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Chair’s Note

The world is urbanizing at an unprecedented rate

and now, for the first time in human history, more people are living in urban settings than in any other environment. In this new Urban Age, every major challenge we face – energy production and consumption, environmental preservation and protection, human health and wellbeing, housing and transportation, social opportunity and equity, and the effects of climate change – is connected in one way or another to cities and their impact on our lives, our communities, and our planet.

In an increasingly complex, diverse, and interconnected world, urban planners and designers are needed more than ever. The Department of Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington is answering this call. Through our faculty, degree programs, multiple research centers, and close connections to our professional community, we are creating the next generation of urban leaders, thinkers, innovators, and practitioners. Our mission is to be at the forefront of positive urban change, shaping not only how we live today but also who we become tomorrow.

The proof of our impact is in our programs and people. At the undergraduate level, the award winning Community, Environment, and Planning (CEP) major, now in its 22nd year, empowers students to develop their own educational paths within the company of an active and strong learning community. Many of our graduates go on to be planners, but others become community organizers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and professionals of all sorts, united by a shared passion to use their skills and energy to change the world for the better.

At the graduate level, students in our fully accredited Master of Urban Planning (MUP) gain the professional knowledge, skills and experience needed to become practicing planners or designers. MUP students become experts in transportation, landuse, environmental planning, hazard mitigation and resiliency, community development, and urban design. Some also receive concurrent degrees with Landscape Architecture, Public Policy, and Public Health; earn a certificate in urban design, historic preservation, or real estate; and experience a global perspective through our faculty-led programs in China, South Korea, India, Latin America, and Europe. Alternatively, in our fully online Master of Infrastructure Planning and Management (MIPM) program, one of the first online planning degrees in the country, students learn how to protect our complex and interconnected infrastructure systems from natural and human-caused disasters, gaining the in-depth knowledge and experience necessary to make infrastructure systems more resilient and secure. The program’s online format means that it can reach a global population, and is perfect for working professionals or others who want to attend the University of Washington from a distance.

The Department is also preparing the next generation of urban scholars and teachers. The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Urban Design and Planning, one of the first planning Ph.D.s in the country, brings together an interdisciplinary faculty from across the UW campus. Students work side by side with the top researchers and scholars in their field, and go on to become successful faculty at the world’s leading universities. Together, our faculty and students are making advances in urban ecology, transportation, human health and wellness, climate change adaptation, social and cultural behavior, and a host of other issues directly related to urban environments locally and globally.

Of course, it should be no surprise that the Department of Urban Design and Planning is one of the top planning programs in the country. Our reputation is based on the work of our outstanding faculty and students. But we also benefit from being part of the College of Built Environments and the University of Washington, a top ten public university and, according to Reuters, the most innovative public university in the world. We are also in Seattle, a city of neighborhoods and micro-brews, entrepreneurs and innovators, standing at the gateway to the Pacific with urban connections that circle the globe. Seattle is not only one of the most beautiful cities in America, it is arguably one of the most progressive planning cities in America. As a community and as a Department of researchers, scholars, teachers, students, and practitioners, we understand the urgency of planning, as well as its powerful potential to improve human lives, safeguard our natural environment, and create more just, more sustainable, and more livable cities for all.