Engaging with the city of Chicago from anywhere

38 students completed Engage Chicago while living downtown, throughout the city of Chicago, and across the country

This past summer, the Center for Civic Engagement’s highly immersive program, Engage Chicago, combined remote learning and internships with in-person field experiences through a unique hybrid model.

In eight quick but active weeks, students interned at public sector organizations, heard from experienced professionals and topical experts, reflected with their community of peers, and explored Chicago’s many neighborhoods. This summer, the School of the Art Institute campus, located in the heart of downtown, became the home base for many students who were living in Chicago for the first time.

From electoral power and community organizing, to mutual aid and social services, students learned about different approaches to civic engagement in the city. Guest speakers with direct experience in law and advocacy, health and medicine, environmental justice, and local government helped students understand how each sector contributes to public life. Speakers also shared about their personal motivations, challenges, and aspirations for Chicago’s future.

Engage Chicago has longstanding ties to dozens of community groups, nonprofit agencies, and other organizations in Chicago, allowing students to gain hands on experience and explore career options from law to medicine to nonprofits to community organizing and more. This summer, students were hosted as interns by Chicago Public Schools, Legal Aid Chicago, Lurie Children’s Hospital, People for Community Recovery, and many more.

With unlimited access to Chicago’s CTA trains and buses, students were able deepen their understanding of class topics through site visits to places where civic engagement work happens. This year’s site visits included Community Health, the Jane Addams Hull House, the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and Plant Chicago.  (And, some students were able to attend a White Sox baseball game and heard Chance the Rapper perform on Juneteenth!)

Having heard from an alderperson, journalists, healthcare providers, policy advisors, and artists, students finished the program with many lenses through which to examine the City of Chicago. In smaller and more intimate discussion sections, students found connections between their internship experience and the course material. This space to reflect together and find common threads left students empowered to find ways to be engaged in their own communities whether in Chicago or elsewhere.

While summer quickly came to a close, many Engage Chicago students are finding ways to continue staying engaged throughout the academic year. Already thinking about summer 2023? The program is open to undergraduates from any college or university. Students will be able to learn more about and apply for the 2023 program at engagechicago.org.