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Submitted by Allistair Highet on September 4, 2012

As we begin a new academic year, the annual “focus” for Fairfield’s interdisciplinary reflections is “Cities,” an initiative facilitated by Nels Pearson, associate professor of English, and by Gary Wood, director of the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.


The annual focus is designed to highlight and promote interdisciplinary learning via campus-wide discussions and events on a specific issue. It showcases and connects events and courses that are already taking place at Fairfield, as well as encourages new collaborations, and engages the entire University community of faculty, students, administrators, staff, alumni, parents, friends, and neighbors in a common educational pursuit.


Why “Cities”? Nels Pearson: Given the historical, political, philosophical, sociological and scientific significance of the city, and its deep ties to citizenship both as an idea and as a lived experience, this theme offers many opportunities to foster and highlight interdisciplinary learning at Fairfield. Over half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and trends suggest that close to 75 per cent of the global population will live in urban and metropolitan areas by the middle of the 21st century. Most Fairfield graduates will earn their first job in a city. The topic of Cities is thus connected to our previous events focus, Global Citizenship, in that today’s cities are the specific locations or “theaters” of the broader phenomenon we call globalization: sites in which transnational flows of capital, ideas, and cultures are taking place; locations in which global processes — both those which encourage and those which limit human freedom — are happening on a daily basis. The phenomenon of the city is, by far, not just a signature of the modern West or Global North. Today, the majority of the world’s most populous and fastest growing cities are in Asia, Latin America, and outer Africa: cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Karachi, Jakarta, Istanbul, Moscow, Cairo, Lagos, and Tokyo. To understand the promises and problems of urban life globally, and to comprehend the consequences of international flows of modernity and capital, we must look to these cities as well as those in Europe and North America.


For more information on the series of “Cities” events, courses, and initiatives, visit the “Cities” Web site.


If you are faculty looking for materials, ideas, or scheduled events pertaining to the “Cities” events focus, please visit the new “CITIES SANDBOX” resource on Blackboard. All full time faculty, and all affiliate faculty scheduled to teach this fall, have been added to this “course” as instructors. On Blackboard (), it should appear in all caps in the list of courses you are teaching.


In the “Cities Sandbox,” you can browse, add, and/or download/transfer to your own Blackboard courses a variety of readings, links, films, and other media pertaining to Cities from a variety of disciplinary angles. The more you contribute to this collective resource, the better it becomes! So, by all means, please use anything you’d like from the current materials, but also please consider adding some Cities-related materials that others might benefit from using. There are simple instructions on the main page, under “Usage Guidelines,” for how to browse and add materials. The sandbox homepage also always displays an up-to-date list of events and courses related to the Cities theme.


The documentary film “Urbanized,” by Gary Hustwist, is available on the site under “Inhabiting Cities,” and can also be requested for your courses via the library’s streaming video request site.  The Sandbox was designed by last year’s FPLC on Cities and refined by a team of faculty and staff during the 2012 CAE Summer Institute.

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