Two Elmhurst College urban studies majors will participate in a fair housing course for undergraduates at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago this winter.
The federally funded 14-week course, Fair Housing/Fair Lending, seeks to familiarize college students with laws aimed at eliminating discrimination and inspire them to pursue careers in the field.
Senior Lauren Wulf, who grew up in Beverly and attended Chicago public schools, said that growing up in a diverse community contributed to her interest in urban housing issues. An adult student, Wulf has held positions in municipal government and currently works as an administrator for the Elmhurst Fire Department. She said she is considering law school because she wants to “fight the effects of institutional racism.”
First-year student Natalie Barnes, a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said she became interested in housing issues in high school, when she visited a facility run by the Omaha housing authority that aimed to help the homeless. She spoke to residents, made repairs and helped spruce up the facility. “That sparked my interest in housing,” she said. “I’d like to see how I might bring back this type of program to my hometown—and help find houses for people.”
Both students said their coursework with Professor Constance Mixon, which included case studies of discrimination, whetted their appetite for the subject. “Our students have a strong foundation and understanding of how race and poverty are connected in the Chicago metropolitan area,” said Mixon, associate professor of political science and director of the urban studies program at Elmhurst.
Wulf and Barnes are among 18 students from a variety of colleges who will begin the course at John Marshall in late January. They were selected from a field of more than 50 applicants from the Chicago area. Wulf and Barnes stood out because they had direct experience in the field and promise to be strong contributors to the class, said program manager Tiffany Hughes. The students will receive credit toward their Elmhurst degrees.
The course, in its fifth year, will teach students about the problems created by housing discrimination. It will examine federal, state and local fair housing laws; land use practices; lending practices; and alternative dispute mechanisms. Students will study how cases are investigated and how enforcement is handled. They also will learn about career opportunities. The students are required to make a presentation about fair housing at their college or in their community.