Sustainable Urban Planning Master of Professional Studies

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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. 

 

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The Sustainable Urban Planning Master’s Degree is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). This is a high academic standard that recognizes professional planning programs in North America on the basis of performance, integrity, and quality. Successful completion of this program may reduce the time required to become certified through the American Institute of Certified Planners.

 

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Program at a Glance

two years
 

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

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

 

 

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Where You'll Study

graduate education center in Arlington, VA

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

 

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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 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, consider our Sustainable Urban Planning certificate program.

Elective Courses (choose 15 credits, all courses are 3 credits)

Frequency and schedule of elective offerings varies. Please consult with your advisor when planning your schedule.


PSUS 6205: Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion 
Current patterns of urban development, including segregation, concentrated poverty, suburban sprawl, and gentrification. Instructor: Sandra Whitehead, Ph.D.


PSUS 6213: Advanced Research Methods: Individual Mentoring enables students in to work one-on-one, with a faculty mentor of their choice, on a project of joint design. Individual work plans will vary from project-to-project because they are intended to be student-specific. Instructor: SUP Faculty


PSUS 6214: Food and Cities examines agricultural systems, food production, consumption, and trade, and their links to urbanization, city growth, and public health, through lenses of history, technology, economic theory, geography, and public policy. The course explores the roles that food plays in the lives of urban inhabitants, and in shaping the urban landscape, and the role of cities in determining the geography, sustainability, and business of agriculture. Instructor: Mesbah Motamed, Ph.D.


PSUS 6215: Urban Health Impact Assessment focuses on the connection between public health and place, with an eye toward planning history and current theories on the relationship between the built environment and quality of life. It addresses the key health issues in planning and related fields and how to incorporate them into the planning and design processes. Instructor: Sandra Whitehead, Ph.D.


PSUS 6216: Megacities in a Globalized World is concerned with the rise of megacities and their role in an increasingly globalized world. It is an advanced, research-oriented seminar requiring that students identify, analyze, and recommend ways of addressing region-specific vulnerabilities stemming from human ecology. Instructor: SUP Faculty


PSUS 6218: Urban Growth and Affordability addresses real estate economics, with a particular emphasis on land markets and affordable housing. It focuses specifically on the spatial outcome of economic development and the relationship between growth and sustainable urban planning. Instructor: Elizabeth Gearin, Ph.D.


PSUS 6222: Climate Change Economics is concerned with the application of neoclassical economics, primarily microeconomics, to the problem of anthropogenic climate change. Case studies are used to identify vulnerabilities to climate change and/or other stresses - plus prospective solutions - within a particular region. Instructor: SUP Faculty


PSUS 6223: Sustainable Communities II: Tools for Assessment and Transformation builds on PSUS 6212 by further detailing the theory and tools relevant to the assessment and transformation of neighborhood and communities. Emphasis is placed on understanding the context of  planning, including: the fundamental drivers of urban and regional form and the formation of placed-based policy. Instructor: Matthew Dalbey, Ph.D.


PSUS 6224: Sustainable Energy for Cities and the Environment addresses resource management, renewable energy technologies, and vulnerabilities of existing urban structures, particularly the energy grid. It presents the implications of - and solutions to - energy-related problems faced by cities in an era of anthropogenic climate change. Instructor: Scott Sklar


PSUS 6227: Critical Infrastructure for Cities and Regions focuses on the existing risk profile of energy, water, telecom/internet, and other critical infrastructure. It identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that these systems pose for urbanization in the United States and worldwide. Instructor: Scott Sklar


PSUS 6228: Parks and Public Facilities Planning teaches students relevant, applicable skills in urban park planning. The course consists of readings and analysis, guest lectures and case study evaluation with student presentations. In addition, students will produce a park assessment and concept plan for a local park and present findings to invited professionals.  Instructor: Eliza Voigt, AICP


PSUS 6231: Practicum is a vehicle for students to gain internship experience and is used, primarily under three circumstances: (i) when a student wants to receive course credit for an internship, especially if that internship is unpaid; (ii) when the host agency requires that the student be enrolled for course credit; and (iii) in cases where students (especially foreign students) can only work under the auspices of a practicum course. Instructor: SUP Faculty


PSUS 6235: Advanced Topics in Urban Sustainability


PSUS 6236: International Studio in Sustainable Urban Planning
International immersion designed to promote an international exchange of research and scholarship on sustainable urban development and provide instruction on operating in a foreign setting.

