Welcome to Urban Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Urban Studies is an interdisciplinary program in the College of Arts & Sciences. It draws on faculty and resources across the university and the city to offer students a multi-faceted approach to the study of urban trends. Urban Studies was founded in 1970 in response to demand by students interested in engaging the important urban and social issues of the time. The program continues to be driven by a commitment to the connection of theory and practice in its curriculum and pedagogy.
Urban Studies is a flexible and intimate program. You can shape your program through courses that reflect your particular interests and that cover the range of topics in the field - the history of cities, theory and global concerns, the built environment, urban economics, and urban politics and policy. Because Urban Studies is an interdisciplinary field, you choose a disciplinary specialization that serves as an academic anchor for your learning. You will also get some training in carrying out urban research through a research project and writing a senior seminar paper. You will take a course on research methods to prepare you for the senior seminar. Urban Studies is the only major on campus that requires completion of an internship for academic credit. The internship is where the program's commitment to connecting theory and practice is most clearly represented. The internship is accompanied by a weekly seminar designed to help you structure your learning in the internship and to explore relevant theory.
You may have known that you were interested in Urban Studies before you came to Penn or you may have discovered the field after coming to campus. In either case, you may need more of a sense of what it is about and a clear way to explain the major to others.
What is Urban Studies?
Urban Studies is a difficult "subject" to define - so if you are looking for a simple, static definition, this isn't the major for you. However, Urban Studies scholars share some common interests and approaches to problem-solving.
Urban Studies students have an interest in improving modern life through understanding and applying knowledge of the physical, social, and economic conditions of cities and of cities' relationship to their regions and beyond. In a broad, theoretical sense, the central intellectual frame of Urban Studies is about understanding people and place at different spatial scales. Individuals, groups, and public officials make decisions and policy that affect how people and resources are distributed in space and that defines what kinds of places result. Often, then, students of Urban Studies are able to show how critical decisions can explain the conditions of urban places and advocate for making different decisions that might result in more equity and better quality of life for people living in particular places.
Who are Urban Studies students?
Urban Studies students at Penn also share some common values that also can be described in spatial terms. They value connections in three senses, described below: