URSI 100--Introduction to the City

Term: Fall, 2003

Instructor: Tony Filipovitch, 106d Morris Hall, xt. 5035, 388-2264 (home)

Office Hours: MWF 10-11 & 1-2; R 5:30-6

NOTE: Supporting material for this course is available from MSU’s UCompass Educator site.



LEVY, J.M. 2000. Urban America: Processes & Problems. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Course Objectives:

While Introduction to the City is designed to help you develop an appreciation of cities and increase your awareness of what makes cities not only livable but also enjoyable, the course also serves as a general education option. As a result, the course encompasses some broad goals related to the learning process and decision making. Among the goals for this course are to provide an opportunity for:

  1. Collaborative Learning: You will work together collaboratively throughout the course to explore the use of course concepts.
  2. Complexity of the Urban Web: You will write reports which demonstrate the interrelation of forces in the city.
  3. Change Strategies: You will demonstrate a variety of skills for creating change in the civic community.
  4. Active Participation: You will demonstrate that you can work together with your classmates to bring about change to improve the place where you live.

By the end of the term you will be have knowledge of:

1.      the forces (historical & contemporary; sociocultural, physical, and creative; domestic & global) that influence the urban place

2.      the functioning of formal institutions for planning and governing the city

And you will appreciate the values of:

1.      sociocultural differences

2.      democratic citizenship in a global environment

And you will demonstrate skills in:

1.      using the analytical methods of the social sciences

2.      using and critiquing alternative explanatory systems

3.      developing alternative solutions/explanations for contemporary urban problems (both domestic and global)

In this course you will read about cities and their opportunities and problems. But you will also need to wander about in them; above all you will need to think about them.

Instructional Methodology and Teaching Strategies:

A variety of techniques will be employed throughout the course. Above all, my teaching style in this course is based on an "adult-centered" model which assumes that you are active participants, each responsible for your own learning, and I am a facilitator and resource who helps you advance your project. My goal for myself as a teachers is to "take you someplace you would never before have gone alone."

With apologies to Michael Feldman (of NPR’s “What Do You Know?”), there are four disclaimers that go with this course:

1.      This is a course about the forces that are shaping contemporary cities.

If you want a course on the history of urban design, look at URBS110 (The City); if you want a course on urban environmental issues, look at URBS150 (Sustainable Cities); if you want a course on urban politics, look at URBS230 (Community Leadership). In fact, by the end of this course I hope you do look into one of these other general education courses.

2.      The book is not the course!

The textbook is a tool to help you master the course, but the course is much bigger than the book. Just because it is not in the book does not mean it is not important—often I think it is more important (or I would not have gone through the trouble to work it in).

3.      Sure, Professor Filipovitch knows a lot—but that’s not the point!

He’s been around a lot longer than you, and they have actually been paying him to read books! The trick is to get him to talk about the things you want to know.

4.      This is a general education course.

The course is designed to broaden your general education, in addition to passing on specific urban studies information. Such things as the etymology of words, phrases in their original language, the philosophical roots of an idea, or the basic science behind an application are not digressions. They are connections. And, I hope, the beginning for you of a lifetime of exploring the connections between ideas.



You are expected to read the appropriate sections in the textbook prior to their due date. The class will be a mixture of problem-solving, class discussion, and lecture. The course calendar and weekly assignments are available from the hyperlink to this section. Each week there will be an activity or project assigned. Sometimes the projects will be in-class (on Fridays), sometimes they will be on your own. To get credit for the project, the following Monday you must hand in a brief (one-page) summary of what happened/ what you learned, and your response to two questions:

        The one thing I learned this week that stands out most in my mind is….

        I am still not clear about ….

Field Tour:

There will be a fairly extensive (@ 2 hr.) guided tour to familiarize you with the city. The tour itinerary is available from the hyperlink to this section.

“Vision of the City” Design Project

The class will culminate with the design and presentation of your vision of Mankato in 2020. Grades will be assigned both on the basis of group work and individual contribution to the group. You will rate the other members in your group on their individual contributions to the Vision of the City project. This project is due at the scheduled final exam time. The assignment is available from the hyperlink to this section.


There will be two tests in this class, at weeks 6 & 11 (see the Course Calendar). Each test will consist of 30 objective questions. A study guide will be posted to the class Educator site, with additions from class each week. The study guide for the test is available from the hyperlink to this section.


Generally, each week will involve some sort of activity. These activities will fit together into 3 units, with a summary written reflection/analysis at the end of each unit. The summaries will be handed in and graded. The essay assignments are available from the hyperlink to this section. At this link, you will find the grading criteria.


The points for the course will be counted as follows:

The final grade may be based on a curve, but you can expect at least an A if you achieve 90, a B with 80, etc.

Extra Credit: In general, I do not encourage extra credit in this class. I would rather that you put the extra effort into your regular assignments. In the event of very unusual circumstances, a maximum of 10 points may be earned by prior arrangement with me.

All assignments are due on the assigned date. While I would prefer not to receive work late, you can get at least partial credit for late work (better late than never, and better something than nothing). I reserve the right not to permit extensions or makeups unless you obtained prior permission or have a very good excuse.

You may use any resource for your coursework (in fact, I encourage you to bring in additional information and to refer to it and your textbook in the reports that you write), as long as you identify your sources. (Failure to do so is plagiarism and could result in an F for the course). While you may work on an assignment with classmates, you may not turn in identical (or essentially the same) reports unless the project is specifically identified as a "group project."

Every attempt will be made to accommodate qualified students with disabilities. If you area student with a documented disability, please contact me as early in the semester as possible to discuss the necessary accommodations, and/or contact the Disability Services Office at 507-389-2825 (V) or 1-800-627-3529 (MRS/TTY).


1996 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 17 August 2003