Academic Stories

Interdisciplinary summer program examines the role of water in society

Apply to the 2020 College Summer Institute in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Each summer, a cohort of undergraduate students and distinguished faculty from the University of Chicago come together to undertake collaborative research projects in the College Summer Institute in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Aimed at rising third- and fourth-year students, the five-week-long program supports faculty-mentored research projects related to that summer’s theme. With support from faculty in a variety of disciplines, participants learn how to conduct archival research, are exposed to other methods of humanistic inquiry and acquire the necessary skills to undertake research projects, including a BA thesis.

In the first iteration of program in 2018, students spent the summer delving into Chicago’s rich urban history in The City as Archive: Chicago in the American Century. In 2019, undergraduates sought to understand the role of non-anthropoid beings in Thinking Beyond the Human: On Animals, A.I. and Others. Through these topics, faculty and undergraduates from different disciplines collaborated to generate innovative thinking on some of today's global issues.

This year’s theme, The Place of Water: History, Presence and Futures, invites students to explore the social, historical and cultural dimensions of water, guided by scholars whose own work considers the place of water in literature, history, the creative imagination and our contemporary moment. The program begins with weekly seminars that include scholar-led discussions around the theme from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Students receive individual support from their research mentors and the University libraries as they begin to shape their own research. When the College Summer Institute reconvenes in September, the students and their research mentors spend time further developing their research, writing and creative inquiry projects in a collaborative environment.

At the end of the program, during O-Week, students present their research to the University community in a closing symposium, in which they have the chance to showcase their research project to a wider audience and answer questions about their work.

Meet the 2020 College Summer Institute Faculty Mentors

Sabina Shaikh is director of the Program on the Global Environment and a senior lecturer in Environmental Studies and Urban Studies in the College; faculty in the Committee on Geographical Sciences in the Social Sciences Division; and faculty director of the Chicago Studies Program. Shaikh’s area of study focuses on the economics of both environmental policy and natural resource management, and how sustainability plays into the two. Currently, Shaikh leads a team researching water sustainability in the Mekong Basin of Cambodia.

Nora Titone is a resident dramaturg at the Court Theatre located on campus and a lecturer in the English, History and TAPS departments in the College. She is the author of a historical nonfiction book: My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry of Edwin and John Wilkes Booth. She further works as a historical researcher for various academics, playwrights and writers. As a historian, Titone specializes in understanding the progression of history and how events build on one another. 

Stephanie Solieu is an assistant professor of practice and arts in the Creative Writing Program. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Chicago and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop–as such she brings a creative literary perspective to her research. Born in Louisiana, Soileu evokes her cultural lineage to write about the politics in the state affected by global environmental change and decay due to the prevalent oil industry. Later this year, her most recent collection of short stories will be published, titled: Last One Shut Out the Lights.

Victoria Saramago is an assistant professor of Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Studies. In her research, she focuses on 20th and 21st centuries in Latin-American literature. This year, her book, Fictional Environments: Mimesis, Deforestation, and Development in Latin America will be published. The novel investigates the link between real environments and their fictional counterparts in terms of environmental concerns and policies.

Read more about the faculty mentors


Applications to the 2020 program are due Feb. 3, 2020. For more information and to apply to the program, visit:

The College Summer Institute in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is a collaborative initiative supported by the Humanities and Social Sciences Collegiate Divisions, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and the College Center for Research and Fellowships.