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Sustainable Urban Planning Master of Professional Studies


As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, societies face new and complex challenges arising from intense economic pressure, increased inequality, and environmental degradation. Beyond a traditional role of guiding land use and development projects, contemporary urban planners are responsible for promoting more competitive, inclusive, and ecological cities. Moreover, they are increasingly responsible for addressing the dominant challenge of the 21st Century: anthropogenic climate change.

In our master’s degree in Sustainable Urban Planning, you will study cities through the lens of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. The program’s world-class faculty delivers state of the art courses, personalized mentoring, and firsthand insight on projects they have conducted in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. By working with them and your peers – inside of the classroom, and out – you’ll learn how to leverage knowledge of cities into forward-looking policy and action for advancing the goals of societies across the globe.


Sustainable urban planning


Sustainable urban planning






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Program at a Glance

two years

The 48-credit program can be completed in two years.

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We offer a cross-disciplinary curriculum in urban planning with an emphasis on sustainability and combating climate change.




Where You'll Study

Where you'll study


graduate education center in Arlington, VA

You’ll take your classes on weekday evenings at the Graduate Education Center in Arlington, Virginia.


What You'll Study

New York City skyline



Our 48 credit master’s program consists of a core curriculum of ten courses and a capstone, plus your choice of five electives. In the program, you will study cities through the lens of economic, social, and environmental sustainability – thereby gaining a skill set for promoting more competitive, inclusive, and ecological cities. The program has a unique focus on anthropogenic climate change, which is addressed throughout the entire curriculum.

If you are interested in a graduate certificate in a related field, our Climate Change Management and Policy, Sustainable Landscapes or Sustainable Urban Planning certificate programs.



PSUS 6201: Principles of Sustainable Urban and Regional Planning is an introductory planning history and theory course that examines the “triple bottom line” of economic, environmental, and social sustainability. It is a reading- and discussion-intensive seminar wherein students actively debate the concept of sustainability with the goal of forming their own ideas about its meaning and implications. Instructor: Andrew Bernish, AICP.

PSUS 6202: Urban and Environmental Economics is concerned with the application of neoclassical economics to problems faced by practitioners of the field of sustainable urban and regional planning. It develops a set of analytical methods for understanding urban and environmental challenges and their solutions; urban growth; environmental quality; public policy; and more. Instructor: John Carruthers, Ph.D.

PSUS 6203: Research Methods: Geospatial and Econometric Analysis is focused on developing proficiency in geographic information systems (GIS) and econometric analysis, a method of statistical analysis for measuring the relationships at work in socioeconomic phenomena. The course teaches how to build an analyze spatial datasets, specifically using ArcGIS and Stata. Instructor: Mesbah Motamed, Ph.D.

PSUS 6212: Sustainable Communities I: Housing and Design addresses community development with special attention given to the policy arena and the various sectors of interest that impact contemporary urbanization. Along the way, a number of special topics - including water supply, food deserts, public health, urban resilience, and more - are introduced. Instructor: John Thomas, Ph.D.

PSUS 6230: Studio in Sustainable Urban Planning is an applied course, trained on the nexus of urban design and neighborhood health impact assessment. It addresses both new and existing urban environments and is grounded in pragmatic approaches to real-world problem solving. Instructor: Sandra Whitehead, Ph.D.


PSUS 6204: Legal Frameworks: Public Health, Safety, and Welfare addresses the legal environment in which planners operate. The course gives detailed attention to the implementation of innovative design techniques, urban adaptation strategies, and public-private partnerships. Instructor: Sandra Whitehead, Ph.D.

PSUS 6210: Transportation Planning in City Systems is about transportation planning with long-run goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in mind. It delineates the role of planning - at local and regional scales - within the broader frame of transportation engineering and provides a basis for engaging in this increasingly complex and interdisciplinary dimension of urbanization. Instructor: John Thomas, Ph.D.

PSUS 6211: Regional Development and Agricultural Economics explores the economics of land use patterns and land development processes in the United States and elsewhere in the world. It also provides an introduction to the field of agricultural economics and examines food deserts and other food-related problems relevant to the field of sustainable urban planning. Instructor: Mesbah Motamed, Ph.D.

PSUS 6220: Planning Resilient and Low-Carbon Cities is a course with an international perspective on urban planning for - and in - a warmer future, brought about by climate change induced by greenhouse gas emissions. It is taught with reference to the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and considers how urbanization around the world must adapt to the reality of global warming and its consequences. Instructor: Anthony Bigio.

