University Honors Program

University Honors Program

Observing the City: Honors Seminar with Study Tour to Brazil

Fall semester 2012 honors seminar with study tour to Rio de Janiero and Curitiba, Brazil.

Class will meet TR, 12:30-2:00pm in fall semester, with travel from December 12-23, 2012.

As our environment becomes more urbanized we seek ways to comprehend our urban centers, as both a means of reaffirming intentions and envisioning alternative futures. This seminar will be focused on exploring methods for observing the city as a framework for projecting innovations toward sustainability in urban life and form.

This is an exciting international travel and interdisciplinary seminar intended to expose students to diverse and interesting urban environments with work in Cincinnati followed by a ten day travel opportunity in Brazil. Students from diverse disciplines and from both design and non-design backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

Today more than half of our world population lives in cities and within another generation that proportion will rise to a full three-quarters. As our society becomes even more urbanized and cities continue to grow, we search for new ways to comprehend what exists and what is happening in our urban centers, as both a means of reaffirming our intentions and envisioning alternative futures. We survey cities today to understand how to make them both liveable and sustainable. An important aspect of the seminar will be understanding and representing how people perceive and use the city and, in particular, how the use of energy and the effects of movement are manifest. Ultimately, this seminar course will be focused on exploring methods for observing the city as a framework for suggesting innovations toward sustainability in urban life and form.

This Seminar is connected to an international research project among universities in the US, France, and Brazil. Accordingly, the work of the seminar will be focused on the survey and comparison of three cities. Cincinnati, Bordeaux, France, and Curitiba, Brazil. Research in precedents and theory of urban observation will form the basis for seminar work. This includes the work of writers, artists, film makers, scientists, philosophers, designers, and others that support an interdisciplinary approach to looking at cities. Students will then conduct observational and research work  in physical, functional, and social infrastructure to better understand how these concepts apply at different scales to the region, city, and district. Analysis will consider relevant large scale systems in function and form,  including energy, movement, the environment, the economy, society and culture, and other issues. Documenting and representing these findings among these diverse cities and showing interrelationships among important factors and systems will be a key outcome of the seminar.

Students will have an opportunity to discuss and present their work with researchers from the foreign universities who will visit Cincinnati for a workshop during the Fall Semester and students will visit Curitiba and other cities in Brazil in the ten days immediately following the semester.

Itinerary (Tentative and Subject to Change)

Travel dates are expected to be December 12-23, 2012.

Day 1: arrive in Rio de Janiero, lodging in the Copacabana Beach area
Day 2: Explore Rio (Boat tour of Biai de Guanabara, Arco do Teles pedestrian district and the Cinelandia civic center)
Day 3: Explore Rio (Pao de Acucar area and the Red Beach)
Day 4: Explore Rio (Morro Dona Marta Favela and the Parque Lage)
Day 5: Travel to Curitiba, lodging in the downtown area
Day 6: Explore Curitiba( Parque Tantua, Parque Tingui, and Unilivre)
Day 7: Explore Curitiba( Downtown Rua XV de Novembro and Praca Santos Andrade)
Day 8: Explore Curitiba( Bus Rapid Transit tour)
Day 9: Trip to the coast (Morretes Antonina)
Day 10: Return to Cincinnati

*This is a sample itinerary, to provide prospective participants with an idea of what you will see and do. It is subject to change, depending on the length of the trip and needs of the group.

*Note that the group will depart during finals week. It is each student's individual responsibility to contact their instructors as early as possible to find out if it will be possible to make alternate arrangements for any final exams or projects that will be missed due to travel.

We will be traveling with a UC graduate student guide who is a native of Curitiba.


Total per student cost is $3600. This will be offset by a $1000 honors grant, making the actual cost $2600.

Costs include airfare, accommodations, admission fees and ground transportation in Brazil.

Costs do not include baggage fees, passport, visa (visa cost is high - $140-165 for visa and consular fees, $50-75 for mailing, and $60 or higher fee if you choose to use a visa agency), most meals, vaccinations, personal supplies, souvenirs, insurance (travel or medical) or ISIC card (international student identity card, $25).

Students are required to purchase an ISIC (International Student Identity Card) from UC International for $22. This is not included in the total expected cost.

Participants can apply for grants from UC International.

Vaccinations and Health Precautions

Contact your physician to discuss what vaccinations and heath precautions are recommended for travel to Brazil. All participants should carefully read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's webpage for Brazil.

The application for this seminar is now closed.

UC undergraduates who are not in the University Honors Program are welcome and encouraged to apply, provided the student has a cumulative university GPA of 3.4 or above. Graduate students are not eligible to enroll. 


Contact the faculty director Frank Russell ( or Debbie Brawn (