Top 100 Lessons From CCGPS’s Urban Studies Program

Grad 2013 01

Photo Credit: Matthew Wan


I finally pulled it off.

I am "Erin Thomas, MAUS".

The reality is finally beginning to sink in that I have actually completed a masters program (which in some locales is a pretty big deal, and in others it's more of a "Meh"). It's left me feeling quite sentimental about it all, so (in no particular order) here are my Top 100 Lessons from the past 3 years, & why I love the MAUS Program, and why perhaps it you need to enroll. Some of the reasons are pretty self-explanatory, while others are more inside jokes… (if you want to inside scoop, just shoot me an email!) Either way, enjoy!


Eastern 06

East Falls Campus


1. "Faith. Reason. Justice." — Eastern's motto. The MAUS program helped put feet under my faith (or at least fits me with great shoes to get a move on). Finally found a place where I wasn't forced to choose between biblicism or "social gospel". The two can't be disconnected nor were we forced to choose between them.

2. Local, local, local… learned to create/affect change in my local community.

3. 80% online. Learn from home, kept my job, kept connected with my community.

4. 20% on-the-ground residencies in Philly — long classroom days, but with great profs & terrific bonding time with classmates

5. Did I mention this is in PHILLY???? Philly cheesteaks, Philly Magic Gardens, Philly Love Sign, micro-breweries, & ROO-INS!!! (inside joke)… sheesh, guys, if you see a crumbling stonework, you EXPLORE.

6. Top notch faculty. I had the honour of learning with some the best people in their fields. They had no problem closing the textbooks and dropping us off in the middle of Philly somewhere to learn from the old school crossing guard. They cared about my whole life as well as my academics. Be prepared to collide with true quality in character.

7. I love singing, so when Dr.Boyd would bring out his guitar to start off class I thought it was GREAT! If you don't like singing, you will by the end of first semester, first year. If you still don't, something's wrong with you. End of story.

8. Dr.Corbitt's dead-pan stare. Don't be afraid. Stare back. Also… sarcasm. That is all.

9. Dr.Johnson's extra credit marks… I was a geek, I'll admit. I did them all. But hey! Every little bit helps.

10. Did I mention micro-breweries???? (I'm a cider girl I discovered, and YES… that IS grownup stuff)

11. Apparently the chances of nabbing a shady cabbie are great in Philly… but it's scenic if not pricey.

12. Dr.Oakman's smile will melt away any trouble or stress.

13. Target has giant red balls that are fun to vault over (if you've got the legs for them. I do not.)

14. Chipotle restaurants are perfect places to start bonding with classmates

15. Epicure Cafe… 'nuff said. 

16. Pumpkin brews during fall residency at McGillin's Tavern

17. The Philadelphia Ghost Walk hosted by one tour guide named Josh who, while trying to be creepy, was far too smiley… and talked with a lisp because of his retainer… made for good times.

18. Occupy Philly. Fun times. Free books!

19. Visiting The Simple Way and learning from ordinary folks about intentional living.

20. Attending services at multi-ethnic congregations in the Fall Semesters.

21. Attending student-led services at St.David's campus in the Winter Semester.

22. Working hard to translate American systems into Canadian perspectives that would benefit me… Philly's swell and City Hall was cool but I needed to do some shifting to make it all applicable to me. Harder work, but worth the effort.

23. Hotel security.

24. Stupid human tricks.


Eastern 04

Me & Dr.Campolo during my first residency


25. Never back-talk the great Rev.Dr. Tony Campolo… spent a whole night convinced I was kicked out of grad school forever.

26. Never throw snowballs at your professors. Philly does not know snow like Alberta knows snow. Even if a fellow student urges one to start a snowball fight because it would be a "fun cross-cultural experience", it's never a good idea… so, so sorry, Dr.J.

27. Learning wisdom from Father Michael Doyle

28. Seeing the fruit of places like UrbanPromise & all the programs that blossomed out of a meeting in a church basement.

29. Camden, NJ has particular forms of poverty not experienced in many parts of the US & Canada, but also some of the most beautiful expressions of Christ's kingdom in the world

30. African Dance Nights are not great for Aspies. Lesson learned. :/

31. There comes a point in the thesis process where God & Jesus ain't gonna help us through.

32. I'm a recovering racist… ouch.

33. Intent and impact. Intent and impact. Intent and impact. 

34. Water and light. Water and light. Water and light.

35. When 4 adventursome girls room together, it's nothing to pack up & switch hotel rooms when the humidity in one starts growing things in dark corners. In fact, we can do it under 5 minutes flat. šŸ™‚

36. Hug-a-mugs from Max Brenner's look like urinals. 

37. Applied Research & Evaluation, & Practical Financial Management makes everyone cry. But if I can get through them, so can anyone.

38. Facebook comes in handy during online classes… shhhhhhhh. That's a carefully kept student secret (but if we're honest, I'm willing to be that this is a carefully kept faculty secret too).

39. South Street for pizza.

40. Manayunk Brewery for a great Dark'n'Stormy

41. No, deer do NOT eat people… even if they are urban deer.

42. Wandering along the Schuylkill River around East Falls is beautiful… even more beautiful when you learn how to say it.

