Fairfield has embraced “Cities” as an area of academic focus

And to think about the city today we must, quite realistically, think globally, for most of the largest and fastest growing metropolitan regions are no longer in Europe and North America but in Asia, Latin America, and outer Africa: cities such as Shanghai (population 13.5 million) and Beijing (pop. 20.1 million); Sao Paulo (pop. 11 million); Mumbai and Karachi (pop. 14 million and 13 million); Jakarta (pop. 8.5 million); Istanbul (pop. 13.5 million); Cairo (pop. 9.1 million); and Lagos (pop. 8 million). To understand the promises and problems of urban life globally, we must look to these metropolitan centers as well as those closer to home. In many cases, what some call development — as they point to shimmering new skylines — is on closer inspection an alarming example of multinational wealth suddenly superimposed on sprawling underdevelopment — a reminder of what international law scholar Richard Falk calls the stark difference between “globalization from above and globalization from below.”

Given these challenges, it is important to note that for as long as there have been cities, there have been questions about how to build better ones. Engineers and architects know this by heart. Today, the question of how to imagine and engineer better cities is being answered through a variety of innovative professions, projects, and collaborations. And here’s the rub: all of these new solutions are the product of inter-disciplinary thinking, the result of people drawing upon different fields of study. For example, this years’ winner of the “Technology, Entertainment and Design” (TED) award, a project called “Cities 2.0,” highlights revolutionary ideas by health professionals, musicians, scientists, business entrepreneurs, and educators that each show how changes in one aspect of urban life can create huge ripple effects throughout its other dimensions. In Columbia and Caracas, collaborations between engineers, geologists, artists, and architects are turning conventional wisdom on its ear by introducing high quality transportation systems and public spaces into the poorest neighborhoods, resulting in lower crime, better public health, and more vibrant commerce across the entire metropolitan area. A recent United Nations exhibit demonstrated that, in cities around the world, collaborative projects like these are dismantling the old assumption that truly innovative civic spaces and structures can only be the byproduct, rather than the precondition, of human progress.

Here at Fairfield — in another example — the program in Peace and Justice Studies has brought together political scientists, philosophers, historians, theologians, and sociologists to help communities in New Orleans reinvent key public programs and institutions in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

So it seems abundantly clear that the proverbial “key to the city,” and to our global future, lies in the kind of integrative thinking about how best to live with one another that a liberal arts University like Fairfield aims to promote: a broadening of the mind, through the meeting of minds.

A BRIEF TOUR OF SOME OF THIS FALL’S “CITIES” EVENTS

by Carolyn Arnold

International Literacy Day

In partnership with the Mercy Learning Center of Bridgeport, Conn., Fairfield celebrated International Literacy Day on September 13.

A panel of Fairfield professors and Bridgeport community leaders discussed the impact of literacy on urban areas and examined the opportunities and challenges of education in Bridgeport, from early childhood through adult literacy programs.

The Mercy Learning Center is a literacy and life-skills training center for low-income women in Bridgeport, Conn.

Panelists included Drs. Wendy Kohli, professor of curriculum and instruction; Stephanie Burrell Storms, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction; Judy Primavera, professor of psychology; Kathy Nantz, professor of economics; Betsy Bowen, professor of English; and Jane Ferreira, president and CEO of Mercy Learning Center.

Dr. Terry-Ann Jones, associate professor of sociology and anthropology, who introduced the panelists, said, “The panelists highlighted different aspects of the importance and value of literacy and education, and really emphasized the role and responsibility of individuals in eradicating illiteracy.”

Dr. Kohli noted that the wisdom of those who lived in the city was imperative for transformation to occur. “Change comes from within and we need the wisdom of those who have walked the walk,” she said.

Ferreira, who has been at the Mercy Center for 11 years, spoke about the passion for education that the women who go there have. “The desire for education unites them all.”

Urban Educational Reform in Connecticut

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