Committee on Environment, Geography and Urbanization

Division of Social Sciences, The University of Chicago

Writing the City

Evan Carver

Mo/We, 3:00–4:20pm
CEGU 20180, ENST 20180, ARCH 20180


How do great writers convey sense-of-place in their writing? What are the best ways to communicate scientific and social complexity in an engaging, accessible way? How can we combine academic rigor with journalistic verve and literary creativity to drive the public conversation about urgent environmental and urban issues? These are just some of the questions explored in WRITING THE CITY, an intensive course dedicated to honing our skills of verbal communication about issues related to the built and natural environments. Students will research, outline, draft, revise, and ultimately produce a well-crafted piece of journalistic writing for publication in the program's new annual magazine, Expositions. Throughout the quarter we will engage intensely with a range of authors of place-based writing exploring various literary and journalistic techniques, narrative devices, rhetorical ​approaches, and stylistic strategies.


Genealogies of Environmental Organizing and Activism

Mary Beth Pudup

Mo/We, 1:30–2:50pm
CEGU 21501, ENST 21501


This course explores how organizations-civic, private, governmental-working in the field of environmental advocacy construct, deploy and are shaped by distinct discourses governing relationships between nature and society. The environment is a field of social action in which organizations attempt to effect change in large domains like resource conservation, access, stewardship, and a basic right to environmental quality in everyday life. The work of effecting change in these complex domains can assume a variety of forms including public policy (through the agencies of the state), private enterprise (through the agency of the market), 'third sector' advocacy (through the agency of nonprofit organizations) and social activism (through the agency of social movements and community organizations). State, market, civil society and social movement organizations are where ideas are transmitted from theory to practice and back again in a recursive, dialectical process. These contrasting forms of organization have different histories, wellsprings and degrees of social power. Moreover, they bring different epistemologies to their claims about being legitimate custodians of nature-that is to say they can be understood genealogically. As such, organizations working to effect environment change are at once animated by and constitutive of distinct discourses governing the relationships between nature and society. The course explores how those distinct discourses are associated with a suite of different organizational realms of social action; the goal is trying to connect the dots between discursive formations and organizational forms.


U.S. Environmental Policy

Raymond Lodato

Tu/Th, 12:30–1:50pm
CEGU 24701, ENST 24701, PBPL 24701


How environmental issues and challenges in the United States are addressed is subject to abrupt changes and reversals caused by extreme partisanship and the heightened significance of the issues for the health of the planet and all its inhabitants. The relatively brief history of this policy area, and the separate and distinct tracts in which public lands and pollution control issues are adjudicated, makes for a diverse and complex process by which humanity's impact on the natural world is managed and contained. This course focuses on how both types of environmental issues are addressed in each branch of the Federal government, the states and localities, as well as theories of how environmental issues arrived onto the public agenda and why attention to them is cyclical. Students are encouraged to understand the life cycle of public policy from its initial arrival on the public agenda to the passage of legislation to address adverse conditions, as well as how changes in the policy occur after the inevitable decline of intensive attention.


Environmental Justice in Principle and Practice

Raymond Lodato

Tu/Th, 9:30–10:50am
CEGU 26260, ENST 26260, PBPL 26260


This course will investigate the foundational texts on environmental justice as well as case studies, both in and out of Chicago. Students will consider issues across a wide spectrum of concerns, including toxics, lead in water, waste management, and access to greenspaces, particularly in urban areas. These topics will be taught in accompaniment with a broader understanding of how social change occurs, what barriers exist to producing just outcomes, and what practices have worked to overcome obstacles in the past. The class will welcome speakers from a variety of backgrounds to address their work on these topics.


