Photo of a woman in a white shirt writing on a chalk board.

With focus on community, Carruthers Center expands academic offerings

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Northeastern Illinois University’s Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies has a rich history in Chicago’s Bronzeville community.

Long before it was a center for university classes, the building—its original 1905 design was conceived by architect Frank Lloyd Wright—served as a central location for education, art and social justice.

More than half a century since Northeastern moved into the former Lincoln Center as a way to serve the area’s student population with courses taught from an African-American perspective, the Carruthers Center (CCICS) continues to reinvent itself.

As the 2019-20 academic year approaches, CCICS has expanded its offerings beyond the traditional and historic Inner City Studies undergraduate and graduate programs. CCICS now offers courses in the Community Health bachelor’s degree program; the bachelor’s degree program for Social Work; the Gerontology master’s program; the Interdisciplinary Studies bachelor’s program; and the Couple and Family Counseling certificate program. On top of that, CCICS will host its first cohort of freshmen and plans to offer the master’s degree in Social Work beginning in Fall 2020.

This carefully planned expansion will help Northeastern better serve Chicago’s South Side communities, CCICS Director Andrea Evans said.

“The majors we’ve selected all work around the same themes of human and social services and social sciences,” said Evans, who took over as director in 2018. “When we talk about Social Work, Inner City Studies and Community Health, all of those things work together.”

Housing these majors in the same space will create wider opportunity for students to not only delve into their chosen major, but also broaden their perspectives by including classes offered in the other majors, Evans said.

“Any student who’s, for example, a Social Work major, would benefit from a class in Inner City Studies or benefit from classes in Community Health, and vice versa,” Evans said. “If you’re in Community Health, you should definitely be taking Inner City Studies. If you’re in Inner City Studies, certainly you would expand your horizons by taking classes in Social Work or Community Health.”

Northeastern’s academic departments are eager to begin offering their programs at CCICS.

“The faculty, staff and students at the Carruthers Center have a longstanding history of offering relevant and impactful scholarship and student engagement, and we are proud to increase our position within this tradition,” said Troy Harden, director of Northeastern’s Master of Social Work program. “We particularly look forward to our students from the South and Southwest Sides of Chicago, including the south suburbs, having greater access to our course offerings."

In addition to the new academic programs, CCICS has also expanded its non-credit offerings through Northeastern’s Community and Professional Education program, including pharmacy technician training.

Of course, CCICS remains a firm center for arts, culture and political discourse in Bronzeville. Over the years, the building has hosted artists such as Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright and activists such as Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Fred Hampton.

“Bronzeville is historic in Chicago,” Evans said. “It’s the place where black life thrived in the ’40s and ’50s in the arts in music and literature. Many people who came through the Carruthers Center over the decades are really cultural icons.”

CCICS continues to make the space open to the community to embrace its roots in arts and activism, a component of the space that Evans said nicely complements the lessons students are learning in class. CCICS hosts community meetings with Chicago Alderwoman Sophia King, student poetry slams, and professional jazz concerts that are low cost and open to the public. It is also an official testing site for Pearson, one of the world’s leading educational assessment services. With these expanded offerings and a shuttle service that takes students to and from the Main Campus, there’s more opportunity than ever for students to enhance their education at CCICS.

“Bronzeville is really diverse in terms of socioeconomics, and people are still looking to the Carruthers Center as a place and space to come and learn things,” Evans said. “We’re excited about that and want to continue that legacy and that tradition.”