Urban Planning - Topical Areas

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Have you ever wanted to make your community a better place? Have you ever visited a vibrant community and wondered how you could reshape your own city or neighborhood to have better public transportation, access to healthy food, or a thriving local economy? These are just some of the issues urban planners tackle. Urban planners help people envision better communities and realize those futures.The MUEP program’s mission is to serve the planning profession and the public good by advancing knowledge and preparing students to assume leadership roles to foster inclusive, equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities, cities, and regions. Our interdisciplinary faculty– scholars in environmental planning, housing and community development, smart cities, urban spatial structure, and transportation planning– help prepare masters and doctoral degree students to address increasingly complex societal changes.MUEP courses focus on five interest areas that we call ‘topical areas.’ They are detailed here.

City Building and Urban Structure

City building and urban structure focuses on how cities are built in the context of metropolitan spatial structure and land use. Students are introduced to public and private actors that influence urban development, as well as the varying roles that planners play across nations and cities. Courses discuss different theories that explain city and regional structure, land use, and development performance. Furthermore, students explore the drivers of urban structure, such as regional economic forces, consumer preferences, and topography. Students become familiar with the metrics that describe urban structure, as well as policies, programs, and instruments to shape cities, such as land use regulations, project feasibility, evaluation, and impact assessment, economic incentives, and infrastructure planning and investment. City building is surveyed through comparative analyses of North American cities and global city regions. Faculty: David King, Douglas Webster, Deborah Salon

Environmental and Resiliency Planning

Environmental and resiliency planning teaches students how to engage in sustainability practices in cities. Resiliency planning is a process to reduce the stress on human–environmental systems so they can bounce back after disasters and strengthen systems so future impacts are less and manageable. Courses in this topical area examine how planning can respond to problems in the local and regional environment, such as air pollution, hazardous waste disposal and associated brownfields, and toxics buildup. Students learn how to mitigate and resolve these problems through regulations and other actions and address social justice and equity issues arising from food deserts, urban connectivity, and heat island disparities. This topical area also focuses on larger regional issues of conservation, floodplain management, water resources, ecosystem services, and disaster prevention, remediation, and resiliency. Faculty: David Pijawka, Jason Kelley, Sara Meerow, Deborah Salon, Kelli Larson

Housing, Neighborhoods, and Community Development

Housing, neighborhoods, and community development focuses on the most intimate settings of life—one’s home and neighborhood. Housing is a basic need, a form of self-expression, and a source of wealth. Housing is also a point of access to a broader neighborhood, which has particular jobs, schools, grocery stores, social activities, and parks. Neighborhoods differ widely in their amenities, resources, and conditions, and each of these have tremendous implications on residents’ life outcomes. Housing, neighborhoods, and community development is concerned with understanding current trends and working towards three overarching goals: remedying disparities in conditions; ensuring that diverse groups of people have the ability to live in places where they can thrive; and empowering people to shape planning decisions that affect their communities. Faculty: Deirdre Pfeiffer, Meagan Ehlenz, David Pijawka, Bjoern Hagen, Kevin McHugh

Spatial Analytics and Smart Cities             

Spatial analytics and smart cities teaches students how to leverage geospatial data and technology to visualize, monitor, and manage cities. Skills in Geographic Information Science and geospatial data analytics offer students market-ready tools for turning novel sources of spatial data into informed planning practice and prepare students to address issues such as climate change, population growth and aging, and active transportation. SGSUP offers an interdisciplinary Graduate Geographic Information Science Certificate for graduate students from all disciplines and GIS professionals, which allows for concentrated study of spatial analysis and modeling. Students are also encouraged to get involved with the Spatial Analysis Research Center (SPARC), which focuses on developing and applying novel geospatial approaches. Faculty: Stewart Fotheringham, Soe Myint, Wenwen Li, Daoqin Tong, Trisalyn Nelson

Transportation Planning and Policy

Transportation planning and policy focuses on transportation systems from a multimodal and interdisciplinary perspective. Students gain expertise on issues such as land use, public health, economic development, our environment, and the transition to sustainable transportation. SGSUP offers an interdisciplinary Graduate Transportation Certificate for master’s students or current transportation professionals, which allows for concentrated study of transportation systems. Other opportunities include TransportLab, a working group of faculty and graduate students that meets weekly during the academic year to share ongoing research progress and to discuss major new findings from industry literature, and Teaching Old Models New Tricks (TOMNET), a multi-institution Tier 1 University Transportation Center, which focuses on travel behavior modeling. Faculty: Michael Kuby, Deborah Salon, David King, Jason Kelley, Daoqin Tong, Trisalyn Nelson Photo by Ryan Scherzinger (CC BY-NC 4.0). Copyright 2016 American Planning Association.