Urban Design with Nature

Sabina Shaikh & Emily Talen

We, 12:30–3:20pm
CEGU 27155, ENST 27155, BPRO 27155, CHST 27155, GISC 27155, PBPL 27156


This course will use the Chicago region as the setting to evaluate the social, environmental, and economic effects of alternative forms of human settlement. Students will examine the history, theory and practice of designing cities in sustainable ways - i.e., human settlements that are socially just, economically viable, and environmentally sound. Students will explore the literature on sustainable urban design from a variety of perspectives, and then focus on how sustainability theories play out in the Chicago region. How can Chicago's neighborhoods be designed to promote environmental, social, and economic sustainability goals? This course is part of the College Course Cluster program: Urban Design.


Revision, Expression & Portfolio Design

Luke Joyner

Mo, 3:00-5:50pm
ENST 23401, ARTH 23401


Winter 2024

Digital Geographies of Climate Justice

Alexander Arroyo

We, 1:30-4:20pm
CEGU 32301, CEGU 22301, ENST 22301, GLST 29301, MAPH 32301


Struggles for climate and environmental justice are increasingly mediated by digital technologies and geospatial data, especially in the Global South. In Amazonia, for example, the plight of indigenous groups bearing the brunt of ecological dispossession and political violence by deforestation is frequently represented through remotely-sensed data showing time-series of canopy loss; in turn, these data are often prompted, groundtruthed, and mobilized by indigenous communities and affiliated activists in legal and political campaigns. In parallel, across the world ocean, countries across the Global South– from Papua New Guinea and Ecuador to Ghana– are partnering with watch-dog organizations using satellite imagery and GPS data to track illegal fishing and human rights abuses at sea, acting as an auxilliary ecological police force to identify and provide data to prosecute offending vessels. The proliferation of these digital geographic technologies and techniques pose a number of complex questions.

Drawing on contemporary cases, experimental projects in “forensic” approaches to activism, and recent work in critical geography, aesthetics, STS, and political theory, this seminar will attempt to map out these digital geographies of climate justice as they emerge. The course will also involve introduction to entry-level remote sensing + GIS workflows (no prior experience required) in a pair of intensive workshops led by guest lecturers/practitioners.

This course is a graduate seminar open to advanced 3rd and 4th year undergraduates.

People in Motion: Rethinking Transit in Chicago and Beyond

Evan Carver & Luke Joyner

We/Fr, We:3:00-4:20pm / Fr:3:00-5:50pm
ARCH 22909, ARTH 22909, CEGU 22900, CHST 22900, ENST 22900


This studio course, similar to a "senior seminar" in other disciplines, serves five purposes: (1) to allow students to pick up a few elements (drawings, models, collages, visual and place-based research, etc.) they've produced in other ARCH studio courses and spend more time refining them, outside the broader demands of a thematic studio class, (2) to acquaint students with advanced skills in expression and representation related to the revision and refinement of these elements, based on student interest and needs, (3) to assist students in the development of a portfolio of studio work, either toward application for graduate school or simply to have for themselves, and in systems to organize projects and revisions, (4) to add to students' typographic and graphic design skillsets, primarily using the Adobe Creative Suite, as part of the portfolio process, and (5) to practice and hone communication and writing skills related to discussing architectural projects. While there will be a modest set of skills-based exercises each week, to help structure the studio, most of the work for this class will be students' own project revisions and portfolios, and most of class time will be spent sharing and refining both. Work will be primarily individual, but students will be expected to actively and eagerly support one another, and learn from each other, all along the way. Students will be required, throughout this course, to work with both Adobe Creative Suite and Rhinoceros, as well as through hand drawing and whatever other media the original projects used; other tools or software will be optional, based on student interest. Note: this course counts as a capstone class for the ENST/CEGU major, as well as toward the Architectural Studies minor.

Consent only: Strong priority will be given to third and fourth years who've taken at least two other ARCH studio classes already. Students who have not already taken ARCH 24205 (Skills & Processes for Architecture and Urban Design) may be asked to consult some of the problem sets from that class ahead of this one, to ensure a baseline upon which this class will build. 

