Urban Studies became recognized when President Hornig established a Committee on Urban Studies with Professor Benjamin Chinitz as chairman in July 1971. Before that time several departments, such as Political Science, Sociology, History, and Economics, already had urban-oriented courses, and the Division of Engineering had a concentration in urban technology. The new committee’s job was to initiate courses in urban studies and to counsel students in developing independent concentrations.
In the spring of 1972 the committee sponsored a lecture series, “Campaign ’72: The Urban Issues.” Six members of the committee cooperated in an extension course called “Urban America: Problems and Perspectives.” Ten students graduated with an independent concentration in urban studies in 1972, and twenty in 1973.
A standard concentration in urban studies was approved in 1973, and a revised concentration program in 1975. The Urban Analysis Group, an interdepartmental research team was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Economic Development Administration.
Professor Basil Zimmer of Sociology reorganized the Urban Studies Program in 1974 and was chairman until 1986. J. Vernon Henderson, professor of economics and urban studies, became Director of Urban Studies in 1986 and was chairman until 2007 with the exception of one term. David Meyer, professor of sociology and urban studies was chairman from 1996-1999. Marion Orr, professor of political science and urban studies became Director of Urban Studies on July 1, 2007.
The core program curriculum includes courses in American civilization, economics, history, history of art and architecture, literature, political science, and sociology. As part of their fieldwork training, students are expected to work with local agencies and non-profit organizations. Summer internships are available for concentrators. Students are also encouraged to undertake projects involving the study of Providence and nearby cities for their honors thesis projects.