What is Urban?

What is Urban??

In its purest form, the term urban refers to density of human settlement and proximity (i.e., 2,500 or more people in a specified area). 

However, over the years this term has assumed a variety of connotations and has been used to describe people, lifestyle, attitudes, and behaviors.  Interestingly, the meaning of the term has shifted.  It is now seen pejoratively synonymous with terms such as inner-city, over-populated, economically challenged, and ghetto.  Support for this hypothesis has been documented in research.

What once was a term meant to describe a type of human settlement is now being used to describe the quality of a human settlement.  The conscious and unconscious internalization of these connotations greatly influence our perceptions of these children, our interpretations of their behavior, and our expectations for their successful growth and development.  Furthermore, it can significantly affect the manner in which we practice in a variety of professional disciplines.  It is important that the Center not embrace this negative trend but rather adopt the demographic paradigm and subsequently examine the growth and development of the child in the context of this type of environment. 


The Center seeks to address the urban child developmental barriers by adopting a multidisciplinary approach that holistically emphasizes resilient urban child growth, impactful governing policies, and systemic beliefs about the urban community and the children who reside in it. 

By virtue of its urban location, historical mission and identity, Virginia Union University recognizes the needs of its surrounding community and is a place of choice for the establishment of a Center dedicated to the study and education of the urban child. Furthermore, by its very identity and historical mission,

The Center’s mission is to translate research into actionable knowledge by adopting a multidisciplinary academic approach, conducting and disseminating scholarly research, articulating best practices, and lobbying community input as it relates to the developing child living in the urban environment.

Directed by the mission, the general goals of Center include:

  • Promoting systematic psycho-socio-cultural study of and research on the urban child

  • Bridging research, education, social justice/human action and policy making for successful programs relevant to the developing urban child

  • Infusing urban child-centered policy, best-practices, research into academic instruction, specifically in the disciplines of teacher education, psychology, social work, urban studies/political science, and criminal justice

  • Affecting public policy and social justice as it relates to potential impact on the urban child

  • Petitioning community response, advancing community awareness and involvement with the urban child

  • Empowering community members, families, practitioners, and policy-makers to advocate, promote, and support the health, achievement, and successful development of the urban child

  • Sponsoring pertinent programs and speakers

  • Arresting teacher attrition rates in hard-to-staff schools via a revamped urban teacher preparation program with a resulting increase in urban talent and city student achievement