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October 21, 2019

North Park Hosts Chicago Research Summit

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North Park hosted the Chicago Research Summit Oct. 18, a gathering for university faculty and staff, librarians, heads of cultural institutions, and community organizers to exchange ideas about promoting civic engagement.

Attendees from local universities, including North Park, DePaul, and Columbia, joined librarians from the Chicago Public Library and City of Chicago officials to discuss ways to get undergraduate students more excited about their hometown of Chicago.

North Park Professor Peter St. Jean, chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, was a speaker at the summit, which consisted of numerous break-out sessions and panel discussions. His topic: “From Social Problems to Social Promise: Teaching Undergraduate Students at North Park University How to Conduct Social Promise, Peaceology, and Better News Research.

This is the framework St. Jean uses in all his teaching.

“For instance, while in the traditional Social Problems approach researchers ask ‘why is there so much violence in Chicago?’ in the Social Promise tradition, we ask, ‘why isn’t there even more violence in Chicago?’ St. Jean explains. “The findings of this new approach to questioning provide remarkable insights to the students and their audiences.”

Other panel discussions included “Demystifying the Museum Experience: Using DePaul Art Museum (DPAM) in your courses.” In that session, art professors from DePaul gave useful suggestions for how to help students engage with artwork. Collection and Exhibition Manager Laura-Caroline Johnson handed out a copy of a photograph currently on display at DPAM, and asked participants to write observations about the painting.

The exercise is useful in getting students to make art personal and get even more out of it, Johnson says.

North Park Professor of History David Koeller spoke about his “Food in History” course, in which his students make a five-minute documentary on the food culture of a Chicago neighborhood. He shared how he prepared his students for the project by analyzing documentaries, developing research techniques, and learning film production basics.

The general goal of the Chicago Research Summit, say organizers, is “To provide a platform to share successful pedagogical strategies for engaging undergraduates in research about Chicago.

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