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Posted July 12, 2016 by
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The Center for Urban Engagement is pleased to announce the recent hiring of Sean Young who will be filling the role of Visiting Assistant Professor of Urban Studies. He is currently finishing his Ph.D. work at Loyola University in Sociology and has field specializations in Urban Sociology and Political Sociology. Sean is looking forward to teaching in the fall, and we had the chance to ask him some questions as he prepares for the upcoming school year.

CUE: So, Sean, tell us a little about yourself!

Sean YoungSY: Originally from upstate New York, I've made Chicago my home for the last 15 years. I’ve worked within higher education for over 2 decades, much of that within off-campus and experiential studies programs. My experience ranges from teaching English overseas in Taiwan to coordinating student life at an artist colony on Martha’s Vineyard. But it was my experience in teaching urban studies courses for several colleges and universities that solidified my love of teaching and learning and the focus of my scholarly interests on urban life and community-based efforts at social change. I'm currently a PhD candidate in the department of sociology at Loyola University Chicago and have been a graduate research fellow at the Center for Urban Research and Learning. I'm the proud father of a very old dog and a very old Nishiki bike.

CUE: We are looking forward to having you here on staff at Wheaton, particularly with CUE. Tell us what you’re looking forward to.

SY:I am excited to join the CUE programs, staff, and faculty because it has been a fantastic center for urban engagement and scholarship at Wheaton College. I worked with the Urban Studies program for several years prior to my PhD work, mainly with the Wheaton in Chicago program, and had always wanted to be more deeply engaged with the learning and development of students on campus. CUE provides me with that opportunity now as well as all the ways that it has enhanced the presence of Urban Studies on campus. Noah has been a tremendous leader in this regard, and I’m excited to work closely with him and everyone else as I join the team.

CUE: When did you first become interested in studying cities and urban life?

SY: I came to my interest in cities and urban life late in the game. I had been at Asbury Theological Seminary studying for what I thought would be a career in some overseas context doing community development work. But, it was in my final year at seminary when I discovered and attended my first Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference. There I saw all these connections between the methods, ethos, and ideas of what I was studying with a context much closer to home. It was then that I realized that if I cared about community, social justice, and working together with people concerned about the coming/present Kingdom and all that it means for our mutual flourishing, I should begin here. Once I started spending time in cities and paying attention, urban life opened itself to me in ways I never expected and grew to love all that it contains, even if it’s not always pretty.

CUE: What is the focus of your current research?

SY: My current research is generally on community organizing. More specifically, I’m focusing on the organizing activities of a group that is attempting to organize a vast network of social service providers, non-profits, churches, cultural alliances, and business groups on the north side of Chicago. Community organizing as a subject tends to be ignored in much of the social movement literature and it often goes unnoticed in the day-to-day life of cities. But, it has proven to be a highly effective method of bringing about social change at both small and large scales. I’ll be looking at the complex relationships between and amongst this large network of organizations to better understand what accounts for the possibly differing levels and abilities of organizations to act in ways that promote progressive social change in neighborhoods and cities. It is my hope that this research becomes a resource and provides useful information for community organizers, practitioners, funders, and politicians as well as academics concerned with democratic processes in urban society.

CUE: What are you planning to teach?

SY: This fall I’ll be teaching two quad courses: URBN 352 – Urban Housing and Social Change, and URBN 231 – Chicago. I’ll be teaching the Housing and Social Change class on campus and the Chicago class in the Wheaton in Chicago program. In the spring I’ll be teaching two courses on campus: an expanded 4-credit URBN 231 – Chicago, as well as SOC 364 – Urban Sociology. I’m excited for all of them as they collectively touch on so many of my personal interests – urban social structures and policy, Chicago history and politics (always an entertaining journey to take), case studies of important and inspiring battles over the right to the city, and some good old fashioned theory. I think students will really enjoy what these courses have to offer if they’re interested in cities, social change, or community development.