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. The semester kicks off with our Night at the Brooklyn Museum, and concludes with students joining the sophomore from the Science Forward seminar in our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Festival.

The People of New York focuses on the diversity that makes the city such an amazing place. During Seminar 2, Macaulay Scholars investigate the patterns, past and present, of the neighborhoods that are so critical  in shaping New York City’s identity. 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 public-facing projects, presenting students’ research through audio, video, photography, maps, interviews and more.  Students hone their field research skills through the SPACE (Society, People, Architecture, Culture and Environment) event.

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 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 in poster form at the STEAM Festival 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, to be presented to other students, faculty, elected officials and subject matter experts at our Futures of New York Conference at the end of the semester.