New students to tour Chicago as part of One Book One Northwestern

Meghan Morris, Reporter

With the close of Wildcat Welcome programming, new students will be given the opportunity Sunday to explore the greater Chicago area.

As part of “One Book, One Northwestern,” the Center for Civic Engagement organized a trip for 500 freshmen to explore various neighborhoods. Transfer students had the chance to go on a similar Chicago trip Tuesday.

The program is the first of its kind at Northwestern, said Rob Donahue, director of the Center for Civic Engagement.

Each group will travel to a different neighborhood under the guidance of a faculty member. The neighborhoods are broken down into ten themes, including environmental sustainability, transportation, immigration and arts.

These multidisciplinary studies promote the idea that Chicago is accessible and a good resource for students no matter their area of study, Donahue said. One Book, One Northwestern’s 2012 selection is “Never a City So Real,” a book by Medill lecturer Alex Kotlowitz that is made up of vignettes focusing on different neighborhoods and the personalities that shape the city.

“Almost every discipline can be enriched by taking advantage of what Chicago has to offer,” Donahue said. “Part of the message (of One Book) is that if you want to understand Chicago, you have to understand the communities that make up this place and the neighborhoods that are the lifeblood of Chicago.”

The day will begin at 12:30 p.m. with an overview of the activities in Evanston. Students will be broken up into bus groups of 50, with one faculty adviser and about five student leaders per bus, Donahue said.

Students will spend three hours exploring their particular neighborhood and participate in activities with their faculty member and student leaders, then regroup at the Feinberg School of Medicine for a buffet. Buses will return at 7 p.m. The trip is free for students, with funding from the President’s Office.

Weinberg junior Kathryn Halpern said she decided to volunteer as a student leader to help freshmen understand Chicago and learn more about the city herself.

“Even though I’m from close by, I don’t have as many chances to explore as I’d like,” she said. “Chicago is a reason why Northwestern’s so great, but with so much on campus, it can be hard to leave.”

Weinberg freshman Pam Keller said she signed up for the trip as a way to meet other freshmen and explore the city.

“I thought of it as, ‘Why not?’ instead of, ‘Why?’” she said. “I hope to get a better understanding of Chicago.”

Donahue said the program is a pilot for future engaged learning opportunities.

“Students are excited about for their time in college: Not just learning information, but figuring out how to apply that information to the world so they can be effective scholars, workers and citizens,” he said.

In addition to promoting engaged learning, Donahue said he hopes this event connects Northwestern’s downtown campus better with the Evanston campus. He said NU in Chicago fits well with part of the University’s strategic plan involving both more hands-on learning and intercampus partnerships.

“Whether it’s in Evanston or Chicago, or somewhere across the globe, learning isn’t something that happens just when you’re sitting in a desk, in a traditional classroom,” Donahue said. “This is a way to recontextualize learning for students as they start at Northwestern, because that’s not the only way students learn.”

Donahue said he expects about ten percent of the freshmen who registered for the event will not attend, so spots will be given to interested upperclassmen and freshmen on a first-come, first-serve basis Sunday.