Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Urban studies minor attracts students of many disciplines

Senior Emily Hungerford was one of a few undergraduates in the graduate-level Urban Landscapes geography class. She’s not the geography department’s next young star; she’s a sociology major earning credit in urban studies, her minor. 

One of DU’s few interdisciplinary minors, the urban studies minor was started four years ago under the direction of education Associate Professor Nick Cutforth, who designed the program together with geography Professor Andy Goetz and sociology Chair Paul Colomy. Cutforth sees it “as an opportunity for students to learn about and engage with the urban environment from different disciplinary angles.” 

The curriculum gives credit for urban-related courses from seven departments— anthropology, education, economics, geography, human communication studies, political science and sociology. Students take classes in six of the seven areas for a total of 28 credits. 

Cutforth says the minor appeals to students interested in social justice and service. It also has a variety of applications, he says, including law, urban planning, social work and education. 

Hungerford, who hopes to work in an urban elementary school, says she feels equipped to handle an inner-city school because of urban studies’ interdisciplinary approach. 

“When I get into education,” she says, “I’ll be able to understand the problems facing the school from more than a sociology background.” 

The program’s classroom lessons are realized through the Denver Urban Immersion alternative spring break. Coordinated by Cutforth and the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, students spend the week living downtown and examining issues facing Denver and other urban centers—specifically homelessness, immigration and education. 

Cutforth values the face that the spring break program puts on the urban studies curriculum. “Students like to see the connections out in the real world and bring it back into the classroom,” he says. 

This article originally appeared in
The Source, March 2006.

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