Two days a week, students jump on the Metra train and head into Chicago for an immersion in urban life. It's all part of Chicago Termâ€”10 weeks of lectures, research, walking tours and internships in the city. "At first, they worry about getting lost," says Lou Corsino, professor of sociology and co-founder of the program. "By the end of 10 weeks, that fear has been replaced with a bit of swagger. They gain a sense of urban adventure."
Dr. Corsino and colleague Ann Keating - a recognized expert in Chicago history and urban/suburban studies - designed the program to appeal to all types of majors. Students venture into Chicago's diverse neighborhoods for research projects, interviewing everyone from church pastors to construction workers, real estate agents and restaurant owners. "What nobody anticipated was how enlivening it would be to widen our circle of contacts," says Dr. Corsino. "Being downtown puts us in new circles of people and exposes us to widely different points of view."
Chicago term alum Rachel Covarrubias, an elementary education major from Geneva, IL, also completed an internship in the Chicago Public Schools. "Through the Chicago Term, I was able to grow and understand things that made me want to be a teacher in the city," she says.
Dr. Ann Keating enjoys watching students change their attitude about their cars. "The Chicago Term is liberating for students," she says. "They've always thought they needed a car togo anywhere. Once they get into the city, they just walk and walk."
In past terms, students have been able to take classes related to Chicago topics such as architecture, art, dance and theatre from other North Central professors who take turns teaching in the city.
"We've been taking students into the city for field studies, but Chicago Term really goes much further in bringing the material to life. Students could see the connections over and over because the issues were all around us."
Dr. Corsino continues: "It challenged faculty and students to stretch. I believe that the impact of this kind of experience really comes with time, as you go back and look at yourself and at what you believe from a fresh perspective."