The Chicago Initiative

Chicago, one of the world's great cities, comprising a variety of dynamic urban environments, site of historic planning innovations, and home to hundreds of our urban planning alumni, is just a short drive or train ride from our Urbana campus. We offer a variety of opportunities for students to engage in Chicago planning issues, and are actively working to expand these.

 The goals of our Chicago Initiative are to:

  • Engage in applied research, planning, and policy activities in the Chicago area;
  • Increase student opportunities to engage with current planning issues and professional activities in Chicago, including internships, capstone projects, and workshop courses;
  • Communicate and share expertise with our base of over 600 Chicago-area alumni; and
  • Provide opportunities to collaborate with School of Architecture and Department of Landscape Architecture on Chicago urban design problems.

Current Status, 2015-16

UP 426 Urban Design course, with focus on Chicago's Loop, Fall 2015, Fall 2016.

UP 474 Neighborhood Revitalization course, with focus on immigrant populations in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood, Fall 2015.

UP 447 Land Use Planning Workshop, with focus on urban agriculture and planning for community revitalization in Chicago's central Washington Park neighborhood.

Opportunity for MUP students to participate in School of Architecture's semester-long resident Chicago Studio, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017.

Alumni events in Chicago each semester, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017.

Ongoing summer internship opportunities, with organizations such as RTA, CMAP, UI Labs, Houseal Lavigne Associates, and others.

Continuing faculty involvement with Chicago planning initiatives, such as civic technology and smart cities, urban resilience planning, anti-eviction campaigns, and others.

Fall 2017 proposed joint Chicago-based urban design workshop/studio collaboration with School of Architecture and Department of Landscape Architecture.

Implementation in Near Future

Within the next two years, we are expecting to establish:

  • A Program Director, based in Chicago. The Director would establish relationships with Chicago-area organizations, teach Chicago-based field workshop classes, and connect students to capstone projects and internships.
  • Office and classroom space. Currently, we use classroom space at 1871 and other Chicago venues.
  • Regular collaborative Chicago studio/workshops with the School of Architecture and Department of Landscape Architecture.
  • Annual use of Chicago-based cases by our proposed new Master of Sustainable Urban Management degree program.
  • Faculty initial advisory relationships with a variety of agencies and civic organizations.

We envision teaching several courses each year primarily from Chicago via working and field sessions in both Urbana and Chicago, along with remote communication methods. We also expect additional research, teaching, and student work opportunities to arise out of these activities.


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