Majors & Programs


Interdisciplinary Major & Minor in Urban Studies

Urban Studies is an interdisciplinary examination of the forces that shape cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas.

Faculty members are drawn from across the university, from multiple disciplines, to teach in the program. As an intellectual field, Urban Studies also examines the strategies for dealing with many of the profound social challenges affecting urban metropolitan regions, in America, in particular, but across the globe, in general. Focus is upon the industrialization and deindustrialization that shaped modern cities, and the resulting intended and unintended consequences faced by urban populations. In so doing, Urban Studies investigates the social, political, economic, demographic, and spatial transformation of cities, using American cities as a lens, examining the consequences of urban transformation on urban society and the diverse populations that survive and thrive in such environments. The conceptual and theoretical approach of Urban Studies is fundamentally multidisciplinary, drawing from the work of sociologists, public health, political scientists, economists, historians, social-psychologists, environmentalists, educators, urban planners, among others. While focus is upon contemporary cities, the ways key global cities evolved some 10,000 years ago chronicle the development of human civilization, revealing the best and worst of the human condition.

Why Study Urban Studies?

Because the majority of humankind now live in cities, it is imperative that we are prepared to intellectually address and resolve many of the profound challenges which occur in cities, locally, nationally, and internationally. With the rapid pace of urbanization and globalization across the globe, persons equipped with the intellectual tools to study high density environments, locally, nationally, and internationally and the challenges and opportunities they provide, will be in high demand. Urban Studies provides students with the tools to evaluate urban dynamics critically, consider alternate hypotheses; to gather and analyze data from multiple sources with respect to the multiple ways in which cities plan for the future; and to develop the ability to arrive at empirically derived conclusions as opposed to opinions. Students will be equipped to conduct research on an aspect of urbanism or urbanization, identify key issues to be investigated; develop research strategies to study that issue, and draw meaningful conclusions based on that research. The primary strength of Urban Studies is the fact that it is interdisciplinary, drawing from multiple disciplines and frames of reference. As such, the limitations of one line of inquiry are expanded by the inquiries of rich bodies of theory and research from multiple disciplines.

Urban Studies & Career Options

The interdisciplinary nature of Urban Studies affords students the intellectual latitude to pursue graduate degrees in a wide range of fields, including but not limited to medicine, law, urban planning, public policy, public health, sociology, art and urban design, and government studies, among others.

The Interdisciplinary Major in Urban Studies

The major in Urban Studies requires a minimum of 33 units, at least 21 of which must be above the 300 level. There are five curricular concentrations: neighborhoods and community development, urban education, cities of the world, social policy/public policy, and public health.

Required units include:

  • 3 units: L18, URST 299 — the Study of Cities and Metropolitan America
  • 3 units: Math of Applied Statistics Course
  • 3 units:  L18, URST 298 — Practicum Experience located locally, nationally, or internationally (pre-approved)
  • 3 units/6 units — Senior Capstone is the Senior Thesis or Senior Honors Thesis

Because of the nature of the major and requirements of the nonresidential components, majors are strongly encouraged to declare by their third semester on campus.

The Interdisciplinary Minor in Urban Studies

Students might want to pursue a minor in Urban Studies in addition to other areas of study. The minor in Urban Studies requires 15 units of graded course work, including the three unit L18: URST 299: The Study of Cities and Metropolitan America. The remaining 12 units must be at the 300 level or above, home-based in three different departments or programs, and may not include courses in the student’s major field.

Independent Research Opportunities

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of Urban Studies, there will be varied opportunities for students to engage in research projects with various faculty members from affiliated programs and academic disciplines. Students are encouraged to engage faculty whose interests coincide and advance the intellectual knowledge bases of Urban Studies, and simultaneously facilitate the pursuit of future graduate study in Urban Studies and its related fields of study.

An Honors Program

As an Urban Studies major, you are encouraged to work for Senior Honors, for which you may apply in your junior year (to the program director/advisor). Acceptance into the program is based on your previous academic performance and a proposal to a faculty member who agrees to supervise your Honors research. You must complete highly credible work culminating in an Honors thesis (3-6 units), which is evaluated by a three-member faculty committee appointed by the program director.

Study Abroad

The International Urban Scholars (Study Abroad) Program in Urban Studies is limited to students with a 3.5 grade point average and above, to study at Oxford University, the London School of Economics and Political Science, Fudan University in Shanghai (China), or the University of Cape Town (South Africa). Study at the University of Cape Town is available Fall and Spring and for a full year (a combination of Spring/Fall or Fall/Spring). While the London School option is available for a full academic year only, the Oxford option is available during the Hillary and Trinity terms (January-June), as well as a full-year option which includes the Michaelmas (Fall) term. Fudan University offers study abroad options for both the fall and spring semesters.

Awards and Recognition

The Urban Studies program annually awards up to two certificates of distinction to undergraduates in recognition of outstanding scholarly research achievement for work culminating in the Senior Honors Thesis. The award is named Outstanding Achievement, Senior Honors Thesis in Urban Studies.

Join us. Take the next step.

Visit campus Apply now