Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Urban Design & Planning


Important recent changes in society, higher education, and the field of urban design and planning challenge us to rethink our approach to education, research, and practice. This strategic plan evolved from extended discussions following recommendations by the Graduate School Council to chart a clear course for the Program to become one of the top 3 programs in the field. Towards envisioning the Program's Strategic Plan, of our Ph.D. Program, during the last two years we have refined our vision, mission, core values, identity, intellectual focus, core competencies, and indicators of success.

The current synthesis of our evolving strategic plan is a "blueprint" to guide us over the next 5 years. This year the steering committee has taken the lead in specifying objectives, strategies, and benchmarks for five key goals for the program include:

  1. Reach national prominence (top 3 US Ph.D. planning programs).
  2. Align the curriculum and structure with the program's intellectual focus.
  3. Create and support quality mentorship and advising.
  4. Develop an effective, accountable, and transparent governance structure.
  5. Generate and sustain necessary resources for the long-term viability of the program.

Strategic Plan 2008-2013 (pdf)

A successful Ph.D. program distinguishes itself by its ability to provide a rigorous and engaging academic experience and prepare its students to be leaders in the international community of researchers, practitioners, and educators in the field of study. To achieve this vision of national prominence in the field of Urban Design and Planning, our strategic plan identifies three criteria of success.

1. Students success in the job market and publishing

We define the quality of the program by the student success in the job market and in publishing in peer-reviewed journals. Ph.D. programs face new challenges both within and outside the academic setting. Important societal challenges demand new scientific frameworks and education paradigms. Academia, industry, and governments demand that we prepare new scholars and practitioners. Expanded economic competition, global environmental and health problems, and emerging national-security challenges require new approaches in graduate education. We build on our solid foundations of interdisciplinary research and education to meet the challenges that new emerging social, economic, and environmental trends pose to the field of Urban Design and Planning.

2. Leaders in creating innovation in the Urban Design and Planning field

The quality of a Ph.D. program is also measured by the ability of its students and faculty to move the field forward and lead innovation through cutting edge research and practice. Our program builds on a strong emphasis on interdisciplinarity. Fundamental questions concerning mechanisms governing urban and metropolitan regions require interdisciplinary research aiming at understanding the interactions among the built, human, and natural environments. Emerging urban problems are becoming increasingly complex requiring evidence-based planning and management strategies and a more sophisticated integration of social and natural science. Students need to be trained to communicate complex ideas and issues to diverse populations. Ethical issues are becoming even more prominent. We build on our innovative research in urban form, urban ecology, growth management, land use modeling and the new emerging fields of globalization and public participation to lead innovation in the field of Urban Design and Planning.

3. Agents of change in bridging urban science and practice

Our Ph.D. program in Urban Design and Planning is well positioned to bridge the existing gap between the sciences and practices. Our extensive scholarship in key emerging research areas and engagement in problem solving positions our program at the cutting edge. This positioning gives an interdisciplinary program in urban design and planning a central role in research universities, such as the University of Washington.