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Urban Studies Program Goals and Objectives

Urban Studies supports a multidisciplinary approach to thinking critically about how we live in cities and know them as objects of study and human intervention. The program orients student inquiry toward the physical city (as pursued by the social sciences and disciplines of urban design), as well the city's implication in social difference, poverty, globalization, suburbanization, and other symbolic and structural phenomena (as examined across the humanities and social sciences). Our curriculum emphasizes diverse urban inquiries, such as a global/comparative perspective; examinations of urban policy and its implementation; student and class-based fieldwork in urban neighborhoods and institutions; the study of urban design practice, cultural analyses of place and urban sentiments; and the political-economic inquiry into the modern city's administration of economy and pleasure.

With this multidisciplinary approach across the spectrum of liberal arts disciplines, the program promotes the College's endorsement in its Statement of Academic Purpose of "[a]chievement of depth and range of knowledge in a single discipline or in a subject approached through several disciplines." This contrasts with many urban studies approaches in other liberal arts colleges, in which programs often do not exist or, when they do, emphasize a pre-professional orientation on urban planning and design. 

Urban Studies contributes to the general education of non-majors chiefly in two ways. First, the program heightens critical and civic consciousness of human community, physical environment, social inequity, and uneven geographical development. These modes of awareness come about through classroom investigations and independent student research into the various ways that people claim places and vice versa.  Second, Urban Studies supports the development and practice of multidisciplinary knowledge. The program's courses promote students' pursuit of multidisciplinarity through structured engagements with the diverse fields that constitute the urban studies. The introductory course, for instance, constructs multidisciplinary knowledge by critically engaging five distinct disciplinary approaches to the city. Similarly, the Urban Theory course weaves theories from a range of disciplines into a coherent multidisciplinary project.Urban Studies sets for its majors and correlates three broad objectives across its diverse and continually evolving curriculum. First, it promotes the analysis from different perspectives of urban environments, institutions, and objects by requiring students to develop proficiency in a particular methodology (e.g., quantitative, mapping, cultural analysis), while melding disciplinary knowledge in other courses taken for the major. Second, the program encourages students to historicize and practice urban engagements (fieldwork, planning, policy, social-service delivery, and so on) through its student fieldwork requirement, field-based classes (e.g. NYC as a Social Laboratory, Community Development, Urban Education Reform), and courses on urban planning and architecture. Third, the program develops the ability to carry out advanced-level work through theory-based courses (in which students read scholarly works in peer-reviewed journals), its required senior seminar (in which students pursue a term-length project and presentation), and the senior thesis (in which students carry out original research).