UP 199 Urban Development Seminar

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Course Description:

The United States has experienced robust economic growth during the past eight years resulting in higher corporate earnings, rising tax revenues and increasing personal incomes. Unfortunately, not all individuals, families and communities have reaped the benefits of our nation's recent economic prosperity. Research conducted by Harvard sociologist, William Julius Wilson, shows a growing disparity in the economic well-being of our nation's "haves" and "have-nots". Between 1970 and 1990, the number of inner city neighborhoods experiencing high-poverty rates exceeding 20% nearly doubled as did the number of communities experiencing extremely high-poverty rates greater than 40%.

The ongoing economic, social and physical decline of these severely distressed neighborhoods have prompted many public and private institutions to avoid investment in these communities. Low-income residents of these areas have increasingly taken collective action, with the assistance of local faith-based organizations, to address the consequences of neighborhood disinvestment by municipal government and private lenders. Nowhere has the community revitalization potential of grassroots organizations been more dramatically demonstrated, in recent years, than in East St. Louis, Illinois largest African-American community.

During the past ten years, local residents, with the assistance of students and faculty from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have created a network of community-based development organizations that have designed and implemented an impressive series of increasingly complex community development projects that have brought new life to this once-dying industrial city. Students participating in UP 199 will learn about the environmental, economic and social problems confronting older industrial towns that are struggling to find a new place in our rapidly globalizing economy. They will enhance their understanding of the role non-profit organizations and municipal government agencies can play in promoting more balanced patterns of economic growth. UP 199 participants will have the opportunity to strengthen their experiential learning and community planning knowledge and skills through participation in neighborhood improvement projects implemented by local community-based development organizations with the assistance of UIUC's East St. Louis Action Research Project.

Course Objectives:

UP 199 seeks to assist students in achieving the following education objectives:

1.) To strengthen experiential learning knowledge and skills to empower students to more effectively pursue their lifelong learning goals;

2.) To enhance understanding of the impact of global restructuring on the environment, economy and social life of Illinois' older industrial cities;

3.) To reveal the increasingly important role community-based development organizations are playing in local neighborhood stabilization and community revitalization efforts; and

4.) To provide UIUC students with an opportunity to participate in a variety of community-building projects being pursued by East St. Louis residents, community organizations, municipal agencies and UIUC faculty and students from an empowerment planning perspective.

Course Pedagogy:

UP 199 seeks to achieve these learning objectives using an experiential learning model advocated by John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, David Kolb and others. This approach to learning demands the active involvement of students in each step of the learning process. It provides students with a basic "orienting theory" to the topic being explored. It then offers students the opportunity to acquire "concrete experience" related to the selected topic through intensive field work. It subsequently challenges students to "critically reflect" upon available theories in light of their experiences to arrive at deeper understandings of the topic being explored. Finally, students are expected to "test" their newly developed theories in the field to see if they provide more useful and effective guides to action.

Students will be provided with a basic introduction to the central principles and concepts of contemporary community development through a series of lectures offered by faculty and staff of the University's East St. Louis Action Research Project. This instruction will be presented from an interdisciplinary perspective by faculty trained in architecture, landscape architecture, law, policy analysis and sociology. The ideas presented in these lectures will be supplemented by assigned readings, web-based resources and videos. Each participating student will be required to complete a minimum of sixty hours of community service-learning activity in East St. Louis in a supervised setting supervised by the staff of the East St. Louis Action Research Project. Students will be challenged to integrate knowledge and insights regarding contemporary community development planning secured from the course lectures, readings and fieldwork through a series of reflective papers which will culminate in a final capstone fieldwork report and oral presentation.

Course Schedule:

Week 1:    1/25     America's Growing "Underclass"
Kozol, Jonathan. 1991. "Life in the Mississippi," in Savage Inequalities: Children in America's
Schools. New York: Harper Perennial, pp. 7-39.
(Students who have already read this chapter should read the following substitute article.)

Reardon, Kenneth M. 1996. "East St. Louis: Back From The Brink?" Gateway Heritage: Missouri Historical
Society, Volume 18, Number 3, Winter 1998, pp. 26-37.