PSUS 6221: The Scientific Basis of Climate Change introduces the science that underlies climate change policy and decision making. It is a course designed for non-scientists that provides a rigorous treatment of earth systems, climate change projections, the need for mitigation, and impact assessment. Instructor: Rachael Jonassen, Ph.D.


PSUS 6233: Capstone.  The Capstone forms a final project completed by each student taking the MPS in Sustainable Urban Planning. It is individualized in nature and is intended to demonstrate a rounded mastery of knowledge and skills gained in the program. The capstone is conducted under the supervision of a selected faculty mentor.




PSUS 6213: Advanced Research Methods: Individual Mentoring

PSUS 6214: Food and Cities

PSUS 6215: Urban Health Impact Assessment

PSUS 6216: Megacities

PSUS 6218: Real Estate Economics: Urban Growth and Affordability

PSUS 6222: Sustainable Building, Energy Demand, Efficiency, and Supply

PSUS 6223: Sustainable Communities II: Tools for Assessment and Transformation

PSUS 6224: Sustainable Energy for Cities and the Environment

PSUS 6225: Climate Change Economics

PSUS 6231: Practicum

PSUS 6235: Advanced Topics

PSUS 6236: International Studio

Andrew Bernish (M.C.P., University of Maryland, AICP) is Planner for the Maryland State Department of Transportation. Prior to joining MDOT, Andrew worked as an Associate Planner at Ayers Saint Gross In Baltimore and, before that, in the Program Analysis Division of the Maryland State Department of Planning, where he was part of an executive response team that reported to Maryland’s Secretary of Planning. Andrew teaches PSUS 6201, Principles of Sustainable Urban and Regional Planning; [email protected]

Anthony G. Bigio (M.Sc., University of Rome) is an Urban Advisor with over thirty years of experience of urban development projects across the world. Tony has visited Antarctica and, prior to joining the George Washington University, he served for 20 years at the World Bank Group, where he worked on projects in more than 25 nations. He is a Lead Author on 5th Assessment Report (2014) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with a focus on urban planning and policies for low-carbon cities - including urban density and form, urban metabolism, governance, institutions, and finance. Tony teaches PSUS 6220, Planning Resilient and Low-carbon Cities.
Email:  [email protected]

John I. Carruthers (Ph.D., University of Washington) is the Director of the Sustainable Urban Planning Program. Prior to joining the George Washington University, John served as an Economist in the Economic Development and Public Finance Division of the Office of Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; he has previously held faculty positions at the University of Maryland, the University of Washington, and the University of Arizona. John teaches PSUS 6202, Urban and Environmental Economics and PSUS 6225 Climate Change Economics. Email: [email protected]

Rachael Jonassen (Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University) is an Independent Expert in climate, energy, and water issues - and has served government and corporate clients on multiple strategic challenges in these fields for more than two decades. She has completed assignments in 20 countries around the globe and supports several NGOs by helping to develop policies related to climate change-related issues. Her many professional accomplishments have been recognized through her election as a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. Rachael teaches PSUS 6221, The Scientific Basis of Climate Change.
Email: [email protected]

Mesbah Motamed (Ph.D., Purdue University) is a Research Economist in the Agricultural Policy and Models Branch of the Market and Trade Economics Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. Prior to joining the USDA, Mesbah served on a USAID-funded agricultural development project in Peru - assisting local farmers orient their production to export markets - and as a Trade Analyst at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Mesbah teaches PSUS 6203, Research Methods, and PSUS 6211, Regional Development and Agricultural Economics.
Email: [email protected]

Scott Sklar (M.A., Antioch University) is President of The Stella Group, a strategic policy and clean technology optimization firm that he founded in 1995. The Stella Group globally facilitates clean distributed energy by promoting advanced batteries and controls, energy efficiency and storage, geo-exchange, heat engines, mini-generation, micro-hydropower, modular biomass, photovoltaics, small wind, solar thermal, and other technology. Prior to The Stella Group, Scott served (contemporaneously) for 15 years as Executive Director of the Solar Energy Industries Association and Executive Director of the National BioEnergy Industries Association. He is presently Chair of the Sustainable Energy Coalition, plus Chair of the U.S. Department of Commerce Advisory Committee on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. Scott teaches PSUS 6224, Sustainable Energy for Cities and the Environment; Email: [email protected]

