In the Fall of 2020 a team of first-year students in the Great Problems Seminar (GPS) took on the longstanding and troubling issue of racial segregation and inequality in a major U.S. city, and devised a proposed solution that was recognized by the Humanities Education and Research Association (HERA) with an award earlier this year.
Ravyn Rapley '24 (civil engineering), Andrew Sosa '24 (computer science), and Bryce Yustick '24 (interactive media and game design) were challenged by Humanities and Arts Associate Professor Bethel Eddy and Interdisciplinary Assistant Teaching Professor Katherine Foo to determine community ways to move the marred racial relationships in St. Louis toward better understanding and more unified efforts to solve mutual problems. The class, Livable Cities, explored the possibilities and liabilities of human life in urban environments.
With long-standing, endemic racial problems, St. Louis, Mo., is racially segregated, separated along Delmar Boulevard. This so-called “Delmar Divide” splits the community along racial lines with 94 percent of those north of the boulevard primarily Black and burdened with a high rate of poverty, lack of public transit, food deserts, and poor healthcare, among other quality of life issues. South of the divide, whites enjoy greater prosperity and access to more services and opportunities.
Students’ Journey Leads Them to the Destination
To fully grasp the problem, team members learned as much as they could about the history of St. Louis, including its economic environment and geography, and communicated with city residents and leaders.
The students discovered that prior solutions were adult-centric and had little effect on the community’s racial issues. Like many solutions to great problems, their recommendation incorporates education and focuses on the community’s youth.