National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version


Document Type



In: Place, Self, Community: City as Text™ in the Twenty-First Century, Edited by Bernice Braid and Sara E. Quay. National Collegiate Honors Council, 2021.


© 2021 NCHC.


Educators need to ‘begin again,’ to put aside old assumptions and look at themselves and their world with new eyes. They need to achieve the freedom to redefine civic opportunities and responsibilities. City as Text provides a preparation, format, and philosophy for accomplishing this exciting and formidable task. —Gladys Palma de Schrynemakers, 2014

If, as Gladys Palma de Schrynemakers asserts, City as Text™ (CAT) has the power to “redefine civic opportunities and responsibilities” (99), then the heart of that work lies in CAT pedagogy’s carefully crafted link between site-specific observations and written reflections. Schrynemakers goes on to claim that civic engagement “can be reached if students are encouraged to become active learners and are immersed in an environment where they reflect on their experiences and analyze who they have become as a result of understanding the lives they live” (95). CAT’s sequence of assignments, which are used in honors semesters, winterims, and Faculty Institutes, does just this: sending students into the local environment as explorers, followed by prompted written reflections on those experiences (Braid). The three-assignment sequence includes 1) The Walkabout and Initial Impressions Writing Assignment; 2) The Exploration and Observation Essay Assignment; and 3) The Extended Exploration and Turning Point Essay Assignment. Each pair, along with the sequence as a whole, builds students’ ability to conduct site-specific observations that increase their understanding of the places in which they find themselves as well as, in Schrynemakers’s words, “the lives they live” (95).