43. Cross-cultural living happens in our own backyard. Go into with pride, you'll fall flat on your face (and you'll probably deserve it).

44. 11:59:59pm EST is 9:59:59 MST. Must NEVER forget.

45. Theoretical constructs are important…somehow.

46. No matter how I thought history went down, it always went down differently.

47. Webinar = need for migraine medication

48. No one knows where Alberta is. People thought I was from Alaska.

49. No one knows where Lac La Biche is. People thought I was French.


Eastern 01

Stalking Shane Claiborne


50. I got to meet cool people like Shane Claiborne, realized that he's just folks like me, and he probably should have been more excited to meet this Canadian than the other way around… ;D

51. Lifelong friendships.

52. Hats are a must. 

53. Thrifting is both a dearly beloved sport and art form.

54. Passively-aggressively hinting to Dr.J that I've never tasted her (apparently) supberb cooking, scores Erin a free meal.

55. Valentine's Day with friends (that's when hotel security happened).

56. Canadian Thanksgiving with friends (that was when the Roo-Ins happened).

57. Learning to read a book within 30 minutes saved my life.

58. I have a stack of partially read textbooks.

59. Wild trip to Harlem, NY… NEW YORK!!!!!

60. Eating a reuben sandwich at a famous Harlem deli in NEW YORK.

61. Megabus… love the Megabus.

62. Philly cabbies apparently know how to get to Camden, NJ. Camden cabbies, however, do not know how to return to Philly.

63. Big giant blackboard wall at East Falls to write inspiring quotations on… only to have them erased to make room for others and have my heart broken into little pieces.

64. T.G.I.Friday's on Saturday nights (and any other night of the week).

65. Navigating the hill by the Crowne Plaza hotel, rain, sleet or sun.

66. In the eyes of Philly folk, Lac La Biche is really not an urban centre… shucks!

67. Always chose the art option for my final projects in Dr.Boyd's classes… great way to sneak in art when not an arts student. šŸ˜€

68. Learned to keep my mouth shut when people complained of the cold during Winter Semester. They all know they aren't tough enough to brave REAL cold. Toques and Sorels mean little to Philly folk. Let it be. šŸ˜‰

69. Dinners at Build-A-Bridge made for great laughs.

70. Was told I'd never hear a sermon the same way again. And I never have.

71. LGBTQ friends were welcomed and loved, & hard stories recognized. You might not think this is a big deal, but trust me: it's massive.

72. Some profs pray in class. Others don't. Christ is present however class is conducted… it's all worship. If a prof doesn't pray, we ain't all heathens bound for the pits of hell. But if you get scared that this might be the case, just cross yourself 20x, splash holy water on the person next to you, say the Sinner's Prayer 35x and you'll be fine — liturgical and evangelical. You're covered.

73. Dr.J fights like hell to make sure students have at least SOME funding to make it through the full program.

74. Social situations will always demand a game face… even in MAUS. But it's worth it.


Eastern 05

Infamous bust of Rev.Dr.Tony Campolo


75. The pupil-less eyes on the bust of Rev.Dr.Tony Campolo will follow you wherever you go, even if you shut your eyes tightly and repeat "There's no place like home… there's no place like home…"

76. I started seening patterns, potential and purpose in my home community (even without deliberately thinking about it at times).

77. Some friends need to drop out. That's just the way it is.

78. Having a roommate that showers in the mornng perfectly complemented me… I got the shower in the evening.

79. None of us completed the program alone. We put in our fair share of work, but parents, spouses, kids, bosses, co-workers, church members, community members, mentors, friends and more all helped us to make it to graduation.

80. There was nothing like seeing Dr. J and Dr. O cheering and smiling for us after walking off that podium.

81. When Dr.Boyd speaks… he means it. Believe him.


83. The logical model is beloved.

84. There is always more to the story.

85. Racism is still alive and well, and lives in North America.

86. The church needs change agents from within to create change from within before creating change from without.

87. Computer crashed. School deadlines still applied. Crap.

88. "2 Due Dates" (To-Do Dates)… wrote the actual due date of assignments in my planner, and then again 2 days before it was actually due. If I planned to have it done 2 days before-hand, I had fewer freak outs. That's always nice… 

89. All kinds of people need all kinds of love.

90. Poverty isn't always defined by the rich, nor should it be. People we think are "poor" have more to offer this world that given credit for. We have to learn how to listen.

91. Repeat #90.

92. Laugh. It's healthy. (just have to remember to do it in the moment)

93. Paulo Freire is astounding.

94. Change agents are being scattered all across North America and around the world… repeatedly… because of MAUS. World… watch out. Change is a-comin'.

95. Skype is indispensible.

96. Love every moment, even when stressing.

97. Choose to exceed the standard of excellence. Blow it all out of the water.

98. Dr.Boyd, Dr.Corbitt and Dr.Johnson are a triad of relational power, servanthood and love. There is not another team like them in this world.

99. Cry a little. Cry a lot.

100. I'm not who I was 3 years ago. Transformation in effect… and it has only just begun.

Eastern 02

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