Columbia College Chicago

LAS Core Curriculum

First-Semester Experience

All first-semester freshmen students are required to enroll in a First-Semester Experience “Big Chicago” course. These courses are designed to help students connect with the city of Chicago in fundamental ways, work and learn with each other, engage in student activities, and access courses led by some of the top scholars and practitioners in their fields.

Course Goals

Although individual courses have course-specific learning outcomes associated with understanding Columbia College Chicago’s urban setting, all of the courses share the same expectations for the student learning experience. In the first-semester experience course, students will:

Students are encouraged to explore new ideas in the First-Semester Experience course and, if possible, should not select a course that appears to be connected to their designated major areas of study.


Chicago – The Global Metropolis (48-1101)

The course will introduce students to Chicago's economic, ethnic, racial, cultural and political development. Students develop knowledge concerning the impact of technological change on Chicago and the economic and demographic forces that have helped shape the city's history. In addition, the class will help freshmen gain access to the various cultural institutions and neighborhoods of the city. Taught by Dominic Pacyga, Humanities, History and Social Sciences.

Fashion in Chicagoland: Vintage, Thrift, Fast and Cool (48-1102)

In this course, students will explore Chicago through the dynamic lens of fashion. Each week, students will be introduced to a topic with an assignment that requires them to examine different aspects of the fashion scene throughout the city. By digging deep and documenting their findings, students will work collaboratively to brainstorm, delegate tasks, and contribute to a blog or magazine inspired by Humans of New York and Bill Cunningham, with images, interviews and comments focused on fashion in Chicago. Local experts will speak on trend forecasting, blogging, design, vintage, thrifting, retail and the secondhand clothing trade. Taught by Elizabeth Shorrock, Fashion Studies.

Music & Media in Chicago (48-1103)

Music & Media in Chicago will provide an overview of the past, present and future of the many genres of music thriving in Chicago. It will examine how this city put its stamp on the development of these sounds as they spread around the world, as well as introduce the tools of the historian, sociologist, musicologist and cultural critic via lectures, video, film, readings and vibrant discussions. The class also will review the past, present and future of Chicago media—newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the blogosphere—examining the city’s journalism culture and infrastructure. The course will help students become active and involved citizens participating to the fullest extent in everything this extraordinary metropolis has to offer. Taught by Jim DeRogatis, English.

Curiosity in the City: Monsters, Marvels, and Museums (48-1104)

Freak shows, serial killers, medical oddities and flesh-eating beetles are all part of the Chicago experience. This course is an interdisciplinary study of curiosity and wonder, incorporating philosophy, science and history to investigate the threshold between shadow (the unfamiliar) and light (the known). Celebrating the marvelous and the macabre is part of a long history of collecting, reaching back to the wonder-cabinets of the late Renaissance. Chicago museums were leaders in the post-Darwinian transformation from sideshow to legitimate science. In this course, we will explore three categories of strange Chicago (monsters, marvels and museology) as case studies to understand the nature of curiosity. Themes will include the nature of knowledge (e.g., credulity, skepticism, collecting and constructing nature), the borders of human and inhuman (natural and moral “monsters”), and the hidden oddities of urban natural history. Taught by Steve Asma, Humanities, History, and Social Sciences.

50 Years of Civil Rights in Chicago (48-1105)

Fifty years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. embarked on his “northern campaign,” which brought the civil rights movement to Chicago. In 2015-16, the 50th anniversary will be commemorated by the key players in that struggle who are still working for change — Rainbow/PUSH, the Jewish Council for Urban Affairs, the Community Renewal Society (including The Chicago Reporter and Catalyst Chicago) — activist organizations that made history in 1965-66, and are still wrestling with issues of racial, economic and social justice. It is true today, as it was then, that “the whole world is watching.” Students will work in teams to interact with the people and institutions that made our city an international focus for social change. They will use public relations techniques to document and communicate the past and current state of civil rights in Chicago. The ultimate course deliverable will be an online website that tells this story, in words and pictures, from our students to other youth aged 18 to 20, filling a niche that might otherwise go undeveloped in the city’s 50th anniversary celebration. Taught by Alton Miller, Communication Media and Innovation.

Heard in the Hood: Social Media Storytelling from Chicago’s Neighborhoods (48-1106)

This course gives students the opportunity to tell stories from Chicago's 77 neighborhoods, using mobile apps such as Instagram and Vine to document the community. Students will learn basic smartphone photography and video and best practices for using social media. We will look at how journalists and storytellers use social media to report and to engage--because social media without engagement is just media. Students also will learn how to verify information and to find credible Tweets in a sea of Tweets. What does a politician's social media account really tell you about what's going on in a neighborhood? We'll use our investigative skills to find out. This course is for students who love telling stories with the latest mobile technology. At the end of the semester, students will have a small body of work for their portfolios. Taught by Jackie Spinner, Communication Media and Innovation.

