Academic Programs

New York City Seminars

In the first two years of college, all Macaulay Scholars take the four New York City Seminars.  Taught in small discussion format, these interdisciplinary courses combine traditional scholarly activity with hands-on experiences designed to stimulate interest in and deepen understanding of the people, culture, history, and institutions of New York City.

The Arts in New York City starts your college career by offering multiple opportunities to explore the wide range of creativity in the city— from Broadway, opera and dance performances to New York’s richness in visual arts and more. You will not only learn about these art forms and visit sites and production spaces but also take part in the creative process: to experience by doing as well as by studying. Seminar 1 introduces Macaulay Scholars to the arts in New York City and the Cultural Passport. During the semester, students attend theatrical, operatic, and musical performances, exhibitions of visual art, and other highlights of the current cultural season, and help to create the annual Snapshot of New York City. The Annual Snapshot is one pre-determined day where each student in Seminar 1 will take a picture. Student curators will help showcase all pictures in an exhibition.

The People of New York focuses on the diversity that makes the city such an amazing place—During Seminar 2, Macaulay Scholars investigate the role of immigration and migration in shaping New York City’s identity–past, present, and future. You will visit the neighborhoods of all five boroughs, learning about immigration history, interviewing residents, eating local food, and examining archives to note demographic and architectural evolution. Visits to archives, interviews, mapping and walking tours allow students to create the collaborative Neighborhood Websites, presenting their research through audio, video, photography, and hyperlinks.

Science Forward begins the sophomore year by focusing on developing students’ scientific and critical thinking skills. Science Forward is a seminar that explores the nature of science itself and models the way scientists think and work. The seminar is interdisciplinary; it features a wide variety of physical and life sciences so that students may practice the skills common to all sciences. In this seminar, students will often analyze issues in science and technology that have an impact on contemporary New York. Fieldwork is integral to this Seminar and might include trips to the rivers, shores, and wetlands along the Atlantic Ocean or to old-growth forest areas in New Jersey for tree ring sampling or to industrial and residential areas to compile comparative data on air quality. All Macaulay sophomores start the semester with a 24-hour species diversity survey (a BioBlitz) where students will partner with scientists and naturalists to collect ecological data in New York City. Students will then use these data to conduct their own original research projects and present their results at a poster conference at the end of the semester.

Shaping the Future of New York builds on the other three seminars to consider how public policy shapes urban development. You might visit courtrooms, community board meetings, or public hearings or interview public officials as you trace the history of decision-making in the realms of such areas as transportation, health, environment, education, or housing. The purpose of Seminar 4 is to analyze the ongoing interplay of social, economic, and political forces that shape the physical form and social dynamics of New York City. Throughout the semester, students engage in a team research project, sometimes including Public Service Announcement Videos or a poster presentation, to be presented at a cross-campus conference.