CUE Announces New Faculty Hire

Posted July 12, 2016

The Center for Urban Engagement is pleased to announce the recent hiring of Sean Young who will be filling the role of Visiting Assistant Professor of Urban Studies. He is currently finishing his Ph.D. work at Loyola University in Sociology and has field specializations in Urban Sociology and Political Sociology. Sean is looking forward to teaching in the fall, and we had the chance to ask him some questions as he prepares for the upcoming school year.

CUE: So, Sean, tell us a little about yourself!

Sean YoungSY: Originally from upstate New York, I've made Chicago my home for the last 15 years. I’ve worked within higher education for over 2 decades, much of that within off-campus and experiential studies programs. My experience ranges from teaching English overseas in Taiwan to coordinating student life at an artist colony on Martha’s Vineyard. But it was my experience in teaching urban studies courses for several colleges and universities that solidified my love of teaching and learning and the focus of my scholarly interests on urban life and community-based efforts at social change. I'm currently a PhD candidate in the department of sociology at Loyola University Chicago and have been a graduate research fellow at the Center for Urban Research and Learning. I'm the proud father of a very old dog and a very old Nishiki bike.

CUE: We are looking forward to having you here on staff at Wheaton, particularly with CUE. Tell us what you’re looking forward to.

SY:I am excited to join the CUE programs, staff, and faculty because it has been a fantastic center for urban engagement and scholarship at Wheaton College. I worked with the Urban Studies program for several years prior to my PhD work, mainly with the Wheaton in Chicago program, and had always wanted to be more deeply engaged with the learning and development of students on campus. CUE provides me with that opportunity now as well as all the ways that it has enhanced the presence of Urban Studies on campus. Noah has been a tremendous leader in this regard, and I’m excited to work closely with him and everyone else as I join the team.

CUE: When did you first become interested in studying cities and urban life?

SY: I came to my interest in cities and urban life late in the game. I had been at Asbury Theological Seminary studying for what I thought would be a career in some overseas context doing community development work. But, it was in my final year at seminary when I discovered and attended my first Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference. There I saw all these connections between the methods, ethos, and ideas of what I was studying with a context much closer to home. It was then that I realized that if I cared about community, social justice, and working together with people concerned about the coming/present Kingdom and all that it means for our mutual flourishing, I should begin here. Once I started spending time in cities and paying attention, urban life opened itself to me in ways I never expected and grew to love all that it contains, even if it’s not always pretty.

CUE: What is the focus of your current research?

SY: My current research is generally on community organizing. More specifically, I’m focusing on the organizing activities of a group that is attempting to organize a vast network of social service providers, non-profits, churches, cultural alliances, and business groups on the north side of Chicago. Community organizing as a subject tends to be ignored in much of the social movement literature and it often goes unnoticed in the day-to-day life of cities. But, it has proven to be a highly effective method of bringing about social change at both small and large scales. I’ll be looking at the complex relationships between and amongst this large network of organizations to better understand what accounts for the possibly differing levels and abilities of organizations to act in ways that promote progressive social change in neighborhoods and cities. It is my hope that this research becomes a resource and provides useful information for community organizers, practitioners, funders, and politicians as well as academics concerned with democratic processes in urban society.

CUE: What are you planning to teach?

SY: This fall I’ll be teaching two quad courses: URBN 352 – Urban Housing and Social Change, and URBN 231 – Chicago. I’ll be teaching the Housing and Social Change class on campus and the Chicago class in the Wheaton in Chicago program. In the spring I’ll be teaching two courses on campus: an expanded 4-credit URBN 231 – Chicago, as well as SOC 364 – Urban Sociology. I’m excited for all of them as they collectively touch on so many of my personal interests – urban social structures and policy, Chicago history and politics (always an entertaining journey to take), case studies of important and inspiring battles over the right to the city, and some good old fashioned theory. I think students will really enjoy what these courses have to offer if they’re interested in cities, social change, or community development.

2016 Samuel Shellhamer Award

Posted May 4, 2016

We are pleased to announce that we have chosen winners for our second annual paper competition for the Samuel Shellhamer Endowed Award in Urban Studies.

The topic for 2016 was "Inequality," and students were invited to write position papers responding to the following prompt:

Economic inequality is among the most important and controversial issues of 2016. Hardly a day passes without a new statistic revealing the extent of domestic and global disparities in both income and wealth. In the United States, inequality is more extreme than it is in most other developed countries and worse than it has been at any time since 1928. This economic inequality also intersects with race. Median income for black households is only 59% of the median income for white households. Economic inequality has bearing upon education, environmental sustainability, environmental justice, public health, and nutrition, among other issues. Urban communities that concentrate both the wealthy and the poor are often hardest hit by inequality.