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Who You'll Study With

  • The Sustainable Urban Planning Program is distinguished by the fact that nearly all of its faculty are based external to the George Washington University, in governmental, nongovernmental, and private sector agencies. This unique aspect of the program means that students learn from practitioners working at the leading edge of their respective fields - and have access to extensive professional networks within the Washington, D.C. region and beyond.
  • Most faculty teach at least two classes, meaning that students have the opportunity to work with them repeatedly, and all serve as individual mentors for capstone projects and professional development. Our faculty model - coupled with our emphasis on the triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental sustainability - forms a rarefied educational environment engineered to place our students and graduates at the forefront of the planning profession.
  • In the Sustainable Urban Planning Program, you'll work with the following faculty - any of whom may serve as your primary academic advisor(s) and professional mentor(s).

Negin Askarzadeh (M.P.S., George Washington University, AICP/LEED GA) is a Transportation Planner at Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT). As a team member of the Capital Projects Section at FCDOT, she is responsible for coordinating and managing complex multi-modal transportation projects. She is a George Washington University alumna and holds a master’s degree in Sustainable Urban Planning. Negin teaches PSUS 6235: Planning Technology and co-teaches PSUS 6220: Planning Resilient and Low Carbon Cities.  Email: negi@email.gwu.edu

Andrew Bernish (M.C.P., University of Maryland, AICP/GISP) is a Planner & GIS Analyst for the Maryland State Department of Transportation (MDOT). Prior to joining MDOT, he worked in the private sector as an Associate Planner at Ayers Saint Gross. He also worked on the Planning Secretary's Executive Response team at the Maryland Department of Planning during the O'Malley administration. He served in the US Peace Corps as a Community Resource and Education Volunteer in South Africa. Andrew teaches PSUS 6201, Principles of Sustainable Urban and Regional Planning and co-teaches PSUS 6236 - the International Planning Studio. He also represents the Sustainable Urban Planning program on the National Capital Chapter of the American Planning Association Executive Board as the faculty appointment.  Email: bernish@gwu.edu

Ann Carroll (Dr.PH., The John Hopkins University), Adjunct Faculty. Currently employed as a senior policy analyst and public health lead with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization, involved in national and international brownfields research and practice networks working on sustainability and brownfield climate resilience. Ann is internationally recognized for her work on brownfields revitalization focused on improving public health, equity, food access, climate adaptation and preventing lead poisoning. In collaboration with other women brownfield practice leaders, Ann recently initiated national dialogues on women in brownfields practice and needs for mentoring and expanding diversity in brownfields professions. She teaches PSUS 6235: Brownfields and Equity and PSUS 6235: Brownfields Field School. Email: acarroll72@email.gwu.edu

Matthew Dalbey (Ph.D., Columbia University) is senior advisor for sustainable communities at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During his 19 years at EPA he has been recognized as a thought leader on sustainable, resilient and innovative approaches to the growth and development of communities. He teaches PSUS 6223, PSUS 6211 and PSUS 6230. Email: mdalbey65@gmail.com

Elizabeth Gearin (Ph.D., University of Southern California, AICP) is a planning and public policy consultant and a member of the Arlington County Planning Commission. She has worked as housing and community development planner in the San Francisco Bay Area, and as a community organizer in Chicago. Elizabeth teaches PSUS 6235: Biophilia.
Email: elizabethgearin@gwu.edu

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: rachaelj@gwu.edu

Mesbah Motamed (Ph.D., Purdue University) is an economist at the Millennium Challenge Corporation. His work has focused on agricultural land use, risk management, trade and economic development. His previous work includes being a research economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and working on agricultural development projects in Central Asia and Latin America and as a trade analyst for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Mesbah teaches PSUS 6203: Research Methods: Geospatial and Econometric Analysis and PSUS 6214: Food and Cities. Email: mesbah@gwu.edu

