Clark University’s Urban Development and Social Change concentration has expanded its curriculum and changed its name to better reflect the full range of opportunities students have to study and engage with urban topics at Clark.
Now called “Urban Studies,” the concentration will continue to emphasize social change while its new, broader curriculum will cover a more diverse set of approaches for understanding the “urban” — including the humanities. The program’s core faculty (Deborah Martin, Amy Richter, Laurie Ross, John Brown, Mark Davidson, and Ramón Borges-Méndez) decided to expand the concentration’s scope so it would match the program’s interdisciplinary and global reach, which has grown substantially in recent years.
“The program, by expanding into a variety of new topics, will serve as a very interesting forum where we can continue addressing the issues that this new generation is going to have to be thinking about,” says Professor Borges-Méndez, program coordinator.
The concentration is open to all majors and offers students the opportunity to inspect the historical, cultural, social, economic, and political factors that have shaped cities — and, in turn, how cities have affected the lives of their inhabitants. When it was founded in 2000, the program focused primarily on urban topics in the United States. Over the past few years, it has grown to become more international in nature, with a wider array of humanities courses.
The change to urban studies better represents the diversity of urban offerings at Clark across a variety of departments, Borges-Méndez says. Students in the program will now have more flexibility when selecting courses, making the concentration more accessible to a wide range of majors while retaining its core interdisciplinary strength.
Borges-Méndez notes that students can use the expanded concentration to explore a variety of current issues affecting cities, including COVID-19 and recent uprisings against racism and police brutality. Midsize cities like Worcester are interesting case studies, he says, because of their role as gateways for immigrants, their ability to achieve interesting sustainability changes, and in some cases, their rapid growth, among other factors.
“There is a great deal of amplitude in what we can do with the Urban Studies Program. We have great faculty, and I would love to make it a very open concentration for people who want to teach and to connect their courses with the program,” Borges-Mendez says. “We are beginning with a very challenging environment — it’s an excellent opportunity to start thinking about some of these things.”
Like the former UDSC program, the Urban Studies curriculum will comprise a minimum of seven courses — three of which must be from different departments — and requires two 200-level courses and a capstone experience.
The curriculum changes will be reflected in the 2020–21 academic catalog.