About the Curriculum
Frequently Asked Questions about Urban Planning

What is the program's emphasis?
What sets the MUP program at UWM apart from other programs?
What skills do students learn in the program?
What specialization areas are available in the curriculum?
What joint degree programs are available allowing the awarding of two graduate degrees simultaneously?
What are the advantages of studying urban planning at UWM?
Return to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the program's emphasis?

The emphasis of the Master of Urban Planning degree program at UWM is two-fold. On the one hand, the program emphasizes the problem-solving skills so critical to planning in any area of specialization and any planning context. Students learn a process of analyzing problems, designing alternative solutions, evaluating alternatives and their consequences, making formal recommendations, and formulating strategies for their implementation. The intent of this focus is to give students the skills they need to place policy issues in a planning perspective so that today's solutions do not become tomorrow's problems.

This policy planning process is used in a wide range of governmental and business organizations' in fact, professionals in other fields (political science and business in particular) learn the same process and skills that planners learn. For this reason, graduates of our program are prepared to work in many different settings.

The second emphasis of our program is our focus on local government policy making. Because of our geographic location, students also learn a great deal about the problems and opportunities that arise in medium to large metropolitan areas with slow to moderate growth in population and jobs. Because we use communities in the Milwaukee metro area as a learning laboratory, students learn much about the problems of these sorts of communities (and others like them throughout the United States). Students seeking to work in rural, small city, or international contexts will find the emphasis on the policy planning process to be equally applicable to their work.

What sets the MUP program at UWM apart from other programs?

In addition to the policy analysis approach and the focus on local government decision-making, described above, the MUP program at UWM is distinguished by a number of specialized programs. In particular, the program offers outstanding preparation for students interested in urban Geographic Information Systems, urban redevelopment, and transportation planning. In addition, the joint degree programs with Architecture, Civil Engineering, and Public Administration offer students the opportunity to earn two masters degrees in only three years.

What skills do students learn in the program?

The core courses focus on:

  • building students' understanding of urban dynamics (or the way cities grow and how cities work),
  • the role of the professional planner in the process of making plans,
  • the law of planning,
  • planning methods for analyzing information about cities (such as population and employment) and sources of information to use in such analyses,
  • the political processes that are involved in making planning decisions, and
  • practicum courses that allow students to practice the problem-solving and communication skills that are at the center of planning practice.

Elective courses allow students to build expertise in one or more substantive areas of planning.

What specialization areas are available in the curriculum?


Obtaining a specialization in planning is not required and, in fact, many students choose not to concentrate their electives in any one specialization, focusing instead on building their breadth of knowledge to better analyze the linkages between different facets of city development. Nonetheless, a number of specializations are available for those students seeking to obtain more in-depth knowledge about specific planning problems and contexts.

Urban Revitalization focuses primarily on housing and commercial redevelopment in older urban areas.

Economic Development focuses on strategies for increasing employment and creating wealth.

Urban Geographic Information Systems provides students with an understanding of geographic information available in cities and the ability to apply computerized geographic information systems to provide information useful to planners and policy-makers.

Transportation concerns the analysis of transportation demand and supply in order to plan for future transportation facilities. A special focus within the specialization is concerns the interaction between transportation and land use, that is, how land use decisions affect transportation demand and how transportation facilities and policies affect land use.

Physical Planning and Urban Design includes course work on land use planning, land use regulation, provision of infrastructure to serve development, and the physical and visual design of communities.

Environmental Resources focuses on the impact of urban development on the natural environment and the constraints that the natural environment places on urban development.

In addition to these specialization areas, the program offers a certificate in Urban Geographic Information Systems and a certificate in Real Estate Development.

What joint degree programs are available allowing the awarding of two graduate degrees simultaneously?

Three joint degree programs are available with (1) Architecture, (2) Civil Engineering (transportation), and (3) Public Administration. In each of the joint degree programs, an individual with appropriate undergraduate preparation may earn two masters degrees in just three years of full-time study. For more information on the joint degree programs offered in conjunction with the master of urban planning, see http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/Grad_Sch/Publications/Bulletin/urban_planning.html#march2

What are the advantages of studying urban planning at UWM?

Outstanding faculty, lots of opportunities for one-on-one interaction with faculty, active civic involvement in local issues through class projects, 100 percent placement of graduates, and a great location in a livable city are just some of the advantages of studying urban planning at UWM.

Our faculty is talented, engaged in research that relates directly to planning practice, and highly accessible to students. Our faculty is focused entirely on their work as planners. Faculty are either full-time members of the Department of Urban Planning focused on the education and mentoring of masters students in planning, without responsibilities in other degree programs, or practicing planners who teach in our program for the love of passing along to young planners their skill and wisdom. Our faculty also represents a rich diversity in terms of ethnic background, gender, educational and professional experience, and current research and teaching interests.

Our faculty is recognized nationally and internationally for their scholarly work on planning problems and methods. Our faculty is actively engaged with planning professionals through their teaching, research, and community service.

Our faculty challenges and inspires students to give their best efforts. Because students learn by doing, when students are motivated to give their best, they learn the best.

Our program is another reason to study urban planning at UWM. In addition to traditional classroom learning, students learn by working on real projects for real clients in the community. This action-based learning allows students to practice planning skills under the supervision of a faculty coach. A strong core of required courses assures that students learn the knowledge and problem-solving skills that distinguish a masters-degree trained planner from one who has learned only more technical skills.

Our location offers yet another advantage. The Milwaukee metro area is a learning laboratory for planning students. Milwaukee is one of the 20 largest cities in the U.S., offering the wide range of planning contexts and problems. Being located in a metro area of this size also affords students an abundance and variety of internships. Milwaukee's location near Chicago�along with faculty who are familiar with the Chicago planning scene's yet another advantage.

The programs's location in a major research university means that our library, educational technology and computing facilities, and elective offerings outside the program are rich and diverse. The student body of UWM is one of the most diverse in the UW System.

Our program strongly encourages students to attend the National Planning Conference hosted by the American Planning Association each year. And we put our money behind that support, providing financial assistance to students to attend the conference. In recent years, the conference has been held in Boston, Seattle, New York, and New Orleans. By attending the conference, students learn about the host city, interact with professional planners from around the country, and have one of the memorable weeks of their graduate education!