CICS: An Educational Gem

By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill (September 1999)

I have been extremely fortunate to work at Northeastern Illinois University's Center for Inner City Studies (CICS) for the last twenty-five years where I have served as a professor, advisor, Department Chair, and Academic Program coordinator.

The Center for Inner City Studies is a rare public institution that has truly served the needs of the community by providing quality services and academic programming aimed at helping people understand the political, economic, social, and cultural forces that impact on people who live in the inner cities throughout the world.

Over the last thirty-three years, CICS has established a tradition of being a premier African Centered academic and community institution that I am proud to have been a part of.

The Center for Inner City Studies was established in 1966 during the early years of Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) which was founded in 1963. Dr. Donald Smith, one of the few Black professors and the first CICS Director, provided the initial leadership in conceiving the idea and mobilizing the university community to support this project. However, the former Director of CICS, Dr. Donn Bailey, revealed, "The educational aspirations and demands of the largely Black inner city community in the mid 1960's were so forcefully and compellingly put that one can say that the community sired the Center for Inner City Studies."

Outstanding educational leaders in the Chicago inner city, such as Dr. Barbara Sizemore, Dr. Anderson Thompson, and grassroots community residents, gave Dr. Smith the support he needed to convince the college that such a project was necessary and the material for a successful start-up proposal through federal funding. He then gathered a brilliant staff of inner city educators from Chicago and across the nation who developed the initial graduate CICS curriculum. These included Dr. Nancy Arnez, the second CICS Director; Dr. Donn Bailey, the third CICS Director; Dr. Edward Barnes, and Dr. Sonja Stone, the first Chairperson of the Department of Inner City Studies Education.

The first CICS program was the federally funded, Experienced Teacher Fellowship Program (ETFP), a master's degree program for retraining inner city teachers, who were struggling to understand and serve the communities where they worked. The students came from many urban areas throughout the United States. This innovative experiment led the College of Education to establish the Department of Inner City Studies Education, with two master's degrees (M.A. in Inner City Studies and M.Ed. in Inner City Studies) in 1968. In 1970–71, the CICS undergraduate program evolved from another federally funded program, The Career Opportunities Program (COP), a program that resulted in full certification for 400 inner city Teacher Aides who had virtually sprung from the inner city in the wake of the urban rebellions of the 1960's.

Under the leadership of two brilliant African Centered faculty members, Dr. Jacob Carruthers and Dr. Anderson Thompson, CICS endeavored, for thirty-three years, to develop a curriculum philosophy and theoretical framework that examines social experience from the African perspective. The rewards of these efforts have been enriching for the academic community, as well as, the inner city community.

Through its curriculum, the Program in Inner City Studies Education at CICS has successfully developed graduate and undergraduate programs that combine Inner City Studies with sequences and concentrations in a variety of Arts and Sciences, Business Management, Inner City Career; African Caribbean Studies; experienced and prospective teacher programs, as well as, the concentrations in African American, Native American, and Latino American Studies. Some of these programs themselves led to the development of other major thrusts of CICS. African Caribbean Studies spawned the Kemetic Institute and the establishment of the African Study Tours that broadened the CICS curriculum to include on-going international inner city forces. The Career Opportunity Program of the early 1970's was the foundation of the CICS undergraduate program. Similarly, the Inner City Careers Minor gave birth to the Inner City Studies – Business Management double major.

From our base of service to the community, CICS has become a leader in the educational community. Out of nearly 800 graduates from CICS's Master's degree, approximately 200 have gone on to earn their Ph.D. An impressive percentage of CICS undergraduates have obtained their Bachelor's degree and continued through the CICS Master's program. Indeed, many of our graduates have attained high positions in the institutions that serve the inner city, from the public schools, and other educational institutions, to city, police and correctional administration, and a variety of social service agencies. Thus, the ideas generated at CICS are now a part of the thinking of many of those who work in human service institutions throughout the country.

The faculty at CICS is presently working on two new programs. They are, the establishment of a Master's and a Bachelor's degree in Africana Studies and an Inner City Studies Public Policy Institute. It is our aim that these programs will be up and running by the Fall of 2000. Much excitement surrounds the development of these two very important programs.

For those who are interested in pursuing an academic career that deals with the problems and prospects of the inner city should contact the Center for Inner City Studies for a full orientation of how to become involved in its academic programs. It is important that we become experts on the trends and developments of the inner city and particularly how this impacts on people of African and Latino ancestry.

National Chairman
National Black United Front (NBUF)

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