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The Masters of Urban Planning and Policy (MUPP)

The MUPP degree program at UIC is the only professional planning program in the Chicago metropolitan area that is fully accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board. With a large and diverse faculty and student body, the MUPP program offers a comprehensive range of courses, including many specialized electives and studios. Yet class sizes are typically small, with multiple section sof required courses offered in both day and evening. Graduates can connect to a large network of alumni, both locally and around the region, country, and world.

Curriculum overview

A minimum of 60 semester hours of graduate credit is required. The program is divided into five components: core courses, specialization courses, electives, internship, and a thesis or project. The overall distribution of credits is as follows:

20 credits (five courses) of core courses
12 credits (three courses) within one specialization
8-20 credits* (two to five courses) of approved electives
4 credits (one course) of approved internship
4-16 credits** (one to four courses) of masters project

*Electives should be discussed with the academic advisor, must be at the 400+ level.
**Masters project can only be four credits; up to 16 credits can be taken for thesis.

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Core Courses

Unless a waiver is granted, the following courses are required:

UPP 500: History and Theory of Urban Planning
UPP 501: Urban Space, Place and Institutions
UPP 502: Planning Skills: Computers, Methods and Communication
UPP 505: Plan Making
UPP 506: Plan Making Studio
Note: UPP 505 and UPP 506 must be taken concurrently.

Check the MUPP Handbook on the Current Students resource page for information on how to request a waiver of a required course.


Five areas of specialization are offered to students of the MUPP program. At least one specialization must be completed, but there is room in the curriculum to pursue two specializations, if desired. In addition to the standard specializations, students have the opportunity to develop a user-defined specialization subject to advisor and department approval. Twelve (12) semester hours are required to complete each specialization, however each has varying course requirements. Specializations are:

Globalization & International Planning
Economic Development
Community Development
Spatial Planning & Design
Urban Transportation
Environmental Planning & Policy

Students wishing to pursue a specialization of their own design should consult with their academic advisor about approval.

An overview, specific learning goals, and requirements for each specialization are listed below.

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Globalization and International Planning

The purpose of this concentration is to make students aware of the importance of planning in different contexts that tie the local and global. Students will develop an understanding of how globalization has changed both cities and planning. Students will be exposed to a contextual framework for exploring planning literature and practice in an international perspective. Students will develop an understanding of the relationship between local conditions and global forces, particularly the importance of globalization in local politics through exploration of how global economic forces rather than local supporters have become dominant in maintaining local regimes. Students will develop an understanding of the forces driving urbanization and the challenges at the periphery of urbanizing areas. Students will explore new challenges and issues, such as environmental impacts and migration.

Goals for the Globalization and International Planning Concentration

To provide students with theoretical and practical knowledge that is necessary to comprehend and contextualize the processes of globalization.

To develop analytical and critical skills to examine the impact of globalizing processes on a specific locale and to access the relevant data and resources.

To familiarize students with approaches and role of concerned stakeholders including worldwide organizations like the World Bank, multinational regional compacts like NAFTA, NGOs, and the national governments.


UPP 520 International Planning I: Globalization and Development Theory
UPP 521 International Planning II: Comparative Policies and Programs
UPP 52_ International Planning Elective or faculty approved course

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Economic Development

The modern city prospers when the local economy produces a diverse assortment of jobs and revenues. But the roller coaster of economic boom and bust often takes a heavy toll on local residents. Plants shut with little warning and the burdens of economic growth fall unevenly across the urban landscape. The field of economic development starts from the assumption that state, market, and third sector institutions can and do intervene to spread the benefits of economic activity, reduce its costs, and counter its uneven distribution.

Goals for the Economic Development Concentration

To rigorously analyze the structure and needs of local and regional economies.

To build on analysis to formulate place-specific economic development plans and policies.

To anticipate and evaluate the prospective impact of alternative economic plans and policies.

To familiarize students with the key issues and actors relevant to the functioning of local and regional economies.


UPP 530 Economic Development I: Analysis
UPP 531 Economic Development II: Planning
UPP 53_ Economic Development Elective or faculty approved course

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Community Development

The Community Development (CD) Concentration seeks to prepare students for work principally in the nonprofit sector but also in institutions and firms dedicated to the wellbeing of communities. The concentration introduces students to rationales informing community action, to the strategies CD applies to its work, to in-depth issues challenging urban communities. Emphasis is placed on social change and fairness/equal opportunity especially for the most challenged and disadvantaged groups in US society.

Goals for the Community Development Concentration

To provide participants with the theoretical and practical knowledge that is necessary to understand, contextualize and act on the challenges communities face.

To develop analytical and critical skills and criteria to examine specific community circumstances and environments and to access the data and resources necessary for strategizing and action.

To familiarize participants with the organizations, actors and major issues communities confront in their daily life and the ways in which they work.


UPP 540 Community Development I: Theory
UPP 541 Community Development II: Practice
UPP 54_ Community Development Elective or faculty approved course.

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Spatial Planning and Design

All human activity has a physical manifestation and takes place within a territorial context that land use planners or urban designers learn to study, analyze and integrate within plans. The Spatial Planning and Urban Design concentration teaches knowledge and skills for professional entry level planning in land use planning or urban design. Students learn to work across a variety of scales from site-level to region using theory, method and practice. Students also learn to understand and include institutional, legal, and environmental relationships as part of plan making and implementation focusing on the pressing demands for just and sustainable urban development.