What, if anything, should be done about inequality? Should faith-based communities – specifically Christian churches and other organizations – be involved in advocating reform? If so, why and how?

After careful consideration of all entries, CUE has named a winner and a runner up.

First prize goes to Mark Sawyer, a rising senior International Relations major, for his paper, “Equal to or Greater Than: Inequality, Education, and a Christian Calling to Something More.” (PDF file) Mark will be listed in the 2016 Honors Convocation program as this year's Shellhamer Award recipient and will receive a scholarship award of $300.

“Embodied Integration: A Christian Response to Inequality,” (PDF file) by Andy Kirk, a senior Anthropology major, received the runner-up award. Andy will receive a gift box from I Have a Bean, a repeat co-sponsor of this year's CUE writing competition.

Many thanks to our judges, Professor Dr. Christa Tooley, CUE Faculty member, as well as CUE Community Engagement Council members, Jacob Lesniewski ’99 (Professor at Dominican University) and Christy Barton Joyce ’10, MA ’14 (A Better Chicago), in evaluating this year's papers.

The Shellhamer Award is named after Dr. Samuel Shellhamer, a former Wheaton College Vice President of Student Development. Dr. Shellhamer was a supporter of the Wheaton in Chicago program who visited the WIC students every semester to learn about their experiences in the city and helped to build bridges between our off-campus program and student development.

Developments: Things I've Learned

Posted September 9, 2015 by Dr. Noah Toly

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[Hunter Hambrick ('17) is a 2015 CUE Urban Leadership Fellow. His Urban Leadership Studio consists of an early summer experience with S.O.S. (Service over Self) in Memphis, staffing the Urban Track of Wheaton Passage, and leading his peers in a vocational discernment group during his fall semester in Wheaton in Chicago. This post is an adaptation of Hunter’s original post,"Developments: Things I’ve Learned" published on Hunter’s blog.]

CUE Urban Leadership Studio

Lesson #1: Roofing is Like Community Development

I thought roof repair simply required replacing old shingles with new ones. But a dilapidated roof (certainly a troubling matter in and of itself) is usually a more superficial sign of the home’s deeper structural flaws. Often underneath shoddy patch jobs lie faulty wiring, rotten drywall, blocked sewage and foundational imbalances. In this way, home repair serves as a microcosm for the larger world of community development.

As in a home, superficial needs never stand alone. Many onlookers like myself (community outsiders) regard the plight of inner city residents (community insiders) and remark, "__________ is the problem with the home!" That is, if a new roof is the solution to a leaky house, then education or employment must be the trick for a broken city. But inherently interconnected phenomena like roofing and revitalization cannot be reduced to one or two "core issues." Both are more multifaceted than that.

CUE Urban Leadership Studio

CUE Urban Leadership

Lesson #2: I am Being Developed

CUE Urban Leadership Studio

During Early August, a Wheaton professor and I helped guide six freshmen males into their time at college. I led the urban portion of Wheaton Passage, an orientation experience designed for incoming students with a focus upon community, service & justice, the life of the mind, and spiritual formation. The last component of Passage, "spiritual formation," inadvertently bombarded my thinking throughout the entire process. It seems to me that the previous elements of the program all serve the final concept.

I underwent Passage my freshmen year as well and though the actual experience ended long ago, the formation of my spirit has not. Wheaton Passage is an optional program for Wheaton students, but the ongoing "passage" of the spirit is not. I am always being formed. The only question is, "By what?" These bright eyed and bushy tailed young men eagerly explored and experienced community, service, justice, and the life of the mind. I, their leader, hope to follow their lead over the months and years to come.

Lesson #3: Still Developing

CUE Urban Leadership

Wednesday, August 26th marks the beginning of my time in the great city of Chicago. As a part of Wheaton in Chicago, I will intern at Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, a neighborhood-based community development organization in the Pullman Park District of Chicago's Southside. CNI works holistically to not only meet an impoverished neighborhood’s perceived needs, but also augment its inherent strengths. In other words, CNI works through the ABCDs of urban revitalization through Asset-Based Community Development.

