URSI 100--Introduction to the City

Term: Spring, 2006

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

Office Hours: My office hours are posted here  (other times, too—make an appointment)

Note: Some of the course materials will be found online on Desire-to-Learn (D2L)


SOUCHER, D. 2003. City Comforts: How to build an urban village, Rev. Ed. Seattle, WA: City Comforts, Inc.


Course Objectives:

Chances are that when you get out of here you will live in a city (80% of Americans do). Although we often complain about what “they” are doing in or to our cities, the truth is that the city is us—the city you will live in will be the city you make. Introduction to the City is designed to help you develop an appreciation of cities and learn how to make the city you live in not only livable but also enjoyable.

By the end of this term you will have mastered knowledge of:

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

2.      how formal institutions for planning and governing the city function.

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)

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.

In this course you will read about cities and their opportunities and problems. 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. 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 Public Radio’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.


Classwork (15 pts.):

Generally, each week will follow a pattern: Monday will be an activity which will pique your curiosity about the week’s topic; Wednesday will be a lecture on the topic; Friday will be a project which will give you the occasion to reflect on the topic. You are expected to read the assigned readings and notes prior to their due date (see the Course Calendar below). The activities will be in-class; sometimes the projects will be in-class, sometimes they will be on your own. To get credit for a project, you must hand in a brief (one-page) summary the following Monday 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 ….


I also encourage you to read a daily newspaper—preferably the Mankato Free Press (after all, this city presents a convenient laboratory for the course). I will begin each class asking for a question based on a newspaper story related to the city (it must be in the form of a question; it works best if it is really something about which you are curious). You can earn a point of extra credit (to a maximum of 5 pts.) for each question you pose at the beginning of a class session.

Essays (35 pts.)

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. There will also be a shorter essay based on library research. The 4 essays 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. I also encourage you to read George Orwell’s excellent (if a little cranky and idiosyncratic) essay, “Politics and the English Language”—and to incorporate his advice into your writing.

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. I will schedule a time when I will take a group on the tour, but this will spill over class time so it is optional. You may also take the tour on your own or with your friends.

“Vision of the City” Design Project (20 pts.)

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. You might also read Loren Lomasky’s reflections on “living the good life” in the web journal, reasononline.

Tests (30 pts.)

There will be two tests in this class, at weeks 6 & 11 (see the Course Calendar). A study guide will be hyperlinked to the course calendar, with additions from class each week. Each test will consist of 30 objective questions, and will be taken online using D2L. You may take the test at a time that is convenient to you, but be aware that the test is timed (45 minutes for 30 questions).


Course Calendar











Introduction to the City

Miniapple Game




Roman City

History of the City

Walking Tour




Design with Nature

Design with Nature

Design with Nature (again)




Poor Hannah’s Ice Cream Stand


City Surfing




CIP Scenario


Journal Research; Essay 1; Vision Project




Miniapple Game (again)

Economy of Cities

Landowner’s Game




Making Places


Quality of Life




Build a Block

Design with Style

Test 1




Design for Living

Design for Living

Essay 2; Vision Project




Balancing Working & Living


Public Problems




“On the Outside Looking In” HV4506.M6O5 1999



Essay 3; Vision Project




Visual display of data


Mankato Data




City of the Mind


Essay 4; Vision Project




Miniapple Game (yet again)


Test 2




Vision of the City—charette 1

Vision of the City—charette 2

Vision of the City—charette 3




Miniapple Council Meeting; Course evaluation





The points for the course will be counted as follows:

  • Essays (1 @ 5, 3 @10) 35
  • Tests (2) 30
  • Vision of the City 20
  • Weekly Project Analysis 15

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.

Other Matters:

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. The only exception to this rule is the point(s) that you earn by asking the “question of the day” at the beginning of each class session (to a maximum of 5 points).

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 if it is no more than one week late (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.

Written reports are expected to be free of grammatical, spelling, and content errors.  They should be submitted in typewritten, standard formats (APA, MLA, URSI Style Sheets). You must familiarize yourself with the University’s Academic Honesty Policy. I encourage you to draw on the ideas of others—but you must also identify when you do so (you gain “brownie points” for citing the work of others!). Plagiarism is a serious breach of academic behavior and will result in an F for the course.

I will help you in whatever manner humanly possible.  However, once the semester is over, there is not a great deal I can do.  If there is something that you don’t understand, are having problems with, or need help on, please get in touch with me as early as possible.

Every attempt will be made to accommodate qualified students with disabilities.  If you area student with a documented disability, please contact us 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).


2003 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 1 January 06