Spatial Thinking in Historical Cartography

Michael P. Conzen

Tu 2:00-4:50pm
CEGU 27110, ENST 27110, GISC 27110


The course introduces students to the ways cartographers have conceived of represen­ting spatial patterns in map form, and how that has changed over time, given changes in world view, cultural background, cartographic technology, business organization, and educational fashion.  The objective is to sharpen students’ ability to think critically about how maps have been produced in history, evaluate their design, effective-ness, and limitations, and the uses to which they have been put.  The aim is to challenge students in the social sciences and humanities to strengthen their ability to think spatially, visually, and critically.

Researching Chicago's Historic Parks and Neighborhoods

Julia Bachrach

Fri 9:30-12:20pm
CEGU 20336, ENST 20336, CHST 20336


Often considered a "City of Neighborhoods," Chicago has a fascinating network of community areas that were shaped by historical events and developments. Many of the city's neighborhoods include parks that have their own significant architectural, landscape and social histories. The class will introduce students to some of Chicago's most interesting historic neighborhoods and parks; expose them to key regional digital and on-site archives; and instruct them in appropriate methodologies for conducting deep research on sites and landscapes, with a special focus on Chicago's historic park system. Students will utilize an array of resources including Sanborn maps, US Census records, historic plans, photographs, and archival newspapers to provide in-depth studies of unpreserved sites. The course will also expose students to historic preservation policies, methodologies, and guidelines to provide practical strategies for preserving lesser-known places and sites. As a Chicago Studies class, its pedagogy will also include excursions into the city, engagement with local guest speakers, and research in relevant Chicago-area archives/special collections.

Spring 2024

Disease, Health, and the Environment in Global Context

Christopher Kindell

CEGU 22100


Planning for Land and Life

Mark Bouman

CEGU 26366


The Calumet Quarter, part of the Chicago Studies Quarter programs, offers a one-quarter, intensive, experience-based program focused on human land use in the Calumet Region just south and east of the city. It features integrated courses, projects, field trips, guest lectures, and presentations, and integrates perspectives from the sciences, humanities, and social sciences in the study of local environments and communities.

The course, offered in collaboration with the Field Museum, considers the global phenomenon of so-called cultural and historical “heritage sites” and explores the processes and rationales through which vastly different sorts of places earn that designation. Within that context, students will analyze the sustained effort to create a “Calumet National Heritage Area” in the southern reaches of Chicago and adjacent northwestern Indiana comprised of diverse landscapes, people and their often contentious histories.

Objects, Place and Power

Jessica Landau

CEGU 26367


The Calumet Quarter, part of the Chicago Studies Quarter programs, offers a one-quarter, intensive, experience-based program focused on human land use in the Calumet Region just south and east of the city. It features integrated courses, projects, field trips, guest lectures, and presentations, and integrates perspectives from the sciences, humanities, and social sciences in the study of local environments and communities.

Objects are not only formed and interpreted through ideas of place and power, but also shape place and identity. This course looks at how material culture has, in part, formed understandings of the Calumet. Through methods drawn from art history and museum studies, we will look closely at objects, collections, and institutions in the region to analyze the power and politics of representation in placemaking.

Environmental Transitions and Unnatural Histories

Mary Beth Pudup

CEGU 26367


The Calumet Quarter, part of the Chicago Studies Quarter programs, offers a one-quarter, intensive, experience-based program focused on human land use in the Calumet Region just south and east of the city. It features integrated courses, projects, field trips, guest lectures, and presentations, and integrates perspectives from the sciences, humanities, and social sciences in the study of local environments and communities.

The course considers changes wrought in the natural landscape of the greater Calumet region beginning with indigenous Potawatomi and their forced removal.  Students will examine how the Calumet’s natural environment became collateral damage of the industrial capitalism that transformed the region into an economic powerhouse and explore efforts to rehabilitate the Calumet’s rich biodiversity, identifying the challenges and achievements of this most recent environmental transition.