Engage Chicago’s six components combine classroom learning and real-world experience, connecting you with the theories you need to understand social issues and the tools you need to address them.
A Strong Academic Foundation.
The eight-week class is at the core of the program. Through the lens of Chicago, you explore theories of social change and a range of urban issues, like housing and immigration. The class is taught by Northwestern professor Jody Kretzmann, an expert in community development with over 40 years of experience working in Chicago neighborhoods. He is often joined by high-profile guests like NPR reporter Natalie Moore, Cook County Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” García, and bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz.
From the Classroom to the Community.
Academic concepts are brought to life by real-world application, which is why we follow each class session with an afternoon field experience. A lecture about Chicago politics might be followed by a visit to the Mayor’s Office. A class on education might be paired with a trip to the Chicago Public Schools headquarters. Field experiences bring you out of the classroom and into the community, connecting the dots between theory and practice.
Work Experience That Matters.
We partner with over 100 nonprofit organizations, government institutions, and social enterprises to place you in a part-time internship related to your interests. As you contribute to their efforts, you learn valuable skills and develop a professional network that will serve you for years to come. You also gain insight into the ways individuals and institutions address complex challenges.
An In-Depth Look at a Professional Path.
The general curriculum focuses on Chicago history and social change, but Thursday afternoons are reserved for students to further explore a specific topic or career path that piques their interest. Engage Chicago currently offers concentrations in Health & Medicine, Law & Advocacy, Community Organizing, Non-Profit Management, and Urban Planning. Each concentration is led by an accomplished practitioner and includes a mix of lectures, site visits, and discussions.
Bringing it All Together.
Engage Chicago exposes you to new and often conflicting ideas, perspectives, and questions. The weekly seminar gives you a chance to process these experiences alongside a small group of peers. Through written reflection, interactive activities, and facilitated discussion, you learn to participate in critical conversations related to politics and social change while developing and strengthening your own beliefs.
A Place to Call Home.
Engage Chicago participants come from every corner of the world, but for eight weeks they live together on Chicago’s Near West Side. Students get to know one another through planned events such as bonfires and bowling; the centralized location also allows for plenty of impromptu excursions to nearby neighborhoods. This unique residential component allows students to learn from one another as they share experiences inside and outside of class.
A Week in the Life
The six components come together to create a robust weekly schedule. Program requirements keep you busy during the weekdays, while residential activities and downtime allow you to explore all that Chicago has to offer on nights and weekends.
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