Various academic disciplines may define the city in differing ways, but they all agree on one thing: the city is a revolutionary human achievement. As a student in our Urban Studies program, you will use tools provided by multiple disciplines to understand cities and the role they play in the development and functioning of civilization.
Various academic disciplines may define the city in differing ways, but they all agree on one thing: the city is a revolutionary human achievement. As a student in our Urban Studies program, you will use tools provided by multiple disciplines to understand cities and the role they play in the development and functioning of civilization. In fact, Urban Studies at New College is what we call a joint disciplinary or slash AOC, because it must be combined with another discipline (e.g., Urban Studies/Sociology, Urban Studies/Economics) in order to graduate. You can also take Urban Studies as a track within our Environmental Studies AOC.
True to the interdisciplinary nature of the program, faculty offer a variety of perspectives on urbanism, including the study of prehistoric and preindustrial cities, the history of urban architecture, urban sociology, contemporary urban cultures and ethnic groups in the United States, and urban politics. You can also take advantage of internships in Sarasota and Bradenton — one of the nation’s fastest-growing urban areas — as well as opportunities for off-campus study in the United States and abroad. All are designed to lead toward your senior thesis or project, which you and your faculty advisor will devise.
Urban Studies involves exploring the ways we organize our lives together in places, both urban and rural, as well as how we produce, understand, represent and engage such places and landscapes in our daily lives. In the broadest sense, it is the study of the patterns, qualities and consequences of human settlements, as built environments and as social, cultural, economic and political structures — all with profound implications for the way humans organize their interactions with natural systems of the planet. Neighborhoods, towns, cities, suburbs and metropolitan regions are the immediate contexts in which we work toward a diverse and just society, and they are the practical sites where we are compelled to confront many of the most central social, political, economic and environmental challenges of the day.
As an Urban Studies student at New College, you will learn about cities throughout the world, as well as about a range of problems and solutions that shape them. Whether planning recreational space along Florida’s Gulf Coast, addressing the problems of the homeless in our local community or examining the historic urbanization of Europe and Latin America, you will learn from and contribute to the city as a vital part of modern human life.
You will also develop a strong background in the tools and perspectives of social science and the humanistic disciplines as they relate to an understanding of human communities, as well as a background in the natural sciences associated with the core requirements in Environmental Studies. You will then apply this training in hands-on fashion to investigate and seek solutions for a type of environmental problem that interests you.
In the past, New College students in Urban Studies have conducted Independent Study Projects (ISPs) and group tutorials, as well as written theses, on a wide variety of projects, including urban watershed management, comparative transit systems and varieties of community-based environmental problem-solving. It may sound intimidating at the start, but with the help of your faculty advisor you will discover that this experiential-based, interdisciplinary AOC allows you both the freedom and the opportunity to make a difference in the world around you.
Graduates of our program choose a diverse array of fields. Careers in law, planning and sustainable development are the most common, but graduates have also gone on to become healthcare CEOs, educators and magazine publishers. One is even a professor of graphic design who looks at the intersections of rural and urban as expressed through graphic, architectural and urban design.
As a joint disciplinary or “slash” AOC, as we call it, Urban Studies must be combined with another discipline (e.g., Urban Studies/Sociology, Urban Studies/Economics) in order to graduate. This allows students a great deal of flexibility in working with their faculty advisors to design a plan of study that is uniquely tailored to their particular interests and goals. Students can also take Urban Studies as a track within our Environmental Studies AOC. Your faculty advisor will be happy to discuss the various options with you and to help you find the one that is best meets your needs and expectations. As with all AOCs at New College, a senior thesis or project approved by faculty within the discipline is also required in order to graduate.
Here’s a list of recent course offerings in Urban Studies:
This course is an introduction to the sociological study of the urban landscape, with a particular focus on the United States. The first part of the course will focus on conceptual and theoretical issues associated with sociological study of the city, from the “Chicago school ” sociologists at the turn of the century to more recent analyses of the “social production” of urban space and the sociology of place. In the middle weeks of the course, we turn to the task of gaining an historical understanding of the processes of urbanization and suburbanization in the United States. The last part of the course will focus more on current issues relevant to the challenge of building livable and sustainable cities. Topics will include: urbanism as a sociological phenomenon; suburbanization; ghettoization and gentrification; modernism, “urban renewal,” and the technology of city-building; culture and politics of urban places, with a particular focus on race, class, and gentrification in contemporary cities; re-formed city centers and new images of urbanity; transformations of urban space as we move from the progressive image of the city as “the hope of democracy” to the supposedly imminent “end of public space;” postmodernist criticism and neotraditional urbanism; sustainable urbanism.
