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Los Angeles

APRIL 6-14, 2013




  • Since its early days, boosters of Los Angeles have promised the American dream: balmy winters, beaches, and beautiful people. Others have argued that Los Angeles is the antithesis of paradise: it is sprawling, unequal, and prone to natural disasters. The real city is more complex. It is neither heaven nor hell, but a real place with real people. This course will introduce you to the disparities between the Los Angeles of our imagination and the realities of everyday life in the city.
  • The Los Angeles study away course (3 credits, Spring 2013) will focus on three main topics: The recent history of Los Angeles, with an emphasis on land use issues & urban sprawl; human-environment topics, including environmental justice and natural hazards; and social justice in the city, with a focus on downtown Los Angeles.
  • Three three-hour meetings in February and March 2013 will include discussing readings on these topics from some of the best authors of Los Angeles non-fiction and academic research, as well as films that will set the scene for our exploration of the city. Once in the city, we will visit the Los Angeles River, the foothills of the San Gabriel River, historic buildings of downtown, a rail yard-turned-park, and several museum exhibits that highlight Los Angeles's recent history. Much of our exploration will be on public transit, which will help us to see a cross-section of the city as we travel. Upon our return, there will be two 2-hour meetings that will involve student presentation of research on Los Angeles and their experiences in the city. A paper and field journal will also be required.
  • This course is strongly tied to the Association of American Geographers (AAG) annual meeting, April 9-13 at the Westin Bonaventure.  Registration is highly recommended, but not required. Los Angeles-focused sessions and field trips offered by the AAG can be substituted for some field trips, based on students' interests. Discounted registration fees for the conference in exchange for a few hours of work is available through the AAG for students.
  • About the instructor: I received my Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, where I spent five years living in and researching Los Angeles. My work there includes research with the Center for Sustainable Cities and cartography for the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council.  I am co-author of USC's Downtown Los Angeles Walking Tour website. My goal in this course is to introduce you to the "real" Los Angeles, while using the city as a laboratory for studying topics that are applicable in many other cities across the country and the world.
  • Fees: $500 plus your own flight to/from L.A., meals, conference registration, and hotel for 4-5 nights. Fees include the first three nights hotel (double occupancy at the Hotel Figueroa), van transportation, a weekly transit pass, tour guide fees, and museum admission & parking.