The Urban Apprenticeship is an exciting opportunity we offer Chicago Center alumni that have just graduated college. More than a job, it offers opportunities for learning and skill development in a supportive urban learning community.
The apprenticeship started in 1990 and grew out of the mutual interests of Chicago Center alums to prolong their contact with Chicago Center and the Center’s interest in strengthening its staff and program. It has exceeded expectations in both arenas and has become a great strength of Chicago Center. The Urban Apprentice usually spends one full year in residence at Chicago Center. This month Kevin Zabel, Academic Program Coordinator talks about his experience with Chicago Center:
“For the past ten months, I have had the privilege to work at the Chicago Center as the Academic Program Coordinator. At the Chicago Center, we have three student tracks: Urban Teaching, Social Work, and Academic. Our students utilize our program for a host of reasons, of which a few most popular are opportunities to fulfill college requirements (e.g., student teaching placement, social work field work placement, or academic internship) in an urban environment, the diversity of Chicago, the opportunity to live independently in an urban environment, and the staff support that we provide our students. As class assistant to our academic, student teaching, and social work programs, I have come to better understand the inner workings of the various tracks, as well as the first-voice method of learning our program utilizes. By first-voice, I mean that instead of our student teachers reading about teaching strategies for urban classrooms, or our academic students reading about different communities and cultures in a textbook, our students get the opportunity to engage directly with our learning resources and individuals. For example, recently, our student teachers met directly with Greg Michie, an author and educator who has written several books on urban education techniques. Moreover, as academic class assistant, I have scheduled such events as a meeting with representatives from the Center on Halsted (LGBT center on the north side of Chicago), a mural tour of the Pilsen (predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American) community in Chicago, and immigration discussions with Korean American Resource & Community Center and Latino Organization of the Southwest representatives, as well as attended such events as the Chicago Jazz Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, and Puerto Rican Day Parade with students. These events and meetings are just a few of the resources and events we typically utilize throughout our terms.
I attended the Chicago Center as a student during my Fall 2007 semester at Albion College. I grew up in a small, rural community and attended college in a very similar environment. As a result, I attended the Chicago Center in large part to experience living in an urban setting for the first time, but also for the wide range of internship possibilities that the Chicago Center provides. While these expectations were met, I found my experience to be so much more than the conventional reasons that students often choose to study off campus. Using public transportation and a sense of taking ownership of my internship were fostered by the Chicago Center, and provided skills that continue to benefit me to this day (e.g., comfort with navigating in a city environment, interview and networking skills). At the same time, through the class component of the experience, I was introduced to communities and cultures in Chicago that I never (or rarely) had the opportunity to interact with growing up or on my college campus. These experiences encouraged me to reevaluate my beliefs and opinions about different groups of people, and gave me a foundation with which to question the “truth” I had known growing up.
In addition to the class component of the program, I also interned at Merrill Lynch. I entered the program as a business and psychology double major, planning on a career as a financial advisor. Although I enjoyed the work provided me during my internship, I became disenchanted by the amount of salesmanship necessary to succeed as a financial advisor. The internship provided me an opportunity to engage one-on-one with professionals that had worked for years in the business, in some cases working at Merrill Lynch for over forty years. Their knowledge, as well as the opportunity to learn from their stories and experiences, persuaded me to focus exclusively on my psychology major field of study upon my return to school.
Upon graduation, I knew that I wanted to take a year off from school and get work experience. The Chicago Center apprenticeship provided the perfect opportunity to extend upon my experience as a student, while simultaneously honing valuable organizational skills and communication workplace skills that will aid significantly in my future work endeavors. In Fall 2010, I will begin graduate study in the social psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Tennessee (UT) in Knoxville. Working with our students as class assistant, as well as working with fellow staff members and class resources has provided me invaluable experience that will aid in my future research and teaching endeavors. In addition, the events and discussions I have been privy to both as a student and class assistant have forever affected the ways in which I form opinions about issues or groups of people. I feel privileged to work for an organization and with staff whom I respect very much, and I look forward to the new challenges that graduate school will bring. It is my hope that in addition to my fellow incoming Fall 2010 UT classmates, I can bring a fresh perspective to research and learning. Through my experiences as a student and as an apprentice, the Chicago Center has prepared me exceptionally well to accomplish this goal.”
We’d like to thank Kevin for telling us about his experience and letting us share it with our potential students and alumni!