First-Semester Experience

Led by some of the top scholars and practitioners in their fields, these first-semester courses connect students to the city of Chicago firsthand and allow them to reflect upon those experiences with a cohort of student peers.

Each course has specific learning outcomes associated with the investigation of some aspect of Columbia College Chicago’s diverse, urban setting and an introduction to community engagement and issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Fall 2019 "Big Chicago" Courses

  • 50 Years of Civil Rights in Chicago (CCCX 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: City of Stories (CCCX 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 Joe Meno, English and Creative Writing.

  • Chicago Fashion Tribes (CCCX 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. 

  • Chicago Film History (CCCX 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.

  • Chicago Latinx! Community, Culture, and Citizenship (CCCX 130)

    Chicago is a multi-ethnic city, and the Latino community is one of the most vibrant and active today. But what's in a name? What's in a place? What are the connections between an urban space like Chicago and the communities that call themselves Latina/o, Hispanic, Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran? Some of them are recent immigrants and need to navigate a culture and a language unfamiliar to them; some of them were born here and need to straddle more than one culture and language; some are scarcely aware of their cultural and linguistic origins. And then there is the rest of the population who constantly interacts with these communities. This course delves into the issues of Latin@/Latinx ethnicity and culture in the urban space of Chicago—through language and literature, music and food—as we discuss questions of migration, cultural citizenship, and identity. Taught by Carmelo Esterrich, Humanities, History, and Social Sciences.

  • Chicago: The Global Metropolis (CCCX 110)

    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 Columbia freshman to gain access to the various cultural institutions and neighborhoods of the city. Taught by Erin McCarthy, Humanities, History, and Social Sciences. 

    There is also an Honors version of this course. 

  • Did You Just Flip Me Off?? Deaf People and Linguistic Diversity in Chicago (CCCX 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.

  • Epicenter of Pop: Chicago in Popular Culture (CCX 199)
  • Made in Chicago: The City of Art and Design (CCCX 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. Taught by: Greg Foster-Rice, Photography. 

  • Music and Media in Chicago (CCCX 112)

    Music and 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 and Creative Writing.

    There is also an Honors version of this course. 

  • A River Runs Through It: Crossroads Chicago and the Making of America (CCCX 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 will 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.

  • Big Chicago: Honors (CCCX 119H)

    Led by top scholars and practitioners in their fields, these first semester courses connect students to the city of Chicago and encourage reflection on those experiences with a cohort of student peers. Students investigate aspects of Columbia College Chicago's diverse urban and cultural setting. Courses introduce students to different learning environments, issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and deeper ways of engaging the urban contexts and communities of Chicago.

    Section 1: Chicago: The Global Metropolis
    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 Columbia freshman to gain access to the various cultural institutions and neighborhoods of the city. Taught by Erin McCarthy, Humanities, History, and Social Sciences

    Section 2: Music and Media in Chicago
    Music and 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 and Creative Writing.

CCCX 100: Learning Outcomes

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-year experience course, students will: