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Urban Studies

Urban Studies

Why Pursue Urban Studies?

We live in an age of cities — more than half the world's population lives in urban areas, which are increasingly important to global political, economic, and cultural life. The Urban Studies program at Wheaton College will help you develop a sophisticated grasp of cities and their role in global affairs. Courses focus on the emergence and growth of cities, the complexities of the urban condition, and the increasing articulation of dynamic urban centers to global affairs. Wheaton students take advantage of the College's diverse academic strength in urban studies and its proximity to Chicago in order to globalize and diversify their education.

department faculty
active internship sites
community engagement council members

Why Pursue Urban Studies at Wheaton?

The Center for Urban Engagement (CUE) exists to promote just, sustainable, and flourishing urban communities through the academic study of cities and transformational experiences of urban life. Through academic programs, research, events, and partnerships in Chicago and beyond, CUE educates students for lives of leadership and service in our increasingly urban world. Urban Studies students take full advantage of all this dynamic center has to offer.

The Aequitas Fellows 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.

Wheaton in Chicago students spend a semester living and learning in the City of Chicago, gaining practical work experience through internships, and completing major and Christ at the Core coursework tailored to this unique experiential curriculum.

While many Wheaton students visit the city for ministry, service, or cultural events, Wheaton in Chicago is open to all majors and represents an opportunity to explore the contours of the city from the inside.

As a Christian liberal arts institution, Wheaton College is dedicated to integrating biblical and theological knowledge with the academic study of cities and urban life. All faculty with primary appointments in the Center for Urban Engagement hold graduate degrees in theology as well as terminal degrees in their social science fields.

The Urban Studies department and supporting faculty helps students develop a practical, theologically informed framework for vocational discernment that includes concepts of city, community, and place.

Students in our Urban Leadership Studio — Urban Leadership Fellows — complete a 6- to 9-month leadership development program that includes an approved early summer experience (often overseas), staffing the Urban Track of Wheaton Passage, and leading vocational discernment groups for their peers in Wheaton in Chicago. The Urban Leadership Studio employs peer-leadership through the Civitas program, engaging with vocational discernment by studying the intersecting themes of work, community, and faith in peer groups. 

Urban Studies integrates opportunities for real-world impact, professional and practitioner engagement, leadership development, and vocational discernment.  During your Wheaton in Chicago semester, you will complete an internship with a wide variety of important and influential organizations in the city. Urban Studies integrates opportunities for real-world impact, practical work experience, professional and practitioner engagement, leadership development, and vocational discernment. This unique interdisciplinary program will provide you for a wide variety of graduate programs and careers.

  • Samuel Shellhamer Endowed Award in Urban Studies - Our annual paper competition invites students from across campus to submit an original composition for a monetary award and recognition in the college's honors convocation.
  • Study Abroad - With the assistance of the Center for Global & Experiential Learning, the Center for Urban Engagement has identified multiple study programs that may fulfill requirements for the Urban Studies major and minor.
  • Internships - During their Wheaton in Chicago semester, all Urban Studies majors and minors complete 6-8 credit hour internships with some of the most important and influential organizations in Chicago.

What Will I Learn?

Through an Urban Studies major you will build theoretical and methodological expertise necessary to study the causes and consequences of the urban condition, the origins and implications of urban issues, and the presence and influence of cities in the world.

An Urban Studies minor, which pairs well with any other course of study, can be earned by completing the Wheaton in Chicago program (including pre-field and post-field requirements).

Consult the course catalog for full listing of current courses available in this field.

Possible Careers for Urban Studies Majors

Urban Studies students have gone on to successful careers in advocacy, the arts, community and economic development, education, planning, policy, public health, social enterprise and social work. The Center for Vocation and Career will be happy to partner with you in exploring the many career options available to you.

The interdisciplinary Urban Studies program prepares you for a wide variety of graduate programs and careers. About 96 percent of students are accepted by the graduate school of their choice.

Recent graduates have gone directly into graduate programs to pursue the following advanced degrees:

  • Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
  • Juris Doctor (J.D.)
  • Master of Architecture (M.Arch.)
  • Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.)
  • Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)
  • Master of Urban Planning (M.U.P.)
  • Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.)
  • Master of Divinity (MDiv)
  • Columbia University
  • Duke University
  • Harvard University
  • Indiana University
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Illinois
My engagement with Urban Studies at Wheaton College dramatically changed my understanding of Christian vocation. . . . I began to understand God's gift of authentic communities as a reflection of his selfless love, and our duty to craft and protect such spaces in a world bent by oppression. — Hannah Doan '18, Wooster, OH
I leave the Urban Leadership Studio with a greater sense of purpose for my years after Wheaton. I feel equipped to make something with my life -- something that builds up other people and places instead of my personal reputation. — Mark Sawyer '17, Suwanee, Georgia
Both Urban Studies and Wheaton in Chicago were academically and spiritually challenging, and each enlarged my understanding of the world and God's work within it. — Aaron Griffith '08, Decatur, Alabama