The Graduate Urban Studies Program offers a Certificate in Urban Studies to be taken in conjunction with a Ph.D. offered by the University through one of the disciplines or professional schools. It is aimed at students who want to augment their disciplinary studies to address urban topics or problems from an interdisciplinary perspective. The Program draws on faculty and encourages course-taking from the various departments of the School of Arts and Sciences and other schools of the University. Our students’ interests have focused on many areas of the world and include: housing, employment, economic development, finance, social welfare, poverty, education, community organization, history, ethnicity, culture, family, architecture, urban design, planning, law, and policy.

The Graduate Certificate Program in Urban Studies is co-directed by Elaine Simon, and for many years, the late Michael Katz, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History.


How should the new leaders in urban theory, research, policy, and practice be educated? Urbanism is not the subject of any one discipline or profession. It does not honor the boundaries with which scholars and practitioners have divided their respective worlds. At the same time, the disciplines and professions require mastery of theories and tools essential to reasoned, effective approaches to urban-related issues. This tension between disciplinary and interdisciplinary study complements the tension between theory and practice.

By themselves, neither theory nor practice provide the key to the education of urban leaders. Abstracted from practice, theory lacks grounding in an appreciation of the complicated day-to-day interactions and struggles that constitute experience within a city. At the same time, successful practice requires the ability to step back from daily conflicts, to analyze them within a larger framework, to assess the consequences of action, and to apply sophisticated tools to the solution of problems.

Therefore, an appropriate and effective education in urban studies needs to combine mastery of a discipline or profession with interdisciplinary study and to join theory with practice. This combination of theory with practice underlies the design of the Graduate Certificate Program in Urban Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.


Students in the certificate program will take a spring semester proseminar in Urban Studies (URBS/HIST/SOCI 608), which combines critical readings of urban studies literature from a variety of disciplines with the development of a proposal for independent research on a topic in urban studies. Students will carry out the research following the proseminar through a guided independent study experience and will present their results in a graduate student-faculty colloquium series. 

In addition to the proseminar and independent research, requirements for the certificate include four additional urban-related courses that best meet students’ interests and professional goals chosen in consultation with the Urban Studies advisors. 

Students are expected to contribute and participate in the graduate student-faculty colloquium series.


The Program increases its graduates’ professional options by helping to prepare them for research careers in both academic and policy settings. By providing them with the flexibility to teach within both conventional disciplines and urban-related programs and professional schools, it will enhance their attractiveness in the academic job market. Through its combination of rigorous, disciplinary-based research training with the interdisciplinary analysis of urban issues and the application of ideas to practice, the Program will develop their skills as policy researchers. The Graduate Certificate Program in Urban Studies at the University of Pennsylvania responds to the need for leadership in urban research, policy, and governance.


Students may apply to enter the certificate program before the end of their second year of study. Candidates for admission are evaluated on both their academic record and the appropriateness of their interests to the program. 

Application to the program requires:

1) letter of interest
2) statement of purpose
3) CV
4) any other relevant materials that demonstrate your interest and commitment to urban studies

Inquiries should be addressed to:
Elaine Simon, Co-Director, Urban Studies Program
University of Pennsylvania, 130 McNeil Building
3718 Locust Walk, Philadelphia PA 19104-6209
phone: 215/898-6948


Applications are due the first Friday in November for the Fall semester, and the first Friday in March for the Spring semester.


After you have met all the requirements, and upon acceptance into the program, please complete and submit the Graduate Certificate Program worksheet. This form needs to be filled out at least one semester before your expected graduation date.