Removing the shingles of a roof at SOS revealed moldy ceilings and faulty wiring, but it also led to the discovery of ornately designed glass work and nearly century-old oak rafters. Who knows what types of "assets" might lie beneath even the toughest features of Chicago's most impoverished neighborhoods? And who knows how this "passage" of my own life might form me in deeper ways than I could possibly envision now?

CUE Urban Leadership Studio

Postcard from a CUE Urban Leadership Fellow in Spain

Posted July 9, 2015 by


Ann Szeliga ('17) is a 2015 CUE Urban Leadership Fellow. Her Urban Leadership Studio consists of an early summer experience with Youth Hostel Ministries in Europe, staffing the Urban Track of Wheaton Passage, and leading her peers in a vocational discernment group during her fall semester in Wheaton in Chicago. This post is an adaptation of Ann's original post,  "Youth Hostel Ministry: My Passion for Global Cities," published on Wheaton College's #MyWheaton student blog. 

Many cities around Europe, and the world, are craving hope and truth in their lives. My journey, I've learned, begins with studying the development and problems of cities. I hope this equips me with a deeper understanding of such cities, transforming my discouragement into deliverance of His love.

In Barcelona, our team saw an example of a lack of respect for human dignity. My team and I were in a restaurant in Barcelona when I witnessed deep, cruel racism involving Spaniard patrons and some Asian employees. After our team chatted with the employees, we learned they chose not to kick the unruly men out because then they would not earn enough money for the day. This is what they deal with on a daily basis in order to make a living in a place they should be able to call home, a place that should be a comfortable work environment. These issues are magnified in cities as a result of the racial diversity cities typically retain.

As a result of my experiences in these European cities, my passion for urban environments has grown. It is clear that this is an area of study I wish to pursue further during my time at Wheaton. As I prepare to end my time with YHM and begin my program with Wheaton in Chicago this fall, God gives me both personal and global perspectives: He continues to ignite my fascination and passion for urban studies, while unveiling to me the united and broken urban communities throughout the world.

Center for Urban Engagement Year in Review

Posted June 4, 2015


One of the things we want to do at OnCUE is to keep our readers apprised of developments at the Center for Urban Engagement. It has been a big year. We launched the Center and graduated our first majors in Urban Studies. In this post, we’ll share a few of the highlights from the past year and let you know about some of our events and priorities for next year.


As you may know, CUE officially launched in January 2015 after a very busy summer and fall semester in which we worked together with our core and supporting faculty and staff to define the Center’s identity, mission, vision, and core values, and to bring five core programs (and other programs in partnership) together under one umbrella.

Urban Track of Wheaton Passage 

While we didn’t officially launch until January, we ran our whole year under the banner of our new vision, mission, and core values. That includes our programs in partnership, such as the Urban Track of Wheaton Passage. Every year, a number of incoming Wheaton students choose to begin their studies in the Urban Track of our first-year transition program, Wheaton Passage. Our August 2014 Urban Track program was a fantastic way for students to get off on the right foot for their next four years at Wheaton College.

Wheaton in Chicago 

Wheaton in Chicago enjoyed record enrollments in the fall of 2014. Once again, students interned at an incredible array of organizations throughout the city. Here are some of our internship sites from last fall:

  • The Center for Neighborhood Technology
  • The Chicago Council for Global Affairs
  • Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives
  • Emmaus Ministries
  • Garfield Produce
  • Goodman Theater
  • Lawndale Christian Health Center
  • Lawyers Committee for Better Housing
  • Little Black Pearl
  • Lydia Home Association
  • Marjorie Kovler Center
  • The Mexican Consulate
  • New Chicago LLC
  • North Lawndale College Preparatory High School
  • Opera-Matic
  • Safe Families
  • World Relief

As usual, Wheaton in Chicago students, faculty, and staff (accompanied by Global Urban Perspectives students) also attended the annual meeting of the Christian Community Development Association, which was held in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Next year’s Wheaton in Chicago students will attend the meeting in Memphis, Tennessee.)

We also had new people working with the program. Rachel Brown started with us as Learning Community Coordinator. Rachel leads our student life, spiritual formation, and facilities management work. And while Dr. Greg Lee wasn’t new to the College, last fall was his first time teaching one of our core courses, Theologies of Transformation: Public & Political Theologies in Urban Context.

