Honors 3900 Syllabus


The City as Text

This syllabus is intended to give students guidance in what will be covered during the semester. However, there may be modifications, supplements, and changes as course needs arise.

 Learning objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Describe the demographics of Ogden over the last 20 years.
  • Observe and describe various cultural landscapes (As defined by Carl O. Sauer: a landscape molded from the natural landscape by a cultural group) created throughout the city.
  • Discuss on the important components of the urban environment.
  • Explain the ways in which the city “works.” What are the civics of the city?
  • Map the patterns of life in Ogden.

Activities in support of the learning objectives

 Students will:

Students will collect city-related “artifacts”: news/web articles, images or their own photographs, summaries of conversations with city residents, personal observations. For each artifact, students will describe the artifact: how they came by it and how it explains/illustrates/reveals some aspect of the city? Students should post at least 2 items per week (one of which must be their written observations of travels they made/places they observed. The other is a response to a colleague's post.).  Some entries will be based on mini-research projects into such as social issues such as local and federal policies, immigration, domestic violence, health inequalities, and other problems facing the city.

 Entries will be posted on the course blog. The course blog will be graded thrice during the semester:

      • Completeness on an ongoing basis -- at least 3 postings per week.
      • Quality of presentation
      • Depth of observation and insight
      • Evidence of reflection on class topics

Entries will be evaluated for their quality of communication. If you deal regularly and effectively with the materials for class in the journal, you will receive a B on the journal. If entries show strong evidence of grappling with issues, of a quest for understanding, and/or of effort to develop and support views, you will receive an A on the journal.

  • Create maps
    • For each walkabout students will draw a map
    • Maps will be submitted and discussion
    • Consider these questions in drawing your map:
      • What might someone find if they followed your map?
      • What artifacts inform your map?
      • What are you excluding from your map? Why?
  •  Write one short reflection statement - “Me and Ogden” – this could be a formal summary and reflection on experiences or a creative expression such as a literary piece or web site. 

An “A” paper will contain at least the following elements:

  • demonstration of clear understanding of the course materials and experiences
  • demonstration of independent/original thought
  • near-perfect mechanics, including spelling and punctuation
  • Conduct a mini-research project for Ogden City Council.
    • Students will work in teams with one of the faculty to research that which would help the city council strategies about how to protect the open space east of the city. The "deliverables:" will include:
      • a bibliography of sources
      • a presentation -- both material (poster, video, web page) and verbal
  • Participate.

Effective learning in this course is contingent upon active participation: coming to class prepared, engaging in the various forays into the city, expressing observations and ideas in discussions. 

Strategies in support of Learning: Mapping, Observing, Listening, Reflecting

Students will explore certain assigned ares of the city. They will post their observations and the class blog and will report back for general discussions and exchange insights with others.

 There are four basic strategies used in these exercise (based on “City as Text” methodology)

  •  Mapping: Students will construct the primary kinds of buildings, points of interest, centers of activity, and transportation routes. Where do people go? How do they get there” What do they do when they get there?
  • Observing. Students will look carefully for the unexpected as well as the expected, for the familiar as well as the new. Students will notes details of architecture, landscaping, social gathering, clothing, possessions, decorations, signage, and advertising.
  • Listening. Students will talk to as many people as they can and find out from them what matters to them in their daily lives, what they enjoy, what bothers them, what they appreciate. Students will strike up conversations wherever they go. Students will ask: how expensive is it to live here; where to find a mean – cheap or good; what are the local politics, what stories to they know about particular places; what is the population like? In other words, students will imagine that they are moving to Ogden and are trying to find out everything they need to survive her.
  • Reflecting. Throughout their explorations, students will keep in mind that the people they meet, the buildings in which they live and work, the forms of their recreation, their modes of transportation – everything that they are and do-- are important components of the ecology of the city. What are the particular roles in the ecology: how do persons use it, contribute to it, damage it or improve it, and change it? Students should consider that they are doing serious research. Like all good researchers, students should be aware of their own biases and should investigate them also.


  •  There will be a variety of texts -- some on line.
  • tour guides and other materials will be supplied to students


Grades will be based on a percentage of the points possible:

      • Artifact class blog         5 X 12 = 60 points
      • mini-research project    30 points
      • Me and Ogden paper    15 points
      • Maps                             10 points