John Thomas, Ph.D. (Ph.D., UC Berkeley) is the Director of the Community Assistance and Research Division in the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities - where he works to advance smart growth strategies in communities throughout the country. Prior to joining the EPA, John taught in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University. John teaches PSUS 6210, Transportation Planning in City Systems, and PSUS 6212, Sustainable Communities I: Housing and Design. Email: [email protected]

Sandra Whitehead, Ph.D. (Ph.D., Florida State University) is the Director of the Healthy Community Design Program at the National Association of County and City Health Officials. Prior to joining NACCO, Sandra served as the Director of Healthy Community Design for the Florida State Department of Health. Sandra teaches PSUS 6204, Land Use Law and PSUS 6230, Studio in Sustainable Urban Planning.
Email: [email protected]



Admissions Information 

To apply to this program you must have:

  • A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education
  • A GPA of 3.0 or higher

You can apply for admission for both the fall and spring semesters.



Fully completed applications submitted on or before the priority deadline will receive an application fee waiver. An application file is considered “complete” when academic transcripts, recommendations, test scores (if applicable), employment verification (if applicable), and the completed online application (including resume and statement of purpose) are received. Applications received after the priority deadline will continue to be processed, space permitting.


illustration of a leaf Fall Priority Deadline: March 1



illustration of a leaf Fall Final Deadline: May 1



illustration of a flower Spring Priority Deadline: August 1



illustration of a flower Spring Final Deadline: October 1



GW tuition and fees are comparable to the national average for private universities. These costs are set by the GW Board of Trustees and generally increase year to year, variable by program and location. Please use this information as an estimate based on current tuition rates and fee structures. Total tuition and fees will vary according to the courses taken and the timeframe in which you complete your coursework.

Financial Aid Opportunities



Master's Degree

48 credits

(Summer 2018-Spring 2019 Terms):


(48 credits @ $1,710/credit hour) 

Dean’s Merit Scholarship

Qualified applicants will be recommended for a Dean’s Merit Scholarship.  This scholarship will be in the form of tuition remission of approximately 25%. 

Registration fees: $175 
(5 registration sessions @ $35 each -
assuming 5 semesters with
at least 9 credits/semester)
Tuition + fees

Other Costs to Consider:

Application fee: $80
Matriculation fee: (one time) $200
Books: Approximately $100-$150/course


Student Achievement
Percent of students answering agree or strongly agree)
My classmates are diverse 97%
My classmates appear competent to meet the educational requirements of the coursework 97%
The program has met my expectations 93%
The program is preparing me to be a practicing planner 94%
Graduates work across a wide array of public, private, and nongovernmental agencies, including: the Urban Land Institute;
the World Bank Group; the Washington, DC Department of Environment; the SW Washington, DC Business Improvement
District; the China Fortune Land Development Company; the City of San Diego; the Woodrow Wilson Center; FHI 360; the
U.S. State Department; BCycle, Madison, WI; and more.
Student Retention Rate Percent
Percentage of students who began studies in fall 2016 and continued into fall 2017 90%
Student Graduation Rate Percent
Percentage of students graduating within 4 years, entering class of 2013* 28%
Percentage of students graduating within 4 years, entering class of 2014 82%
Percentage of students graduating within 4 years, entering class of 2015 [Including May, 2018] 80%
* NB: a significant percentage of students entering this year were coded as entering the MPS program when,
in fact, they had entered the certificate program; the 28% includes all students as originally coded by GW’s
Office of Institutional Research.
Number of Degrees Awarded Number
Number of degrees awarded for the 2014 - 2015 Academic Year 14
Number of degrees awarded for the 2015 - 2016 Academic Year 12
Number of degrees awarded for the 2016 - 2017 Academic Year10 10
Number of degrees awarded for the 2017 - 2018 Academic Year
* Expected, based on applications for graduation.
AICP Certification Percent
Percentage of master’s graduates taking the AICP exam within 5 years who pass, graduating class of 2012 0%
Percentage of bachelor’s graduates taking the AICP exam within 7 years who pass, graduating class of 2010 0%
Employment Percent
Percentage of full-time graduates obtaining professional planning, planning-related or other positions within 12 months of graduation, graduating class of 2016 100%

Download Measures of Student Success (.pdf)

The Planning Accreditation Board requires this information be posted for the Master of Professional Studies in Sustainable Urban Planning at the George Washington University. 








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Information Sessions

We periodically offer online and in-person information sessions about the Sustainable Urban Planning Graduate Certificate. Contact the program representative to learn more about upcoming events.