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Aequitas Fellowship in Urban Leadership

Wheaton College IL Students Outside Progressive Baptist Church

Aequitas Urban Leadership Program Details

The Aequitas Program in Urban Leadership is a four-year, cohort-based, experiential program that educates Wheaton College students to promote just, sustainable, and flourishing urban communities through academic study, experiential learning, immersion programs, and Christian service. Students graduate from this interdisciplinary program able to articulate a framework of evangelical theological convictions that ground engagement with Christian ethics and economics, especially as they intersect with the realities – both the challenges and opportunities – of urban life.

By the end of the program, Fellows will develop competence in applying ethical and economic reasoning to urban challenges such as poverty, food insecurity, housing, public health, environmental sustainability, employment, and economic development, all within the context of evangelical public and political theology.

Program Courses and Experiences:

Year One

  • AQTS 111: Introduction to Urban Leadership (fall)
  • URBN 114: The Social Life of Cities (spring)
  • AQTS 112: Domestic or International Travel Experiences (summer)

Year Two

  • ECON 211 + ECON 212: Economics sequence
  • AQTS 211-212: Reading group with the program director, in which the cohort and director engage together the readings of our guest lecturers and others, and participate in leadership development

Year Three

  • Wheaton in Chicago (fall and/or spring)
    • Including AQTS 311: Community-based research project supervised by a faculty member and contributing to a community partner organization
    • Including AQTS 496: Internship at an organization in Chicago

Year Four

  • AQTS 411: Final projects, which enable students to deepen experience in specific areas of interest through, for example, honors theses, peer-reviewed articles, community art projects, HNGR internships, or competitive fellowship applications

Year 1: Cities, Society, and Service

  • Aequitas Fellows are encouraged to begin their Wheaton experience in the Urban Track of Passage at HoneyRock's Center for Leadership Development, which includes a significant community service component.
  • Aequitas Fellows complete three key courses their first year:

    • AQTS 111 Introduction to Urban Leadership (Fall semester) will be taught each fall by the Urban Leadership Theme Coordinator.

    • URBN 114 The Social Life of Cities (Spring semester), the prerequisite for Wheaton in Chicago, introduces students to social science-perspectives on cities and their associated social phenomena, while crafting a biblically-informed perspective upon various urban issues.

    • AQTS 112 (Summer) will be a travel experience, either international or domestic, in partnership with Ministry Trips in the Office of Ministry and Evangelism.

Year 2: Economics and Leadership

  • Aequitas students complete an economics course sequence and a year-long reading group:
    • ECON 211 and ECON 212 (6 credits total)

    • AQTS 211-212 (2 credits): Aequitas students meet throughout the fall and spring semesters with the Urban Leadership theme coordinator to discuss readings on leadership development and engage the research of CUE’s invited guest lecturers.

Following the completion of this second year, Aequitas students move from (1) being mentored to (2) leading the transition of younger students into the College and Aequitas in staffing the Urban Track of Passage (which also aids in cross-cohort community-building) and (3) facilitating discussion groups of their peers during their Wheaton in Chicago semester, when they will assist in leading conversations about the readings and reflections included in Civitas: A Program of Vocational Exploration and Discernment. Aequitas students have preferential selection to staff Urban Track of Passage.

Year 3: Ethics and Community

Aequitas Fellows complete a semester-long, residential program based in Woodlawn in either the fall and/or spring semester. During their Wheaton in Chicago experience, students complete the following:

  • Required courses
    • AQTS 496 Practicum or Internship -- pairs practical work experience with disciplined reflection (using Civitas: A Program of Vocational Exploration and Discernment) and mentoring. Internships for Aequitas Fellows will be work-based learning experiences that (1) require students to deepen their experience in and reflection upon the relationship between Christian ethics and economics in the urban context and (2) expose students to how strategic solutions to social, political, and economic issues are developed (4-8 credits).
    • AQTS 311 Community-Based Research (2-4 credits)
  • Elective courses (all 4 credits each)
    • URBN 233 Chicago
    • BITH 376 Theologies of Transformation
    • URBN 371/BITH 378 Race, Class & Justice
    • URBN/BEC 381 Community Economic Development & Enterprise
    • CORE 308 Engaging Arts in the City
    • ENGW 233 Writing Chicago
  • Excursions
    • Fall: annual Christian Community Development Association Conference (location varies from year to year)
    • Spring: Los Angeles, to connect with and learn from urban communities in a comparative context
  • Community engagement, spiritual formation, student life programming, and student leadership opportunities

Year 4: Capstone and Launch

  • AQTS 411 (Spring semester): Students will deepen their experiences in specific areas of interest through, for instance, honors theses, peer-reviewed articles, community art projects, HNGR internships, or competitive fellowship applications, and present the results of these projects in spring semester events, tailored to each Fellow's project.

Beginning in the fall semester, students will work closely with their Aequitas theme coordinator, as well as have opportunities to connect with Aequitas alumni and the CUE Advisory Board, to ensure they have a plan in place for their next steps after graduation.

Aequitas Fellows will celebrate the completion of the program at a banquet in April of the fourth year.

Every Year

  • Aequitas Fellows participate in the Aequitas Forum – two all-cohort gatherings per year. These would include:
    • A September event that gathers all cohorts.
    • Special engagements with guests giving public lectures via exclusive roundtables and/or meals with the speakers for Aequitas Fellows.
  • Aequitas Fellows receive invitations to participate in optional dinners at the program director’s home.
  • Aequitas Fellows are mentored by the Urban Leadership Theme Coordinator.


Urban Leadership Theme Coordinator

Christa Tooley, Ph.D.Dr. Christa Tooley serves as the Theme Coordinator for the Aequitas Fellows Program in Urban Leadership. Dr. Tooley is an Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Anthropology at Wheaton College and has been on the faculty since 2012. After graduating summa cum laude in Political Science and International Studies from Texas A&M University’s Honors Program, she earned an M.A. in Christian Thought from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh. In her time at Wheaton, Dr. Tooley has been recognized with a faculty achievement award, written a forthcoming book on urban life and social change in Scotland, published multiple academic articles, and contributed to a publicly accessible urban mapping resource from her research on urban development, community and national politics. She also serves as the Executive Director for the Center for Urban Engagement and Chair of the Urban Studies department.