Broader Short-Term Exposure for the Entire College Community

Some may wonder how we use our facility in Chicago between January and July. We have steady, heavy programming in the building from late July or early August (with Urban Track of Wheaton Passage) through the end of the fall semester in mid-December (with Wheaton in Chicago), but in the spring semester we use our facility as a platform for shorter-term engagements with the city. In each of the past two spring semesters (2014 and 2015), we've had more than 250 students gain exposure to and experience in the city through our Uptown facility.


We sponsored or co-sponsored a number of events on and off campus. Here were some of the highlights:

  • A panel discussion of The Wire, focused on the possibilities and limitations of urban transformation
  • A discussion with Solomon Chikan, former mayor of Jos, Nigeria, co-sponsored with Politics & International Relations
  • An event on wage theft, co-sponsored by ARISE Chicago and the Graduate School of Social Services at Dominican University
  • A screening of the film Gideon’s Army and a lecture by Director/Producer Dawn Porter, co-sponsored with the Center for Applied Christian Ethics
  • A lecture by Dr. Michael Leo Owens (Political Science, Emory University)
  • A lecture by Andrew Johnson of Chicago’s American Indian Center, co-sponsored with the Center for Global & Experiential Learning
  • A lecture by Dr. Michael Northcott (Ethics, University of Edinburgh), co-sponsored with Human Needs & Global Resources and Environmental Science
  • A lecture by Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff (Philosophy, Yale), co-sponsored with the Center for Applied Christian Ethics, Human Needs & Global Resources, and Politics & International Relations
  • Our first CUE Scholars’ Corner, a colloquium for our core and supporting faculty, where Dr. Brian Miller presented on his most recent research

The Samuel A. Shellhamer Award in Urban Studies

This year, we also transformed our award for the best paper in Urban Studies into a writing competition. Students submitted position papers on the challenge of mass incarceration and the role of religious institutions in shaping a response. The top prize of $300 went to Taylor Pride. Ian Donahoe and Hayley Woodbridge finished as runners up and received gift boxes from local coffee roaster and social enterprise I Have a Bean.


Of course, we also launched this blog, OnCUE, in April. Next year, you can count on student posts in addition to those from faculty, staff, and guests.

What to Expect for Next Year

In addition to adjusting our major, minor and Wheaton in Chicago program (and all of their student outcomes and assessment plans) to Wheaton’s exciting new general education curriculum, Christ at the Core, we have a number of other plans for next year:

  • We’re enrolling another record cohort in our Wheaton in Chicago program and look forward to working with those students this summer and fall to make WIC a great learning experience for them.
  • One new aspect of our Wheaton in Chicago program is Civitas: A Program of Vocational Exploration and Discernment for Wheaton in Chicago. Civitas, which includes our existing internship and mentoring programs, also includes readings, activities, and small group discussions oriented toward helping our students answer the questions, “How can I make a difference? How can I make meaning or find purpose in my work? How can I make a living?” While all students face these questions, Civitas has been tailored to the values, themes, activities, and strengths of Wheaton in Chicago and includes modules on the city and the liberal arts, justice, social change, and “ambition, risk, failure, and fortitude.”

    Along with Civitas we are also piloting our Urban Leadership Studio (ULS), a six-month, three-stage leadership course for select Wheaton in Chicago students who want to bring together 1) an approved early summer (May-July) experience, 2) leading groups of first-year students in Urban Track of Wheaton Passage (August), and 3) leading their peers in vocational discernment groups as they proceed through the Civitas program in the fall.

    Civitas and ULS are exciting new programs that we launched with the help of a grant (submitted in collaboration with Opus: The Art of Work and HoneyRock: The Outdoor Center for Leadership Development at Wheaton College) from the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE). We’ll post more about these programs – better yet, we’ll have our students post more abut them – this summer and fall.
  • We plan to launch our Community Engagement Council, a small group of advisors “committed to advancing the Center’s mission and programs by providing advice on strategic opportunities for community engagement in Chicago and other cities and by helping CUE to equip students with the experiences and skills necessary to live out their callings in and to our urban world.”
  • And here’s a sneak peak at a few of our events:

    Dr. Noah Toly and Dr. Jeremy Cook are organizing two events on portraying and responding to the needs of economically distressed urban communities.

    We’re finalizing dates for a visit by Garnette Cadogan, who will talk about his recent project on walking in cities.

    Dr. Heath Carter will give the CUE Lecture in February, speaking on themes from his forthcoming book, Union Made: Working People and the Rise of Social Christianity in Chicago.

We hope you’ll join us at those events, and we’ll look forward to keeping you up to date on next year’s developments at CUE.

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