Click here for updates on Summer 2021 Program Modifications due to COVID-19.



Details for Summer 2021 Engage Chicago Program

Due to ongoing public health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, Engage Chicago 2021 will be offered in a remote format. Internship placements will either be remote, hybrid, or in-person, depending on employer, Northwestern Policy, and local public health protocols. It remains an eight-week summer program, offered for two credits, consisting of multiple, complementary components designed to create a powerful, dynamic learning experience for students. See below for more details about each program component.



The program runs from Monday, June 21 – Friday, August 13, with a brief orientation session on Friday, June 18.


Program Components

Class Sessions

Meets Monday afternoons 1:00pm-3:00pm (CDT)  (2 hours/week)

This weekly class is the foundational academic component of the program. The course will be taught Liz McCabe, the lead instructor for Chicago Field Studies. Class will meet synchronously via Zoom. Requests for asynchronous options will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Consistent with Engage Chicago’s pedagogical approach, the class will use Chicago as a lens through which to view a range of interlocking social issues, civic questions, and approaches to creating a more just and livable world. This summer, we will foreground systemic inequities and concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare and exacerbated, especially topics pertaining to healthcare, housing, labor, education, and incarceration. Using an array of interdisciplinary materials (articles, artworks, films, podcasts, and more), we’ll explore Chicago, its complex history, and its dynamic present, as well as its crucial, long-standing role in international struggles for social justice. 

Most importantly, we will talk with Chicagoans. We’ll hear from doctors, lawyers, community organizers, urban planners, elected representatives, school teachers, non-profit administrators, artists, parents, neighbors, scholars, and more—people who have shaped the city, who are fighting for its communities right now, and who are trying to build a sustainable future for us all.

Course assignments will take various forms—likely including discussion boards, short reflection papers, and research projects.



Students will work the equivalent of one day per week – or roughly eight hours – to be scheduled flexibly based on organizational needs and student availability. (~8 hours/week)

While the COVID-19 crisis has restricted opportunities for in-person work, the pandemic is also making the services of nonprofit and public service organizations more critical than ever. At the same time, the needs and capacities of these organizations vary widely right now.  

As such, Engage Chicago is working with our nonprofit partners to coordinate a wide range of work opportunities and special projects that can be done remotely to address a host of social issues. These projects will be assigned by Engage Chicago advisors in collaboration with students and community partners, based on their respective interests, community needs, and the capacity of organizational partners to support meaningful work.  

This component will equate to roughly one day a week (or approximately eight hours each week) of community-based work. Schedules will vary widely, and will be negotiated between students, community partners, and Engage Chicago advisors. (For example, some students may be able to arrange a single, full workday a week, if they prefer. Others may be able to arrange work for a few hours a day over several days.) Note: Some organizations may be able to accommodate an intern for more than one day/week, if there is interest from the student in gaining additional work experience.


Spotlight Sessions

Offered 1-3 times each week (~1-1.5 hours each, students must attend at least four sessions over the course of the summer)

Throughout the summer, a series of Spotlight Sessions will allow students to go deeper into course topics, explore career possibilities, and meet more Chicagoans! 

In lieu of the “Concentration” component in the in-person Engage Chicago model, the remote Spotlight Session series offers students the flexibility to follow their own interests while talking with a wide range of experts and community members. A “typical” Spotlight Session could involve a public health official explaining neighborhood-specific impacts of COVID-19, a lawyer describing the ins and outs of defending people in Zoom court, a panel of community organizers workshopping student ideas for mutual aid projects, a hosted film screening, or… Spotlight Sessions will take many forms. 

Spotlight Sessions will take place synchronously to foster connections between students and speakers, but dates and times will vary to create more flexible access. Students will be required to participate in at least four Spotlight Sessions over the course of the summer, but are welcome to attend them all!


Discussion Section

Meets Friday afternoons, 1-2:30pm (CDT)  (1.5 hours/week) 

As usual, the program will include a weekly small-group Discussion Section to help students explore connections, challenges, and possibilities that emerge across program components and students’ varied experiences throughout the summer. We think that opportunities for students to connect with instructors, staff, and—especially—one another are more important than ever. As a result, these sections will be kept small with an extra effort made to emphasize personal student connection.   


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click HERE for a list of answers to frequently asked questions about the Summer 2021 Engage Chicago program. This list will be updated periodically as new questions arise.