Columns, Features, Love Thy Neighborhood

[YOU BETTER] Love Thy Neighborhood

Macalester College is considered a premier small liberal arts institution. We rank among other colleges such as Carleton, Bowdoin, Middlebury, etc. This is not news to the people who go here, but the question of what distinguishes Macalester from comparable institutions remains elusive at times. The most salient difference between Macalester and its comparable institutions is its location in the middle of a major metropolitan area: Minneapolis-St. Paul.

I believe that this, more than anything, gives Macalester a major advantage over other schools. The benefits of an urban location are vast. It’s easy to think of the multitude of restaurants and entertainment options in the Twin Cities. Yet many forget the numerous educational opportunities that we have because of our location.
While many of the courses offered are typical of other institutions, Macalester has the added benefit of offering courses that take full advantage of our urban location. Many courses include a field trip and/or guest speaker(s). Often these field trips occur in and around the Twin Cities. Last semester, for instance, my Geography Metro Analysis class took a field trip through Minneapolis and the suburbs studying housing market trends. My Economics of Poverty class took a tour of North Minneapolis to look at one organization’s work in addressing housing, education and inequality problems. I am sure many of you can think of a field trip you took or guest speaker that came in to your class. Often these guest speakers come from major organizations and companies within the Twin Cities.

These field trips and guest speakers would not be possible if Macalester were located in a small town or rural area. Without our urban location, our community partnerships and courses such as Economics of Poverty, Theatre in the Twin Cities: Making the Musical, and GIS, and others would not be as interesting, let alone exist.
Recently I, along with many of my friends, have noticed a growing culture of negativity toward Minneapolis-St. Paul amongst Macalester students. Consistently I hear, “there’s nothing to do here,” to “college life would be so much better in another city,” to “there are no good restaurants and places to go clubbing,” the list goes on and on.

I, for one, refuse to partake in these feelings and passionately refute them. It is my belief that the people who constantly complain, criticize and shun life in the Twin Cities are those who never have or rarely venture off campus. The reason why I am writing about this is because this column, Love Thy Neighborhood, aims to provide the most up-to-date news and discussion of community, urban and transportation development while simultaneously acting as an apparatus for civic boosterism ­— so-called pride in one’s city and the act of promoting where one lives.

I will be the first to acknowledge that yes there are things that the Twin Cities can do better. Heck, thats what we learn about in the Geography Department – how to make cities better, more equitable, more accessible, etc. But when it comes down to it, life in the Twin Cities is pretty great and offers to us more than most realize. Next week, I plan to detail how our quality of life is substantially higher because of our location, providing quantitative data and a discussion of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s economy and the many job and internship opportunities we are presented. I will also be sure to detail the many entertainment venues available.
Beyond Part II of this article, this column will continue to champion life in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

April 18, 2014

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