Boston as a Classroom for Teaching and Learning

November 9, 2012

Karla Strobel

Boston, Mass.—November 9, 2012—Today at City Hall, a partnership between local universities and the City of Boston connected scholars, policymakers, and civic leaders to generate new information and ideas through shared data, analysis, and projects. More than 35 faculty members from eight local colleges and universities who teach courses about Boston met with city officials to discuss collaborations that benefit researchers, students, and citizens. The level of participation was unprecedented.

The event, called “Teaching Boston,” was organized by the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI), a new city­–university research partnership led by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Faculty, graduate students, and senior staff from Boston University, Brandeis University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Simmons College, Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts Boston met with city officials to discuss how to collaborate to ensure excellent academic experiences for students and helpful outcomes for the city. Participating schools offer Boston-focused courses in a variety of fields, including architecture, education, public management, political science, public health, sociology, and urban planning.

“Boston is a laboratory for students and academics,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, City of Boston. “The City provides an ideal location for fieldwork on urban life issues. By connecting with area academic institutions, we can take the good ideas being developed in the classroom and put them into good use in the city.”

The Radcliffe Institute, Harvard’s institute for advanced study, sponsors BARI as part of its commitment to creating and sharing transformative ideas across different disciplines and fields of practice. 

“With its long history, Boston offers a unique opportunity to understand the past, present, and future of cities and the challenges they face,” said Radcliffe Institute Dean Lizabeth Cohen, who is a 20th century urban historian at Harvard. “We are very grateful to our partner in this project, the City of Boston, for giving students, faculty, and other researchers remarkable access to data that will improve teaching about urban life as well as the livability of cities for their citizens.”

The “Teaching Boston” workshop featured remarks by Bill Oates, chief information officer, City of Boston, and BARI Director Robert Sampson, a professor of sociology at Harvard and director of social sciences programs at the Radcliffe Institute. Participants were briefed on new tools that might aid their courses, including the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s MyNeighborhood Census Viewer; mapping tools, data, and other resources available from a new BARI website; and information available from MetroBoston DataCommon, an online tool launched by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the Boston Indicators project at the Boston Foundation.

At the event, participants from the city and schools shared a commitment to launching a thriving partnership that shapes university courses, contributes new tools that will be useful for governing and studying Boston, and produces research and analyses that can be used by scholars, officials, and community leaders.

About The Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI)

The Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) seeks to spur original urban research on the cutting edge of social science and public policy. In conducting and interpreting this research, BARI seeks to forge mutually beneficial relationships among the region’s scholars, policymakers, practitioners, and civic leaders. BARI is an interuniversity research partnership supported by Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Rappaport Institute for Greater

Boston, and the City of Boston. For more information, visit


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