LAS Core Curriculum

"Big Chicago" Course

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.

Courses

Music & Media in Chicago (FEXP 112)

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 introducing the tools of the historian, sociologist, musicologist, and cultural critic via lectures, video, film, online and dead-tree 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, and, as with music, providing an understanding for an informed and critical reading of these texts so that the student can become an active and involved citizen 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 (FEXP 113)

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, etc.), 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.

Curiosity in the City: Monsters, Marvels, and Museums: Honors (FEXP 113H)

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, etc.), 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 (FEXP 114)
Over half a century ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brought the civil rights movement from Selma to Chicago, and shocked a nation that thought racial oppression was just a Southern thing. Today, more than 50 years later, young American men and women hardly out of their teens—including Columbia students—are playing a role in the critical issues summarized by Black Lives Matter. The City of Chicago—its people, its history, and its culture—are on the front lines of a newly energized struggle for civil rights. And it is true today, as it was 50 years ago, that the whole world is watching. Students in this course will engage with the people and institutions that have 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. And looking toward graduation, they will prepare for their careers a whole lot smarter, ready for intelligent, emotional engagement with the realities of diversity in America today. Taught by: Alton Miller, Communication
Chicago Film History (FEXP 117)

Chicago Film History is a screening, lecture, and discussion course with a two-fold purpose. It explores 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's divided into four units. Unit I uses 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 and Television Arts.

Big Chicago: Dance, Sex and Popular Culture (FEXP 120)
Did You Just Flip Me Off?? Deaf People and Linguistic Diversity in Chicago (FEXP 121)

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, and will introduce laws that impact accessibility for all. Taught by Diana Gorman Jamrozik, American Sign Language.

Chicago: Design of Cities and Social Justice (FEXP 126)

In this course, we investigate Chicago as a hub for activism and social change, through the lens of architecture, urban planning, design, and the arts. Students will be invited to consider the physical and virtual places and spaces and objects that constitute and define the city of Chicago and the Chicagoland region. Students will learn of Daniel Burnham, the architect and visionary urban planner who, in the early 1900s, proposed access to clean air, green space, civic engagement and cultural life for Chicago’s residents. On walking tours and site visits throughout the city, students will examine and critically evaluate the current condition of Chicago’s urban and civic spaces against the backdrop of Burnham’s plan. Students will investigate how different people and organizations throughout the region contribute to access for services in health, nutrition, safety, and the environment for Chicagoans. Students will be introduced to models of grassroots and community engagement that open up spaces for dialogue, action, agency, and continued transformation and vitality. Taught by: Joan Giroux, Art and Art History, and Rene King, Design

 

Chicago Fashion Tribes (FEXP 127)

Women’s Wear Daily once described dress code unifiers as fashion tribes; calling out those that “flaunt their sartorial signage” to show who they run with. Fashion in Chicago is shaped by mainstream brands and local style tribes. A hundred years before there were brand name stores in every town, or shopping online, Chicago was the capital of the mail-order catalog industry, providing and distributing ready to wear clothing and accessories for the masses. Nowadays with a diverse population of close to three million people, it is possible to see high fashion and street style in the same neighborhood. Add to the mix the diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religions, political beliefs and ideologies, then Chicago represents a fascinating fashion fusion; a global experience without leaving the city. Students will observe and participate in the function of fashion as a form of belonging. With a focus on observing and documenting fashion tribes, and identifying their own, students’ will learn how fashion can define, incorporate and galvanize by expanding their understanding of what makes Chicago styles unique. Taught by: Virginia Heaven, Fashion Studies

Chicago: City of Stories (FEXP 124)

The spirit of a place is most aptly captured by its artists. Writers in particular have long been fascinated with the city of Chicago. The literary tradition in Chicago is rich and varied. From the politically conscious poems of Gwendolyn Brooks, to the fantastic imaginings of L. Frank Baum and Ray Bradbury, to the blue collar portraits and tales of Studs Terkel, Nelson Algren and beyond. Chicago's contribution to the pantheon of storytelling goes without question. The city is at the forefront of the modern graphic novel renaissance, and was the birthplace of the poetry slam. In this lecture hall class, students will survey the history of Chicago literature and storytelling from the Great Fire of 1871 to the present. The course will examine the literary history of the "City of Big Shoulders" and learn to understand the profound impact the city will have on their own sense of story and development as artists. The course will not only place the city in literary context, but will help students discover the many voices at the center of this complex, vigorous, beautifully paradoxical city. In doing so, students will begin to discover the most important voice of all-their own. Taught by Sam Weller, Creative Writing.

Made in Chicago: The City of Art and Design (FEXP 128)

Chicago has served as the home of the surrealist art collective The Hairy Who?, an incubator of innovative African-American graphic design, the site of vibrant Latino/a murals, a cradle of forward-thinking urban photography, and a crossroads for civil rights and gay liberation visual culture. This course examines Chicago as a national and international center for art and design. We will travel across the city to explore, understand, and engage with historic and contemporary art and design objects in a process of hands-on inquiry and experiential learning. In the classroom we will use lectures, discussions, and group/individual projects to address topics like the role of cities as cultural incubators, the importance of images in understanding cities, the role of art and design as a tool for empowering diverse communities, and students' role in Chicago's current art and design culture. The course pairs with artdesignchicago.org, an unprecedented series of exhibitions and programs across the entire City of Chicago in 2018. Taught by: Greg Foster-Rice, Photography. 

A River Runs Through It: Crossroads Chicago and the Making of America (FEXP 129)
The blue horizontal lines that frame the iconic four red stars on the Chicago flag represent Lake Michigan and the Great Canal, waterways that link the City across time and space to the development and growth of modern America. In this course, students wil learn about the science and natural history of the Continental Divide, a natural feature formed during the Ice Age that provided favorable conditions for development along the southern shore of the Great Lakes. Chicago also boasts a rich history of technological innovation to create the complex transportation network of canals, railroads, highways, and air corridors that link East to West, and North to South. This network contributed directly to Chicago becoming an industrial and financial powerhouse and a beacon to adventurers, entrepreneurs, scientists, educators, and artists. This course will explore how the natural and human-created environment led directly to innovations in science, engineering, manufacturing, retail, and distribution, sometimes with negative effects on the land and water. Students will explore a variety of sites in and around the City and will use a journal as a site of artistic observation and reflection to document some of the scientific, environmental, technological, artistic, and historic features of this great crossroads metropolis. Taught by: Dave Dolak, Science and Mathematics.
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