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Urban Americas

“We will neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation.”—John F. Kennedy

Today more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and the percentage is expected to dramatically increase by 2030. As cultural, economic, and social drivers in the past and present, cities matter.  The site of national cultural, architectural, and entertainment treasures as well as entrenched poverty, failing schools, and decaying neighborhoods, cities are places of possibilities and problems, hopes and solutions.  

Inside the Classroom

This course will examine American cities through an interdisciplinary exploration of several major issues impacting cities throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: poverty and economic development, housing, education, and transportation. Students will also explore the impact of race and ethnicity in shaping urban policies and practices as well as cities’ attempts to create an “identity” or brand and to market themselves through tourism/history/culture.  Finally, students will study the role local, state, and national governments, activists, planners, and citizens have played in shaping cities. Richmond, Virginia and San Juan, Puerto Rico will serve as urban labs to delve deeply into these issues and to consider cities within local, national, and transnational contexts.

Outside the Classroom

Students will connect what they learn in the classroom through various experiential learning opportunities in the community.

Students will attend lectures on urban issues, a Poverty Simulation, and a city council and school board meeting to deepen their learning.  Students will also engage in community-based learning (CBL) by volunteering weekly at one of several different sites in the Richmond community over the course of 15 hours in the fall semester.

Students will also participate in urban labs in Richmond, Virginia and a community study trip to Puerto Rico to compare urban problems and proposed solutions.

Research and Capstone Project

Over the course of the fall semester, students conduct research on a variety of urban social issues, culminating in a research paper on one topic due at the end of the fall semester. During the spring semester, students work in groups with their classmates to create a capstone project and subsequent presentation to the University community on an urban problem to include proposed solutions/efforts for change.

Course Fast Facts

Faculty:
Amy Howard, Ph.D.

Years Offered: 2009–10, 2013–14

Fall course:
AMST 398: Urban Americas (1 unit)

Spring course:
IDST 290: Urban Americas Seminar (.5 unit)

Group travel:
San Juan, Puerto Rico