Chicago Center, who come from over 30 colleges largely in less urban settings and in many cases from across the Midwest, are given crash courses in navigating public transportation, exposed to the diversity of neighborhoods throughout the city and are challenged to deal directly with the people who are represented by the studies and statistics that often are the main fare of such majors as sociology and urban planning.
It is this quality, which Urban Social Work Practicum Director Arvis Averette describes as “a reliance on first voices,” that sets the center apart from many other kinds of programs.
“It’s like study abroad in Chicago,” Chesebro said. “It functions more like a study abroad program than it does a service learning program or an internship program that a student might do while they’re at the University of Chicago. Maybe they do an internship at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, but they’re still living on campus, they’re still going to classes every day. They’re just doing a volunteer experience in the neighborhood.”
Averette contrasts this to other learning environments related to urban studies.
“Many of the academic things that one does in school-you look at the community and study it, look at the statistics and so forth. But here- the separation from the other programs I’ve been aware of – is this reliance on having people from that community who are very responsible people, who know the community and speak to it to the students in a learning fashion,” Averette said. “For example, if we are going to deal with Bronzeville, we would invariably talk to Tim Black or Harold Lucas who are the reigning experts on these areas.”
By all accounts, students currently at the center give high marks to the approach.
Student Ryann Bird, who comes from a small town in rural Nebraska and attends school in Lincoln, said her initial impression of the South Side of Chicago was, like many people, based on pretty unreliable source of information.
“I’m from a really tiny town in Nebraska with 5,500 people. My parents, they knew everything they see on TV about the South Side of Chicago. I was nervous at first,” Bird said. “But Hyde Park is really safe and homey…it’s not like the media portrays it at all.”
Bird is interning at the DuSable Museum of African American History, which she gets to via public transportation each day from the apartment building the center recently purchased for its students. Student Beth Izzo, who is teaching second grade at Beasley Elemetary on State Street, said the shared living quarters have been a big help to her as a student teacher.
‘It’s good to live with other student teachers so we can talk about our experiences, which always helps,” Izzo said, “It’s nice to have that support system.”
Chicago Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a full day of events this Saturday, Nov. 6, culminating in an evening at Carnivale. For more information, call Althea Conyers at 773-363-1312 or visit chicagocenter.org