By Chloe Miller ’14
After several years of development, Trinity’s Center for Urban and Global Studies (CUGS) announced a new Urban Studies major to begin in the 2013-2014 academic year. For several years, students have had the option of self-designing an Urban Studies major, and the official Urban Studies minor was introduced in October 2010. Trinity’s CUGS is a ground-breaking center that has paved the way for numerous urban and global learning initiatives at Trinity, culminating in this major that is currently only available at a few other liberal arts schools across the country.
The major is interdisciplinary, and focuses especially on how dynamic urban centers around the world affect globalization and local spaces. The major will be made up of 12 courses from a variety of departments, including the growing Urban Studies department. There will be four core classes, including Urban Studies 101, which was introduced in fall 2011. From there, students will have some flexibility in choosing courses, but four must fall into one of three thematic concentrations: urban architecture and the built environment; urban culture, history, society, and economy; and environmental policy and sustainable urban development. These thematic focuses will allow students to focus their academic work towards one main circle of thought, while still allowing for a variety of urban and global-based courses. The interdisciplinary major complements well with existing departments at Trinity, including Economics, Public Policy and Law, History, Sociology, and Environmental Science.
Renee Swetz ’14 is a double major in Environmental Science and the self-designed Urban Studies major. She was excited to hear that the major is officially approved, explaining, “It’s exciting to think about being part of a changing field that’s not only making huge strides on a global scale but also at Trinity. Having combined [Urban Studies] with Environmental Science, I’ve had the opportunity to understand major development issues of today from both a social and scientific background. The department has done a great job of integrating the two.”
Currently, students who have already declared a self-designed major in Urban Studies will be permitted to finish on the track they were on. Starting with the class of 2015 these major requirements will be more strictly enforced. The department already anticipates 14 current sophomores to declare the new Urban Studies track as a major, and more from many different departments to come.
The Urban Studies major program is also unique in that it requires some sort of integrating exercise to synthesize the material learned over a student’s academic career. This may take the form of advanced urban research, community engagement or internship, or independent study projects. Using Hartford as an extended classroom, students have the opportunity, starting their freshman year, to gain valuable experience working, researching, and learning in Hartford’s diverse urban communities. The development of the Trinity-in-Shanghai study away program and the rest of Trinity’s global sites will also provide students the opportunity to study away in a variety of urban environments while working to complete their major.
The Urban Studies major was spearheaded by Dean and Director of the Center for Urban and Global Studies Xiangming Chen and Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of Urban International Studies Garth Myers. Chen is a native of Beijing, China and has been serving as the Director of CUGS since 2007. Myers joined Trinity’s faculty in 2011 and quickly took over many administrative duties in the Urban Studies Department. Both Chen and Myers have been dedicated to developing the urban and global offerings at Trinity since they’ve joined, and the finalizing of the major program is a great accomplishment to both of them. For Chen, timing is everything – as the world becomes more and more urbanized, the urban fields of study become more critical and respected. Trinity is lucky to be located in such a dynamic urban environment and have the local and global tools to take full advantage of these academic options.
Trinity has many other urban and global initiatives that are unique among NESCAC schools and rarely seen in liberal arts schools across the country. The Cities Program is an honors gateway program for exceptional first- and second- year students that explores the past, present, and future of urban environments through a series of interdisciplinary classes. CUGS also maintains close ties with the Human Rights Program and Community Learning Initiatives. Again, Trinity’s unique location in a dynamic urban space is crucial in the development of these academic options.