Metropolitan Built Environments and Urban Sustainability
This course examines urban built environments in metropolitan cities and regions within the United States. The course will explore issues associated with development practices in the 20th century and the resulting metropolitan forms and functions. It also engages the notion of ‘urban sustainability’ by examining the stresses experienced by metropolitan regions and providing some potential solutions. An important component of this class will be the ‘Social Dynamics Lab’ where students will learn the utility of ArcGIS software for spatial data analysis. The final product in this course will be a spatial analysis project that addresses an issue of urban sustainability. Enrollment will be limited to 15 students. Prerequisites: Introduction to Environmental Studies or Just Cities.
Space, Place and Community
This course is intended to provide an introduction to theories, practices, and techniques that link the active production of livable places (neighborhoods, cities, regions) to the building of healthy and sustainable communities. The course will encompass a diverse range of material from different disciplines: sociology, political science, community development, environmental studies, architecture and urban design, planning. Topics will include: asset-based community development; urban design and the sociology of place; community engagement, charrettes, and collaborative planning; democratic theory and the politics of community change; diversity and neighborhood change; facilitation and conflict resolution; community action research. Local case studies of community change will provide opportunities to explore the implications of ideas in action. This course is intended as part of a two-course sequence, and it will be a pre-requisite for the Practicum in Community Building. Recommended background: Urban Sociology.
Sociology of Sustainable Communities
This course is organized around an interest in the challenge of creating communities that sustain a relatively high quality of human life, while maintaining an effective commitment to social equity, democratic self-governance, and a high level of ecological responsibility. The course includes the following topics: sociological and historical perspectives on the way we have constructed the relationship between the human and non-human aspects of the world; the history of environmentalism and the environmental movement in the United States, in the context of an understanding of the politics and sociology of land use; unintended consequences of “green” symbolic crusades and environmental regulation; practices and practical challenges of sustainable community development. An overall goal of the course is to challenge much of the received wisdom and often unreflective ideas concerning what it means to live in a more ecologically responsible fashion, and regarding social and political action relevant to bringing about significant change in the relative sustainability of human settlements. The course is focused on three levels of analysis: the social construction of technological systems; the organization of social action in the context of the interplay of markets and bureaucratic administration; the formation of capacities for civic engagement and effective political action. The class is intended to be an advanced seminar in what might be called environmental sociology, with an emphasis on discussion of issues for which there are no definitive answers. The class size will be limited to 20 students. Prerequisite: Urban Sociology, or substantial relevant background in sociology and/or political science.
Practicum in Community Building
This course is a sequel to “Space, Place & Community Building.” The group will focus on a community project that will be developed and designed during the fall term. Pre-requisite: Space, Place & Community Building.
This course introduces students to the field of urban social geography by examining spatial patterns of inequity in resources, services, and access within and between cities. Students will explore a variety of themes including: urban form and structure; economy and the city; architecture and urban landscapes; housing and residential segregation; transport and mobility; and sustainability. They will also be exposed to the utility of geographic information systems (GIS) as an analytical tool. The goal of the course is to illustrate the conception of a ‘just’ city, where spatial fairness, opportunity and sustainability foster a better quality of urban life for everyone.
Cities and Suburbs
In the United States, the growth and development of cities has been coupled from the start with the growth and development of the suburbs, not simply as an extension of the city into the countryside but as an alternative to cities, a safe haven from urban dangers, a potential remedy for urban problems, a normative ideal, a practical utopia, and, finally, as the dominant development pattern that currently determines much of the spatial ordering of contemporary social life. This course will focus on the sociology and politics of suburban communities and contemporary suburban settlement patterns. We will begin with an examination of the patterns and processes of suburbanization, from the anti-urban tendencies of the 19th century to contemporary suburban communities and so-called “edge cities.” Other themes will include: the social organization of suburban communities; race, class and segregation in the suburbs; social, cultural, aesthetic, and environmental critiques of the suburbs; the technology and material culture of places and non-places; public policy and institutional practices that sustain suburban patterns; suburbanism and sustainability; current trends and future possibilities in the suburbs; politics and planning, from neighborhood to region. (Urban Sociology is a pre-requisite.)
