City as Text at Johnson & Wales University’s Charlotte Campus

Gamica Bell is a senior at Johnson & Wales University’s Charlotte Campus who is preparing for Study Abroad in Italy. She has never been out of the country, but because of City as Text, the John Hazen White College of Arts & Sciences class she is taking, she feels more prepared.

Bell notes, “It’s ridiculous how much I’m getting out of this class. Our eyes are really being opened to what we miss every day. Professor Lisa Kendall teaches us to look at everything, question everything and search everything. We learn about things we’ve never noticed.”

An Integrated Learning Course

City as Text is an Integrated Learning Course (ILS), where students combine what they learn in the classroom with real world decisions and experiences. The course focuses on the City of Charlotte that students investigate, reflect and critically analyze as a living and evolving system. Bell adds, “It’s seeing the city as it is, like underneath the city. We visit museums, parks and graveyards. Because our class is so diverse, we talk about how Charlotte is different from where we are from.”

JWU’s College of Arts & Sciences offer nearly 50 ILS courses ranging from Why People Do Evil and The Supernatural to 20th Century Literature and The Good Life. Mark Peres, J.D., wants to ensure his students live good lives. “I’m interested in the choices we make to live meaningfully and well,” Peres says. “I think about what a good life is and how we achieve it.”

Peres is so passionate about inspiring his students to live lives of meaning and purpose, he created How to Change the World, a new course he says will help guide students toward making a real impact on the world by using what they already have—a strong motivation to solve social problems on a large scale.

Changing the World with Vital Conversations

“We had to take a good hard look at ourselves,” Kelia McJury ’19 says. “How do you live your happiest life and how do you be that person? How to Change the World has the same building blocks. Why do you want to change and how do you fit into the bigger picture? Majors prepare us professionally, but these ILS classes help us find out who we are on a personal level.”

Jonathan Charles ’18 says what he is learning in the A&S courses is closely tied to current events. His XX Factor course examines gender role development, gender identity and sexuality, societal biases, and stereotyping. Students discussed the #MeToo movement, a vital conversation in the national spotlight, against sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Charles states, “Taking this class, I now understand the changes that need to happen at every level in our society. It starts with us as individuals by avoiding stereotypes and premonitions, actively making everyone feel welcome anywhere, and striving for equality in the workplace. Only by attacking the issue at its source will we be able to challenge the historical power differences between men and women.”

When a Class is About More Than a Grade

This term, Charles, who is enrolled in How to Change the World, says his thinking of just “how to pass” a class radically changed. “When a class is unique enough, it gives you freedom to learn in a different or certain way. The experience ends up more important than the grade. We do something rather than just talk about it,” Charles explains. That “something” is an assignment to make a change and document how they do it. His subject is food waste, and McJury is promoting veganism on campus.

“The College of Arts & Sciences strategically provides students with multiple lenses to connect the past and the future and influences them to seize the present moment to make a change in themselves and in society,” says Fernanda Tate-Owens, assistant professor. Arts & Sciences at JWU is more than just career prep for students’ first jobs. It provides them with a varied view of the world, helping prepare them for purposeful and fulfilling lives.

About the Author
Melinda Law is the director of communications & media relations at Johnson & Wales University. She has been with JWU since the Charlotte Campus opened its doors to students in 2004. Previously she was a news reporter at WBTV (CBS).