Scott Sklar runs a global renewable energy technology optimization firm, The Stella Group, Ltd., for the last 22 years as well as sitting on the Boards of Directors of several national clean energy organizations. He has written and co-authored a wide range of books and articles over his 40-year career, and has two buildings off-the-grid in Arlington, Virginia, which he has students tour for his classes. He teaches PSUS 6224: Sustainable Energy for Cities and the Environment and PSUS 6227: Critical Infrastructure for Cities and Regions. Email: solarsklar@aol.com

John Thomas (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: jvthomas@gwu.edu

Louis L. Thomas (Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is an adjunct faculty member in the program. His research focuses on equity and the all-age city, family-oriented high-density and incremental urbanism. He teaches PSUS 6235-UP3: Qualitative Methods for Planners and PSUS 6235-UP4: The Contemporary City on Foot and Film. Email: louthomas@email.gwu.edu

Eliza Voigt (MCRP, University of North Carolina, AICP) is the Planning and NEPA Branch Chief in the Office of Planning and Design Quality in the General Services Administration. Prior to this, Eliza worked with the National Park Service for over 12 years in planning and partnerships. In addition, Eliza worked for over 15 years as an urban planner and historic preservation planner for local governments in Montgomery County, Maryland; and for the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation in Washington, D.C. She teaches PSUS 6228: Parks and Public Facilities Planning and elective applied studio classes. Email: evoigt@gwu.edu; eliza.voigt7@gmail.com

Sandra Whitehead (Ph.D., Florida State University) is the Program Director. She previously worked at the National Environmental Health Association, the National Association of County and City Health Officials and the Florida Department of Health. She is an internationally recognized expert on health, equity and social justice. Sandra is a member of the EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee and the Society of Practitioners of Health Impact Assessment. She teaches PSUS 6204: Land Use Law, PSUS 6230: Studio in Sustainable Urban Planning, PSUS 6215: Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and PSUS 6215: Urban Health Impact Assessment. Email: swhitehead@gwu.edu  

 

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Where Our Alumni Work

Our alumni serve in positions that lead change like sustainability officer, director of equity, community engagement manager and long range planner. Here are just some of the field’s top organizations where SUP graduates are advancing their exciting careers: 

 

Think Tanks & NGOs

  • Urban Land Institute
  • Trust for Public Land
  • Nature Conservancy
  • UN Habitat - UNHCR
  • China Fortune Land Development
  • The World Bank
  • Asian Development Bank

 

Local and regional governments 

  • DC DOT
  • DC Southwest Business Improvement District
  • Fairfax County
  • Top of Alabama Regional Planning Council

 

Federal government

  • U.S. Air Force
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • U.S. Department of State
  • US AID
  • US EPA Sustainable Communities Program

 

Consulting

  • ICF, International
  • Michael Baker International 
  • Gannett Fleming, Inc. 
  • Ian Thomas Group 
  • Island Press
  • HKF Group 

 

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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.

 


Deadlines

Students are admitted for the fall and spring semesters. Applicants that have complete applications are eligible to request an application fee waiver by 11:59 p.m. on the Priority Deadline.* To request an application fee waiver, contact your program representative before submitting your application. Fee waiver details. Applications received after the Final Deadline will continue to be processed, space permitting.  

 

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Fall Admissions

In-person program

  • Fall Priority Deadline: February 1*
  • Fall Final Deadline: May 1

 

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Spring Admissions

In-person program

  • Spring Priority Deadline: August 1* 
  • Spring Final Deadline: October 1**

 

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Summer Admissions

In-person program

  • Not offered

Note for International Students: Applicants must submit their complete applications by the deadlines listed on the International Student Admissions page. These deadlines are at least two months before the deadline for admitted students to submit visa request paperwork.
 



Costs & Aid

GW's Military & Veteran Services provides wide-ranging resources and support to the military community, including GW scholarships and assistance with benefits: 

Since Military and Veterans Services was created in 2008, GW has been an annual recipient of the Military Friendly Award and is also annually recognized as a Military Times “Best for Vets” higher education institution.

Download Measures of Student Achievement (PDF)

The SUP program is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB),
which requires GW to post this information. 

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Contacts

 

Sandra Whitehead

 

 

 

 

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Request Information

Information Sessions

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