Anthropologists have developed a variety of approaches to the study of urbanism, a fundamental part of the human experience in recent millenia. Through a survey of cases, from Sumer to Mexico City, we will explore a range of techniques and theoretical approaches and evaluate their contribution to our understanding of the nature and culture of the city. The seminar will focus on several themes, including the origin of cities, conflict in relation to class, ethnicity and racialized constructions, urban change, and urban planning. Prior work in Anthropology and/or Urban Studies preferred.
For detailed requirements, check out our General Catalog.
Mary Ruiz is president and CEO at Manatee Glens Hospital and Addiction Center. Manatee Glens is a not-for-profit hospital that has been helping families in crisis with mental health and addictions services in Bradenton, Florida, for over 50 years. Ruiz has led Manatee Glens to a statewide reputation, gaining recognition for innovation with groundbreaking programs such as the Access Center, a 24-hour psychiatric emergency room for both mental health and addictions crises, the first outpatient detox center in the state and winner of a Florida Best Practice Award, and the Safe Children Coalition, a collaboration that has reduced child abuse and neglect caseloads by 50 percent.
New College is proud of the many Urban Studies graduates who have contributed to the field. Here’s a sampling of some of our graduates:
Sample of Graduate Schools Attended by NCF Students in Urban Studies
Each academic experience builds toward your senior thesis project. It’s required for graduation, and our students tell us that while it’s demanding, it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. Here are some thesis projects in Urban Studies:
“Transit in Suburbia: An Analysis of Perth, Australia’s Mass Transit System and How American Suburbs Can Overcome Automobile Dependency” by Stacey Haber
“Paved with Good Intentions: Sarasota and the Challenge of Mass Transit in the Automotive City” by Adam Lubitz
“More Green, Less Grief?: Post-Katrina Reconstruction in New Orleans” by Jessica Anne Plante
“Selling Suburbia: An Actor-Network Analysis of the Construction of Levittown, NY” by Matthew Goeke
“Sea Level Rise and Local Land Use Planning: The Florida Example” by Elisabeth Salinas
“City, Sweet City: A Study of the Implementation of New Urbanism and the Public Process” by David A. Banks
“Beyond Ghetto Walls?: An Inquiry Into the Role of Design in the Past Failure and Current Revitalization of America’s Severely Distressed Public Housing Projects” by Melissa Norton
“The City That Works Again: Neighborhood Redevelopment in Chicago” by Joel Frederick Mann
“Creating Controversy: Public Art and Political Reaction” by Irene J. Hillman
“Suburban Mass Transit: Busing, Paratransit, & Sarasota” by Dan Gottlieb
“The Textures of a Neighborhood and Residents’ Collective Efforts to Shape Their Environment” by Haley B. Grossman
“Architectural Design: Theory and Reality” by Roderick Grant
“Garbage and Government: Recycle Now, Sarasota County, and the Politicization of Urban Waste” by Scott Pesetsky
“Success and Failure in Sarasota Public Housing” by Lisa Silverman
“Historic Preservation in Sarasota” by Kira T. Zender
“Mapping the Homeless World” by Patricia Frew
“Toward a Clearer Understanding of the American Urban System” by Robert Alan Bilott
“Born to Surf: The Postwar Subdivision” by Olga Tania Ronay
“Direct Democracy and Urban Governance: The Experience of Condominium Associations” by Mary Ruiz
“The City, the State and Containment” by Allen Dalezman
“A Study of the Colonial Urban Planning and Development of Kingston, Jamaica: 1692-1865” by Leslie Miller
“A Critical Perspective on Behaviorism” by D. Hederich
“Winkleman’s New Collegiate Guide to Metropolitan Sarasota: Spring 1973; A Glossary of Vital and Interesting Information Pertaining To and Dealing With Things To Do, Places To Eat, People To See and Ways in Which To Get Things Done-A City Visibility Primer” by Michael Jacobs Winkleman
The Jane Bancroft Cook Library at New College is home to a broad assortment of books, scholarly journals, national and international databases, and other print and electronic media related to urban studies and is available to students throughout the year.
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Each year, New College students in Urban Studies are given the opportunity to work with our expert faculty assisting the Sarasota and Bradenton communities with a broad range of issues, including downtown development and redevelopment, neighborhood revitalization, urban infill, and building safer and more pedestrian friendly urban environments.
One such recent project involved students who worked with Professor David Brain and community leaders to revitalize commercial development on the north end of Sarasota’s most prestigious barrier island, Longboat Key. They collected background data — a review of past plans, existing zoning and existing conditions. Then they interviewed residents and business and property owners to seek their ideas for the area, including potential uses for its commercial properties.