North Park University - Chicago North Park University - Chicago

Undergraduate Programs

Catalyst Semester

The Catalyst Semester program is a learning community of commuter and residential students who take two or more Chicago focused classes together, work at a practicum at a Chicago community organization, and take advantage of at least eight Wednesday afternoon experiences.

Program Components

  1. Classroom: Students will belong to a cohort that will take the same classes for one semester, tailored to address the urban context through various areas of study.
  2. Practicum: Each student will serve with a community-based organization doing meaningful work in the city while gaining valuable work experience.
  3. Catalyst Wednesday Session: On alternating Wednesday afternoons (11:40am – 4:10pm) cohorts participate in a wide range of experiences together, learning more about the city through neighborhood tours, museums, restaurants, and conversations with community leaders.

During the semester, students will view the city through different lenses, disciplines, and perspectives, while they serve and participate in its flourishing. There is also the option to take other courses outside of the cohort to fulfill additional requirements specific to their programs.


First-Year Cohorts

We offer three different cohorts for the Fall 2018 Semester, available for first-year students. Each cohort has a specific list of courses students can choose from.

Students in the Catalyst Semester GE cohort will look at a wide range of topics through conversation in the classroom, practica, and Catalyst sessions. The purpose is to encourage vocational exploration and expose the cohort to diverse perspectives and worldviews. For instance, a Wednesday Catalyst session, may include a visit to the National Cambodian Heritage Museum and Killing Fields Memorial to learn more about the story of Cambodian refugees who live in our city. In addition, a student might do a practicum with a community based organization like Sit, Stay, Read, a literacy intervention program that utilizes therapy dogs to help children in underperforming schools read more effectively.

Students in the Catalyst Semester GE First-Year cohort will be required to take CORE-1000 and two more courses from the following list:

Catalyst Semester GE Cohort

CORE 1000-C1 Our Civic Self
CORE 1000-C2 Your Story, Your Voice
HIST 1000-C1 Cities In History
STAT 1490-C1 Introduction to Statistics
EXS 1000-C1 Personal Health

Students in the Catalyst Semester Science cohort will approach their chosen field of science through conversations in the classroom, practice, and Catalyst sessions. For instance, Nursing Students will benefit from the Catalyst Semester Science by gaining valuable work experience in the healthcare sector while learning about the important role that health and wellbeing plays in helping communities flourish. For a Wednesday Catalyst session, the cohort may visit a local community health center to learn how it bridges the gap between hospitals and the neighborhood it serves. A student might be placed with a community based organization like Girls in the Game, a nonprofit that uses sports programming to encourage healthy lifestyle choices while fostering leadership development.

Here is a list of the courses the Catalyst Semester Science cohort will be required to take:

Catalyst Semester Science Cohort

CORE 1000-C1 Our Civic Self
HIST 1000-C1 Cities In History
BIOL 1250-05 Human Anatomy
PHEN 1030-B1 Energy

Students in the Catalyst Semester SBNM cohort will uniquely focus their conversations in the classroom, practica, and Catalyst sessions on the business and nonprofit sectors. For instance, a Wednesday Catalyst session may be a visit to the Pullman neighborhood and a firsthand glimpse of the “utopian” labor community that George Pullman envisioned for his workers. A student might do a practicum with a community based organization like Good City, a nonprofit that supports local entrepreneurs in underserved communities.

Here is a list of the courses the Catalyst Semester SBNM cohort will be required to take:

SBNM Cohort Course Title Semester Hours GE Category Professor Day Time
BSE 2211 Principles of Macroeconomics 4 Culture and Society L. Sundholm MF 12:40 PM
STAT 1490 Just Stats 4 Analytical and Quantitative Reasoning L. Mirza TR 9:50 AM
BSE 2610 Foundations of Marketing 4 Writing Intensive B. Vollmert TR 2:30 PM
CORE 1000 Our Civic Self 4 Cornerstone Seminar R. Kohng MWF 9:15 AM


What does it cost to participate?
There is no fee for the program. As long as you register for additional classes bringing you up to a total of 15 semester hours or above, your financial aid status should not be affected. Please contact the Financial Aid Office with questions.

I am a commuter, can I participate?
The program was designed with both commuter and residential students in mind. Classes, practica, and experiences will typically take place during the day (i.e. 9:00 am–5:00 pm). This means you will be able to leave campus (or wherever else we happen to be) in time for the evening commute. Please keep in mind, in some cases the practica may take place during weekday evening hours.

I’m from Eureka, South Dakota. I don’t know anything about Chicago.
This program is for you! The program is designed to help you learn more about Chicago and how the city can change your perspectives and worldview.

I grew up in Chicago. I already know everything about the city.
This program is for you! We’re pretty sure you’ll learn something new by participating and make some new friends along the way. Did you know the Twinkie was invented in Chicago? You’ve learned something new already! Even if you’re from Chicago, we believe your personal experiences of growing up in the city will inform the cohort in ways a textbook cannot.

Will I fall behind? Does this mean I can’t graduate on time?
Each of the courses offered as part of the Catalyst 606__ Semester will satisfy a General Education requirement. As long as you haven’t taken classes in the categories we are offering, you should stay on schedule.


  • You must complete a Cornerstone class by the beginning of the Fall 2017 term (except for first time freshman).
  • You must have at least a 2.5 GPA by the Fall 2017 term in order to participate.
  • For returning students, you must have at least a 2.5 GPA by the entering semester term to participate in the program.


Contact Catalyst Hub Program Assistant, Andrew Larson at