Podcasting Chicago: Capturing the Sounds of Chicago’s Neighborhoods (48-1107)

The course emphasizes the art of listening with a focus on Chicago’s unique neighborhoods, engaging students by employing them to study, travel to and listen for the sounds of the city in communities like Chinatown, Little Italy or Pilsen. Students will record the sounds of the neighborhoods (with the help of Radio Department teaching assistants) and then create a series of audio podcast episodes through words and particularly the captured sounds. The goal is to create a series of audio documentaries that are, in essence, a sound mosaic of the city of Chicago that will be featured in a podcast series deliverable online. Taught by Dave Berner, Radio.

Chicago Film History (48-1108)

Chicago Film History is a screening, lecture and discussion course with a two-fold purpose. It will explore Chicago’s formative role in the creation of the Hollywood system and analyzes how Chicago has been represented in American narrative and documentary features. In particular, it is divided into four units. Unit I uses the book Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S Film Industry to review how Chicago functioned as the center of American film production pre-Hollywood. Unit II explores images of Chicago in genres such as gangster films, film noir and romantic comedies. Unit III covers Chicago documentaries. Lastly, Unit IV contains in-class presentations where students synthesize their own analyses and research in front of their peers. Taught by Karla Fuller, Cinema Art + Science.

Flagships, Boutiques, Popups and More: Chicago, A Retail Innovation Lab (48-1109)

Chicago has been a retail “destination shop” since the days of fur traders and, later, retail pioneers like Marshall Field and Richard Warren Sears. Today, Chicago is still a retail giant for residents and tourists alike, featuring a multitude of retail flagships (Crate & Barrel, AT&T, NikeTown, UnderArmor, American Girl, Warby Parker, Uniqlo, Eataly, Walgreens’ State Street Store.) as well as some of the most exciting boutiques and pop-up concepts anywhere in the world (think Transistor, Wolfbait & B-girls, Open Book). Taught by Peg Murphy, Communication Media and Innovation.

Chicago Means Business: The Creative Leadership of Our City (48-1110)

This course will connect incoming first-year students with the urban landscape of Chicago by exposing them to various facets of the cultural industries in the city: festivals and live events; sports; music; digital media; design; fine, visual and performing arts; and more. Through interactive projects as well as group and online discussion forums, the students will explore and experience Chicago’s creative industries. Taught by Clayton Smith, Business and Entrepreneurship.

Big Chicago: Dance, Sex and Popular Culture (48-1111)
Did You Know That Al Capone’s Son Was Deaf? A View inside the Deaf World in Chicago (48-1112)

This course introduces the cultural, educational, artistic and linguistic aspects of the vibrant Deaf community in Chicago and around the world. Students in this course will explore, analyze and come to understand the historical roots of the Deaf cultural and educational experience, both locally and globally. Additionally, this course will survey the topics of local and global Deaf artistic expression, signed languages and their structures, the role of interpreters and assistive technologies. It also will introduce laws that impact accessibility for all. Taught by Peter Cook, American Sign Language.

The Late, Late Afternoon Show (48-1113)

The Late, Late Afternoon Show will expose students to the best and the brightest across Chicago's vivid cultural landscape. The class is taught through a talk show/interview format, allowing each week’s featured guest to share their life and work experiences in the arts. Students will race across the city to experience music venues, museums, theatres, performances, art exhibits, design shows and all the human-made beauty a world-class city's culture provides. Taught by Duncan MacKenzie, Art and Art History.

Chicago: Creating a Cinematic Diary (online) (48-1114)

The city provides a dynamic space to experience immediate methods of personal inquiry, creativity, sharing, experimentation and self-expression. Using focused observation through image and sound acquisition and curation, students will set, articulate and re-examine artistic goals through intentional self‐reflection about their emerging creative process through making increasingly sophisticated cinematic diary entries. The course employs two types of expression and exploration: writing using images and sounds and writing using text and voice in ways that require students to explore thought and expression that are metaphorical, aesthetic, contextual and personal. Activities are grounded in a number of needed future skills: design sense, novel and adaptive thinking, media and digital literacy, information literacy, transdisciplinarity, social intelligence, collaboration and connectivity. This is an online course. Taught by Don Smith, Cinema Art + Science.

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