Thursday, November 11, 2010

what I've been doing when I haven't been blogging

Yeah, yeah, yeah...  I haven't blogged in awhile. I've had a good excuse; it's called life.

Work -- It's been busier than ever, but there are silver linings in that dark cloud. I've been busy because our first-year students are seeking out the help they need. That's never a bad thing. And! We're hiring another person to do academic support, which is amazing (and means I'll not be so crazybusy in the future).

So, here's what's actually interesting -- I LOVE my urban planning class, which I'm taking at University of Illinois at Chicago.  Fascinating stuff, kids! Lemme tell you what I've been up to with that:

I did an observation paper on the changing patterns of riders on the CTA's Purple Line Express trains.

I'm currently working on an economic analysis paper about a commercial block in my neighborhood. That research involves reading about my neighborhood's history and looking into info on several businesses on that block. I recently finished reading a study of the local impact of local businesses versus chain retailers, looking specifically at my neighborhood and at least 1 of the businesses I'm studying.  Both this project and my observation project are classic urban planning projects.

As a class, we have an ongoing project, doing planning in a real-life community.  We're working in North Lawndale with the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, who has an affordable housing project underway on 16th St. Our project is helping them to plan for use of vacant lots along 16th.

View Larger Map

Specifically, my group of 5 is looking at the neighborhood demographics and the project's stakeholders.  About a month-and-a-half ago, a handful of us went to a community meeting at the local police station and got a picture of who we're working with.  On Saturday, we're meeting with a bunch of our stakeholders to listen to what they want for 16th St.. We'll also tour the affordable housing that LCDC is constructing and take a look at the strip of 16th that we're working with.  We're working with real people in a real community in the city that I love.  This semester, we're only scratching the surface on this project, but even that is a real cool experience.

I'm so glad I'm taking this class.  It's hitting on so much of what interests me about urban studies and giving me an idea of what's out there -- academic and otherwise.  I'm also really enjoying my classmates.  There's the guy who interned with the Chicago Housing Authority, who I'm entertained by, even if I don't usually agree with him.  There's the guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's also doing his economic analysis on the neighborhood.  He and I have shared resources for the project. There's K, who, dare I say?, is my first UIC friend. She's working on the demographics project with me, and we met last weekend to talk census data, which I worked with when I took my Chicago geography class in the summer of 2009.  I got to teach her about how to get the data, and we talked about what we're looking for and what we're doing with the data.  When we digressed over coffee, she told me about the epidemiology of violence (see this project, for example) course she's taking, which was totally fascinating.

I was talking to a friend last night about her recent crush and the excitement and giddiness that comes along with that.  Honestly, I think I have some of that going on when it goes to what I'm working on. I really like it.  I'm challenged and stimulated.  I have things to say, and my opinion is relevant.  It's nice to be pushing my mind to work in these ways and to be academically engaged.  I have no idea what I'm going to take next semester, but I'm looking forward to the next challenge.

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