Week 2:    2/1      Understanding Urban Poverty
Wilson, William Julius. 1996, "Societal Changes and Vulnerable Neighborhoods," in When Work Disappears: The Work of the New Urban Poor. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, pp. 25-50.
 Week 3:    2/8      Defining Community Development
Vidal, Avis C. 1996. "CDCs as Agents of Neighborhood Change: The State of the Art," in Revitalizing Urban Neighborhoods, edited by W. Dennis Keating, Norman Krumholz, and Philip Star (Manhattan: University of Kansas, 1996), p. 149-163.
Week 4:    2/15     ESLARP's Empowerment Planning Model
Reardon, Kenneth M. 1998. "Enhancing the Capacity of Community-Based Organizations in East St. Louis, Illinois," in Journal of Planning Education and       Research, 17:323-333.

Kretzman, John and John McKnight. 1993.        "Introduction," in Building Communities From the Inside Out: A Path Towards Finding and Mobilizing Community Assets. Chicago: ACTA Publications, pp. 1-11.

Week 5:    2/22  Appreciating the Land and Our Natural Resource Base
Berry, Wendell. 1977. "The Unsettling of America," in The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, pp. 1-17.

Van Der Ryn, Sim and Peter Calthorpe, 1986. "Introduction: Urban Context," in Sustainable Communities: A New Design Synthesis for Cities, Suburbs and Towns. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, pp. viii-33.

Week 6:    3/1    Understanding the Built Environment
Jacobs, Alan B. 1985. "Clues," in Looking at Cities. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, p. 30-83.
Week 7:   3/8   Entering the Community
Whyte, William Foote. 1994. "Learning to Be a Participant Observer," and "Rethinking and Reshaping My North End Study," in Participant Observer: An Autobiography. Ithaca: ILR Press, pp. 67-84, 96-107.
Week 8:   3/15-21     Spring Break
Week 9:   3/22   Preparing an Ethnographic Report
VanMaanen, John. 1988. "Fieldwork, Culture and Ethnography," and "Realistic Tales" in Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography. Chicago: The University of Chicago, pp. 1-12, 45-72.
Week 10:     3/29  Preparation for Student Presentations
Week 11:   4/5  Student Presentations

Course Text:

Originals for all readings can be found in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning Mailroom (Temple Buell Hall, Room 111) for student copying.  Please see Glenda Fisher to purchase a copy code to use on the mailroom copier.

Course Requirements:

1. Class attendance.
2. Active participation in classroom discussion of lectures and readings.
3. Participation in the East St. Louis Orientation Trip, to be scheduled.
4. Completion of a minimum of 60 hours of supervised fieldwork in East St. Louis through Alternative Spring Break or two of three Volunteer Work Weekends organized by the East St. Louis Action Research Project.
5. Preparation of a final reflective essay integrating the new knowledge of the community development process acquired in the classroom and the field.
6. Give an oral presentation discussing your most important learning outcomes of the semester.

Fieldwork Dates: (Subject to change)

 February 19-20
 March 15-21
 March 26-27
 April 22-23

Course Grading:

 20%     Classroom attendance and participation
 40%     Evaluation of fieldwork effort in the community
 20%     Quality of final reflective essay
 20%     Quality of "capstone" oral presentation
Digital Resources:
UIUC's East St. Louis Action Research Project maintains an impressive web site with a wealth of information regarding East St. Louis and its people. You should take full advantage of the resources available through this site by visiting:


Other Important Course Information:

A. ESLARP's Neighborhood Technical Assistance Office
Mr. Craig Miller
Acting Director
Neighborhood Technical Assistance Center
348 R Collinsville Avenue
East St. Louis, Illinois
(618) 271-9605

Latonya Burton
Community Planner
Neighborhood Technical Assistance Center
348 R Collinsville Avenue
East St. Louis, Illinois
(618) 271-9605

B. ESLARP Campus Staff
Mr. Thomas Shields
Project Coordinator
East St. Louis Action Research Project
325 Noble Hall
Champaign, Illinois 61820
(217) 265-0202

Mr. Abhijeet Chavan
Technology Coordinator
East St. Louis Action Research Project
417 Noble Hall
Champaign, Illinois 61820
(217) 244-6076

Deanna Koenigs
Information Systems Staff/ESLARP
417 Noble Hall/UIUC
Champaign, Illinois 61820
(217) 244-6076

Document author(s) : Cathy Klump
Last modified: 20-January-1999, C. Klump