New Honors Course Challenges Students to “Read” City

October 15, 2021

Students from Williams’ section explore the Trinity Trails.

A brand-new Honors Colloquium, “City as Text: Fort Worth,” doesn’t require any physical or digital textbooks. Instead, Honors professors Wendy Williams and Frederick Gooding, Jr., who teach separate sections of the course, encourage their students to “read” the city of Fort Worth to understand it as they would any useful textbook.

The City as Text (or “CAT”) initiative originated at the National Collegiate Honors Council and refers to structured explorations of environments and ecosystems, encouraging small team investigation to foster critical inquiry and integrative learning across disciplines.

Williams decided to bring City as Text to TCU after attending a weekend workshop at the annual NCHC conference in New Orleans in 2019. “I like classes with experiential learning components and thought TCU Honors students would benefit from learning the skills taught in a City as Text course,” she said. Gooding expressed interest in the endeavor and Williams was happy to partner with him.

Students meet for a sweet class debrief at Melt Ice Cream on Magnolia.

“Even if you’re not from Fort Worth when you come to TCU, you’re part of the city during [your time at TCU], and why not better understand how the city functions and works, especially among socioeconomic and political lines?” Gooding said.

Williams and Gooding initially planned to co-teach the course, but a high demand for Honors courses resulted in two separate sections of the class, which followed a unique schedule, meeting once a week for a four-hour fifty-minute block for eight weeks.

During the semester, both sections of the class met separately at several different locations throughout Fort Worth and embarked upon group explorations, activities, and discussions. Students used four “CAT” strategies during their explorations – mapping, observing, listening, and reflecting.

During their weekend trip to Dallas, students explore new parts of the city.

“It’s so rich to have the opportunity to extend the classroom beyond what I call the ‘four walls’ and it is amazing for professors and students alike to be able to really appreciate such a hands-on learning experience,” Gooding said.

Students in the course agreed. “This class challenged me to have conversations with different people across the city. These conversations provided insight to the city that I cannot find anywhere else. As a Fort Worth native, the city feels more authentic than ever before,” reflected current Honors student, Andrew Darr ’22, who was in Williams’ class.

At the end of the semester, both classes were also given the opportunity to take an optional overnight weekend trip to Dallas, to explore the eastern side of the Metroplex. “These techniques are applicable in any city,” Williams said. During the trip, students had a chance to “read” the Big D and considered a subtle, age-old question – what is the relationship between Fort Worth and Dallas in the scope of the enormity of the DFW Metroplex?

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