Changes arise for urban studies

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North Central’s urban studies programs prepare students to work in urban environments such as downtown Minneapolis.
North Central’s urban studies programs prepare students to work in urban environments such as downtown Minneapolis.

Passionate professors propel students, new faculty hire sparks possibilities

Having seen North Central’s urban program go through numerous changes over the last nine years, professor Brian Pingel has high hopes for the future of the program and is excited about the search for a new faculty member.

In January 2015, professor Chris Brooks, who taught urban development courses, stepped down from his position as professor of youth and community development after being at North Central for a year and a half. This left the program with only two full-time faculty members, Brian Pingel and Jeff Grenell, to cover the approximate 130 students in the youth and urban programs.

“When he (Brooks) left, he left a big void because he was such a great personality and professor,” Pingel said.

Last week, the Center for Youth & Leadership was approved to begin looking for a new faculty member to fill Brook’s position. The program will now begin the search to find an individual who will focus on youth and community development with an emphasis in urban studies.

Pingel feels that the urban program is an essential part of North Central. “Being in the city is a critical part of what makes us unique,” he said. “God has a heart for the city. In Revelation, his creation begins in a garden and ends in a city. We end in a city where God is the center of everything.”

The urban programs strive to show students how to serve under-resourced communities. Pingel says that as an urban major, students “need to understand how complicated city systems are. It’s not a one-size-fits-all.”

Because of the unique attributes of the urban program, most graduates do not struggle finding positions if they’re willing to look.

“We have people working with immigrants, the Salvation Army and other organizations that are active in the urban area,” Pingel said. “The cities keep growing, so we need to continue raising up leaders to serve the people.”

North Central has supported an urban development program for well over 20 years. Being a part of the intercultural studies department for many years, Pingel fought to bring it to the center for youth and leadership (CYL) when he began his teaching tenure at North Central because of his passion for the urban setting.

“Seeing what changes a community is what drives me,” Pingel said. In all he does, he endeavors to communicate his zeal for people to his students, both in the urban and youth classrooms.

Pingel has high hopes for the future of the urban department and is passionate for the students within the program.

“I’ve seen, over the years, that students who take on urban for a major or minor have a really deep passion for under-resourced people,” Pingel said. “They have a unique perspective and bring a really incredible value to the campus.”

Students who go through the urban program are expected to understand community structures, social frameworks, and have a burden for the people of the city.

Pingel sees urban work as a distinctive calling. Though it is not easy to choose a life in urban work, “when you feel missionally this is what you’re supposed to do, you’re willing to say God’s plan for the city is worth it,” Pingel stated.

Despite the transition this year has seen within the urban program, “greater things are ahead,” Pingel said. “I’m so proud of the students who are a part of the program. They add such an incredible value to North Central, and I can’t wait to see the effects each one of them will have in the communities they’re involved with in the future.”