UPP 550 Spatial Planning & Design: Theoretical Foundations
EITHER UPP 551 Urban Design: Methods
OR UPP 557 Spatial Planning: Methods
AND UPP 556 Spatial Planning & Design: Studio or equivalent studio assigned by department

Note: Requirements described above reflect a curriculum revision in place for students entering Fall 2013 and after. Students entering prior to that time, please consult your advisor or the Director of Graduate Studies for requirements and with any questions.

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Urban Transportation

The urban transportation concentration teaches students how to plan for equitable and efficient transportation systems, emphasizing multi-modal transportation (public transit, bicycle, pedestrian, and transportation of goods) and its connectivity to the physical and built environment, the economy, and society. Emphasis is placed on how to develop successful multi-modal transportation systems. Long-range and operational planning at the national, regional, and local scales are investigated, acknowledging the importance of both information-based, rational planning and participatory planning. Students will learn appropriate use of both planning and technology solutions to satisfy travel needs and address mobility problems. Students prepare for professional practice in public agencies and private transportation companies.

Goals of the Urban Transportation Concentration

To prepare students for professional practice in public agencies and private transportation companies.

To understand the role of transportation of urban areas.

To be able to define transportation problems in terms of accessibility to sites of employment, housing, social services and recreation.

To develop competency in long-range planning, project management, program and project evaluation.

To contextualize major transportation issues in relation to energy, environment, social justice and advanced technology policies.

To familiarize students with transportation funding and financing.

To understand basic concepts of management of urban public transit systems. To understand the design and analysis of the physical, financial, and institutional feasibility of alternative transportation projects using quantitative transportation models, the process of selecting projects for implementation, and system operation management.


UPP 560 Urban Transportation I: Introduction
UPP 561 Urban Transportation II: Policy and Methods
UPP 562 Urban Transportation III: Laboratory

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Environmental Planning and Policy

The Environmental Planning and Policy (EPP) Concentration provides students with an overview of the theory and methods used to guide urban development and redevelopment in a more sustainable manner, so as to conserve natural resources and enhance ecosystem services while providing for economic development and promoting social equity and civic engagement within the planning process. The concentration introduces students to both regulatory and market-based strategies of environmental management, explores economic and systematic quantitative analyses of environmental policy, and offers electives examining discrete topics of environmental practice (such as EIS development, food policy, energy planning, green infrastructure for urban stormwater management, water resources management, etc.).

Goals of the Environmental Planning Specialization

To provide students with an understanding of cities as human-ecological systems.

To trace the evolution of federal environmental protection laws in response to increased urbanization in the United States.
To introduce students to market-based approaches to environmental management, including the use of tradable permit and tax and economic incentives to promote environmental goals.

To train students to use economic and systems methods to evaluate environmental policy.

To enable students to explore specific issues in environmental protection and planning in depth by taking various elective courses or an environmental planning studio and by writing a masters project or thesis on a topic of environmental planning or policy which integrates environmental theory, analysis, and practice.


UPP 570, Environmental Planning
EITHER UPP 571, Environmental Economics
OR UPP 572, Systems Methods for Environmental Policy
UPP 575, Topics in Environmental Policy (or an equivalent advanced elective course addressing a specific environmental issue, offered by UPP or by another academic unit). Either 571 or 572 may also serve as an elective if the methods requirement is satisfied by the other course.

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The Professional Practice Requirement / Internship

The Professional Practice Internship (UPP 590) consists of 300 hours of fieldwork. Students must have completed 12 hours of credit towards their degree and have the internship agreement form approved by Marty Jaffe, Director of Graduate Studies before the internship can begin.

Credit may be taken concurrently with the internship or the semester after the internship, so long as the internship was approved before it began.

Students who come to the program with professional planning experience or are already employed in a public or private agency doing planning may apply to waive the internship requirement. Contact Marty Jaffe, Director of Graduate Studies.

Over the years, students have been actively involved with governments at the city, county, state, and federal levels; with regional planning organizations; with community groups; and with private consulting firms, using their individual and collective skills in actual planning situations. Although most students do their internships in the Chicago region, students may also seek an internship placement in another U.S. location, or occasionally, a foreign country.

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Masters Project / Thesis

The masters project or thesis is the final requirement of the MUPP program. The purpose of this requirement is to give the student experience in the conceptualization of a research or planning problem, the development of a methodology for addressing the problem, and the preparation of a document which carries out the analysis and communicates the results and conclusions reached. The thesis and project differ with respect to content, credit hours, and advising requirements.

A project is usually an exercise in applied research directed toward an actual planning problem. The project may focus on the definition of the problem, the context of the problem, and the analysis of alternative solutions or issues in implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. The primary focus in the project is the substance and the context of the planning application. A project is often developed in the context of a student's professional job experience or internship. When this applies, it should be clear that the student has direct and personal responsibility for any work product submitted as a masters project. Any questions on this point should be discussed with the faculty advisor.

Masters projects carry 4 hours of credit. Students are required to write and secure approval of a masters project proposal prior to registering for masters project hours. The project proposal can be reviewed and approved by any UPP faculty member.

A thesis is a more traditional piece of academic research, which frequently involves the analysis of historical materials and use of secondary sources. An exploration of planning theory or research methods would also be appropriate in a thesis.

Students can earn from 8 to 16 hours of credit for thesis research. Thesis proposals must be reviewed and accepted by a faculty committee constituted according to requirements of the Graduate College.

Students who select the thesis must present their work to a formal thesis examination committee. The thesis committee must include three members of the UIC faculty. The chair of the committee must be a member of the UPP faculty. At least two of the committee members must be permanent members of the UIC Graduate Faculty. Most associate and full professors are members of the UIC Graduate Faculty.

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