Course to create new teen center in Edgewater

By Marisa Sobotka, Campus Reporter

Esther Bell
Faculty members René King and Joan Giroux created the course “InArch: Civic Engagement Studio,” in which students will help create an after-school center.

A new interdisciplinary course gives students the chance to get involved with a civic project on the city’s North Side with the help of the neighborhood alderman and community residents.

Columbia faculty members René King and Joan Giroux introduced the course, “InArch: Civic Engagement Studio,” for the Spring 2017 Semester. The course will result in a proposal for a Teen Hub in the Broadway Armory Park located in Edgewater, 5917  N. Broadway.

Throughout the semester, students will be working directly with residents of the 48th Ward to create a space that will act as an after-school program space.

According to Giroux, other activities within the Teen Hub are still being identified, but physical activities and tutoring are likely to be included.

King, the associate chair of the Design Department, and Giroux, an associate professor in the Art & Art History Department created the course.

“The students are going into the community, and they are meeting with all the stakeholders who are going to be the users of the space, and they are learning to develop what we call a design program for the first time, based upon actual user input,” King said.

A total of 15 students—mostly juniors to seniors—have registered for the course described on the college website as an “upper level design studio that exposes students to hands on civic engagement opportunities.”

Caitlyn Brunner, a senior design major enrolled in the course, said for many students, this is the first time they will be working with communities outside of the school.

“We do a lot of fictitious design, and that’s great, but our circle is very small,” Brunner said. “It will be nice to [hear from] people who aren’t designers; that will be something that is very interesting.”

According to the professors, the course will be divided into three parts and will begin by preparing students to have conversations with residents.

King added that the class will interview local youth who could use this hub. Later, students will create proposals for what the space should look like.

The course will conclude with the students presenting their ideas to Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) and other stakeholders in the community, according to King.

Osterman said he looks forward to the teens in the Edgewater area having a safe space in the city of Chicago.

The final phase will also have the class starting work on funding from stakeholders within the community.

“All of this will be part of the catalyst and leveraging for the alderman to go to his constituents and say we’ve got these great ideas for building out this space for a teen hub, and I really want this to happen,” Giroux said.

Not only will the course show students the effects of civic engagement, but it will create relationships between the students and Edgewater residents, Giroux said.

“We are really trying to teach a process for them to go out and engage with others with that process and curiosity,” King said, “It is something they are going to continue to think about as they move though the different phases of their professional lives.”