The power of research: 

GCI offers bold solutions for urban problems

to improve the quality of life in our cities & regions

UIC’s Great Cities Institute

is a research hub for scholars, policymakers, and stakeholders who share an interest in finding answers to the question, “What can cities and regions do to make themselves into great places?”

The Great Cities Institute (GCI) represents UIC’s commitment to “engaged research” while contributing to its stature as a Research One University thereby highlighting the value of quality research for addressing today’s urban challenges.

By harnessing the power of engaged research, Great Cities Institute:

    • Advances conversations on key issues
    • Promotes community economic development strategies
    • Produces, with neighborhoods, commercial revitalization and quality of life plans
    • Provides data and technical assistance
    • Facilitates collaboration and public engagement
    • Assists with mentorship, training and capacity building
    • Conducts evaluations and policy and impact analyses
    • Convenes local, national and international scholars

Our Goal: Improve the quality of life of residents living and working in Chicago, its metropolitan region, and cities throughout the world.

Our Strategic Focus:
GCI’s work focuses on employment and economic development, local and regional governance, dynamics of global mobility, energy and the environment, and community well-being. GCI develops strategic partnerships that leverage the intellectual capital of the university with the local knowledge of neighborhood residents, government and non-profit, foundation, business and civic organizations. GCI is home to the UIC Neighborhoods Initiative, a university-community partnership with neighborhoods both adjacent to the UIC campus and in the Chicagoland area.

Hallmark of the Great Cities Commitment

Over its 20-year history, GCI has become a leader in urban research and embodies UIC’s commitment as an Engaged University to serve our local communities.

As a nationally recognized Research I Institution and Chicago’s premier public research university, UIC leadership recognized that the University had a responsibility to provide research, analysis, and support to the metropolitan Chicago community.

Former UIC Chancellor James Stukel convened a 28-member Great Cities Advisory Committee (GCAC) in 1993 seeking compelling ways of implementing his administration’s vision for a Great Cities Initiative at UIC. Among the Committee’s recommendations were the establishment of the Great Cities Institute (GCI) as the University’s flagship interdisciplinary go-to research center and the creation of the new College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA). The Great Cities Institute was created in 1995 as the main expression of the University’s unique strategy to implement the vision of the university as an institution committed to an active engagement with the various constituencies in the Chicago region.

The Result: GCI would serve as the centerpiece of a multifaceted effort to orient UIC’s mission and identity toward engaged research and teaching, particularly on urban topics.

Under the leadership of Chancellor Sylvia Manning in 2000, the Great Cities Initiative became the Great Cities Commitment to signal its permanent status within the University. In the ensuing years, the Great Cities Commitment realized many of the programs envisioned through the creation of GCI, including:

    • Great Cities Faculty Scholars & Faculty Seed Fund: Offering small grants and one-year buy-outs from teaching obligations for faculty members interested in urban research projects, thus giving them the opportunity to focus on their research.
    • UIC Neighborhoods Initiative: Founded within GCI to serve as a campus liaison between research projects at the University and community organizations in the surrounding neighborhoods.
    • Annual Winter Forum: Initiated as an assembly of hundreds of academics, students, professionals, and policymakers for a daylong event on urban issues, as well as professional education courses for practicing planners and policymakers.

University Involvement in the Community: Developing a Partnership Model