Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Urban Design & Planning

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Three Phases of Study

Phase I: The Core Curriculum

The core curriculum defines the intellectual foundation of the program. While the program retains considerable flexibility in defining a research agenda within the broad umbrella of urban and environmental planning and policy, it provides a common foundation for all students to build upon. The following are the core curriculum requirements. Students enter the program with a Masters degree, in fields ranging from planning and public affairs to natural and social sciences. Depending on the academic preparation of the student prior to matriculation, the core requirements can be met within one to two years. Previous coursework could be used as a basis to waive specific course requirements. A course waiver can be obtained, if both the primary advisor of the student and the Steering Committee approve it.

Core Sequence
During Phase I of full-time course work in the program, all URBDP Ph.D. students must complete the required seminar sequence in Advanced Research Design (URBDP 591; 4 credits; Fall of first year), Planning Theory (URBDP 592; 4 credits; Winter of first year), and Interdisciplinary Urban Research (URBDP 593; 5 credits; fall of second year). The purpose of this requirement is to provide a common foundation for students to develop and refine their interdisciplinary research agenda under the broad umbrella of urban and environmental planning and policy.


Phase II: Area of Study

Once a student is admitted to Phase II, they form a Supervisory Committee to oversee their progress through the rest of their academic program. The committee must consist of at least three faculty members in the Interdisciplinary Group representing at least two academic departments; one member must be from the Urban Design and Planning Department. Students requiring a committee of a different composition should submit a request to the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee recommends (but does not require ) that students have at least four faculty members on their committee and that two of these be from the Urban Design and Planning Department. Students will develop with their supervisory committee a description of their proposed areas of study. These will define areas of scholarship that must demonstrate an interdisciplinary research approach to an application within urban and environmental planning and policy. The description should develop a curriculum proposal approved by the supervisory committee that addresses the following advanced study requirements.

Phase II Curriculum Requirements
Students are required to complete five courses that satisfy broad categories of urban theories and urban design & planning. Many approved courses for each requirement draw on courses outside the URBDP program. Based on their own research program and agenda, students may select courses that align closely within one research cluster or may choose courses across research clusters. These requirements provide opportunities to establish relationships with faculty with whom they may wish to work as dissertation advisor or supervisory committee members. In addition, to complete this phase of the program, students must complete two additional advanced research design and methods courses, as well as a teaching methods seminar (see below: currently under consideration).

Phase II requirements involve 7 (total) courses and a teaching seminar, in addition to advanced courses directly related to the area of study selected by the student. Some of these courses may be taken in the first year.


Phase III: The Dissertation

Once the student passes the General Examination, he/she is advanced to the level of doctoral candidate, and is expected to build on the critical review of the literature to develop a dissertation proposal. The dissertation proposal should demonstrate the characteristics of interdisciplinarity, relevance to urban and environmental planning and policy, and potential for contribution to scholarship.

Dissertation Proposal
A dissertation proposal should be formally presented to the Reading Committee at a scheduled defense presentation. The Reading Committee must certify that the student is prepared to undertake the proposed research, and that it meets the program requirements for scholarship.

Dissertation Defense
The final step in the Ph.D. program is the formal presentation and defense of the dissertation. This process follows the normal protocol as set by the Graduate School.


Much greater detail on the phases of study, courses to select from, and advancement between phases can be found on the Phase 1 Courses, Phase 2 Courses and Student Guide pages.