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October 3, 2005

Progressive Profiling: Boston College Urban Project

      The Boston College Urban Project was founded last year as a public policy group for urban studies at BC. Its mission is to engage the larger Boston College community in social, political and economic issues regarding city life. Taking advantage of our unique location, the BC-UP uses Boston as its domain for actively learning, exploring and engaging other members of our community. I had the opportunity to sit down with three of the founding members, Tina Corea, Jarret Izzo and Joseph Iole, and ask them a few questions about the upcoming year.

      What kind of role does the BC Urban Project expect to play in the greater BC community?

      Joe: The Boston College Urban Project is basically an opportunity for BC students to get into the city to places they usually would not see and explore academic or cultural interests of urban life.

      Can you tell us about the goals you hope to accomplish this year in the BC-UP? And more specifically, are there any events or speakers you have planned that you are particularly excited about?

      Tina: Some of our goals are to visit lots of different communities and parts of the city, but also to bring people from the city into campus and we did a lot of that last year with professors and students on campus which we want to continue in talking about various issues, whatever their focus academically is. However, we also want to bring more people from the outside Boston community in to speak to the group, such as people within law enforcement, politicians, urban designers and planners. We are having David Kruh come October 17, who is sort of a satiric historian and that should be a great event. We are also going to do something on Hurricane Katrina with the American Foreign Democracy group. And then lastly, some of our goals would be to explore happenings or festivals, art exhibits, music, cultural events that are going on in and around the city.

      What exactly sparked your interest in creating a public policy group at BC to study urban issues?

      Joe: I think when we started this club we all came at it from different perspectives and we each had our own academic focus as well as cultural interests in the city. It's interesting because as time went on we have become more absorbed in everyone else's ideas about the city. It's amazing to see what everyone loves about the city and how it brought us all together.

      Tina: I became interested in the urban education perspective and social inequities from a placement I was doing freshman year and then from that I became interested in housing and how that effects people's home life, how that effects not only their schooling but health issues that they are facing and so it all came together in a system, it can't be isolated from one area of life to another so I thought about justice issues in terms of the environment which I have never thought about before, it was never even on my radar screen because I wasn't a science person.

      Jarret: There are so many different areas to focus on, my particular interest came from living in suburbia and just frustration with the physical plan peculiar to the way we've developed for the past half a century and so I approached urbanism in general as a way to kind of improve on that.

      And so what major issues or problems do you think need to be addressed in Boston and in most major American cities today, especially in light of the disaster of Hurricane Katrina?

      Tina: Not to downplay any one aspect of the city but I think that community involvement especially in Boston among college students is really important because we are members of a community and we give and we take in this community and sometimes I don't realize my impact in the city, both negative and positive, and if people were more involved in some of the policies issues that were going on in City Hall it would be a really different community and so for me the systemic policy and political questions are really important.

      Joe: I think a lot of times people from BC do a lot of community service and they think that is a great way to get involved with the city but there is so much more to that and what causes the long-term problems that require our community service and how we can solve those problems.

      Jarret: In the aftermath of Katrina, the epic now is becoming the urban policy and development crisis of the new century. In just the immediate aftermath, you see our national organizations compromised a little bit, there has been a lot of criticism of FEMA and Red Cross even as being somewhat lacking in their delivering systems and yet at the same time you see the local organizations, the faith-based groups and citizen organizations that are all along the gulf coast really making a lot of progress and difference.

      Are there any particular classes you would recommend to take at BC to study issues surrounding urban life, development and public policy?

      Joe: One I would like to put out there is Understanding Urban Ecosystems, which focuses on a broad array of environmental and social justice issues, specifically in and around the city of Boston.

      Tina: I would go with Urban Politics and Immigration with Peter Skerry in the Political Science department, it just really peaked my interest about all these issues combined into one class, especially the urban politics class, so I would recommend that.

      Jarret: The History department in general has a number of classes like David Quiqley's History of New York City, Davarian Baldwin's Introduction to Black Urban History and Going to Chicago: The Great Migration. Both those professors are very challenging but the amount of information you come away with is just tremendous.

      What role has the Jesuit Mission and Philosophy here at BC played in your life, your service within the community and your decision to form the BC Urban Project?

      Tina: Well, right off the bat, just the Jesuit order is all about being engaged with your society and your world and also looking at things from a critical and educational perspective rather than some of the other orders or philosophies that are more of direct service and individually focused. The Jesuits are all about changing systemic problems and dealing with social justice and inequality in a very hands on way so that you're not only just learning about it in the classroom. You have to be educated about the subjects so you can do something about it in the long term and you have to have your eyes open to the things going on around you, so being actively engaged in your community is a huge aspect of the Jesuit mission.

      If you would like to learn more about the BC Urban Project, visit their website at www2.bc.edu/~corea.

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