About this program

This is an academic program about people who live and work in cities.
City Life is about urban people and their work.  What happens when at least a thousand people come together in an area to form a place of trade and accommodation?  Think about more than 8 million people coming together in New York City!   A lot happens: buildings, cuisine, music, dance, photography, cinema: people living, loving, and working.  Cities are centers of culture, architecture, employment, social change, tourism, and environmental concern and innovation.  What is it about urban environments that promote open, positive and creative attitudes, and yet can burden with negative and stifling complexities?  Cities are about special advantages, special group identities, and special problems.  

This program is for students who are eager to inquire about a vast range of city offerings and concerns. Thinking about cities engages interdisciplinary learning through history, urban studies, specific arts (visual, movement, music, film) literature, cultural studies, and social movements.  Students will need to work deliberately with both the designed curriculum and with their own curriculum, which will tailor the program to individual urban interests. Our studies will include an array of subject matter that will emerge as we engage in authentic inquiry as a community of learners.

In the fall, we begin by reading Witold Rybczynski’s historical narrative about the environmental, social, economic, and technological factors that have come to define American cities, and then venture into Magdalena Tulli’s work of fiction about the human idealism and dreams of an unnamed city, entering the lives of the stones from which the buildings and monuments are historically constructed.  We’ll also consider conceptions of the "city" in the history of cinema, and in the context of dance.  We’ll take different academic looks at specific American cities: A walking tour of our own Olympia, a museum look at Seattle, a look at the politics of race and authenticity in Blue Chicago: The Search for Authenticity in Urban Blues Clubs, and we’ll compare perceptions New York City by E.B White and Paul Auster.  Reading Jane Jacobs’s The Nature of Economies will inspire students to represent the many variables of cities with visual display formats and graphs.  Students will use that skill in individual city research projects. In winter quarter we’ll move from local to global to consider life and work in international cities. The work of fall and winter leads to an individual spring field study in a specific city selected by each student—could be Portland, could be Prague!  Students will present their city field study to the program during the final weeks of spring.  To plan for this city experience, students will identify field study sites by the end of fall quarter.

Special Expenses: Independent travel to large American cities, approximately $500 each week, depending upon student's choice of city.

Credit awarded in:  social studies, literature, writing, urban studies, quantitative reasoning. Movement studies.