Residential Academic Initiatives Takes on Chicago

Residential Academic Initiatives is on a mission. After feedback from faculty chairs, the office is working to better connect students with all the cultural events and opportunities the Chicagoland area has to offer.

In the first of a series of events, students ventured into the city for a walk-about tour of Pullman, one of the South Side’s historical neighborhoods. Along the ride, the group of about 40 residential college-affiliated students and faculty had the chance to see other parts of the city and dig deeper into its history.

This tour is just the beginning of the events, Nancy Anderson, associate director of Residential Academic Initiatives, said. Later this quarter, Residential Academic Initiatives will plan for students to attend the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the musical Fun Home and the Field Museum to see the special exhibit on terracotta warriors.

Here’s the students' take on the trip: 

“I thought it was a great opportunity to learn more about Chicago. I have lived in the Chicagoland area my whole life and I always want to learn more because a could not say what a quarter of the buildings around the city were built for. It was the ultimate opportunity to get to know facts about the city from someone who actually knew the history, Professor Binford.

We started the tour talking about the old firehouse in Evanston and the livery with the large doors across the street. We learned about the winding roads of Evanston and who John Evans worked closely with to design the town that is home to our beloved university.

We left Evanston and went straight to Pullman neighborhood. We took a tour of the town and where the homes were built for the factory workers of the area around the 1880s. We were given as much information as possible about the areas we did not have time to stop in. Some of the major highlights were passing through Hyde Park, Pilsen, Bronzeville, and seeing the gates of the Chicago Stockyards. One thing that stood out to me was seeing an Ace Hardware in the building that used to be a hot spot for well-known jazz musicians in the first quarter of the 20th century. This was one personalized Chicago tour for NU students and I am glad I did not miss it.”

- Andrea Patete, a Weinberg sophomore

“I decided to go because I, like most other NU students, feel like I don't get into Chicago enough and sometimes feel disconnected from the city. I wanted to see and learn about places I might not otherwise have seen.

I found the most interesting part to be the history of the Evanston area. Whenever I think about the density of history on every single city block in major cities like Chicago, it astounds me. It's impossible to learn the full story of why places are how they are, but learning any small part is interesting. For example, I learned that the reason Chicago and Ridge avenues don't follow the street grid because they were built before the city along the top of geographical ridges. This is a part of history that was hiding in plain sight.

I got to look at the map of the Chicago Fire as we rode on the bus through the area around downtown, which made the Chicago Fire seem much less abstract and more real. I also learned where in Chicago land was reclaimed and the entertaining fact that Lake Shore Drive is commonly abbreviated as "LSD," a fact I had not noticed at all last year. The history bus tour was definitely an enlightening experience that I would recommend to other students.”

-Joseph Lamps, a Weinberg sophomore

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