When LaGuardia was first founded, its curriculum contained a college-wide, interdisciplinary requirement unlike any in the United States. From then until today, each of our students is required to take an Urban Studies course in order to graduate.
Urban Studies courses have always incorporated experiential education grounded in the pragmatist philosophy of John Dewey. Experiential education is the common philosophy through which Urban Studies at LaGuardia successfully brings together faculty to discuss the most innovative pedagogies and how to use the resources of the city for learning.
Urban Studies courses offer students a range of methods to learn experientially. Strategies employed by our professors include having students do any of the following: interview citizens, shop owners, politicians, activists, attend Community Board meetings; use databases to generate trend charts for issues in specific neighborhoods and use those charts to write letters to news papers and politicians about the prevalence of certain problems; do field studies or ethnographies of museums, galleries, parks, libraries; study with a historical focus on a specific ethnicity or particular neighborhood.
As the program has grown, we have realized that the cornerstone of Urban Studies is social engagement: our relationships to each other, and how our spaces, our history, and our politics both shape and are shaped by these relationships. Through assessment of student writing, we have also seen that Urban Studies courses are linked, across the disciplines, by how students taking them seem to end up writing about questions of values and ethics.