Our Mission at Urban Studies and Planning

  • To prepare students for professional and civic involvement to improve the quality of urban life.
  • To offer a curriculum which is responsive to changing urban problems and policies.
  • To contribute to the body of knowledge regarding the dynamics of urban life.
  • To help Bay Area communities through applied research and other faculty and student activities.

Introduction to Urban Studies and Planning

Cities have always been the locus of change and innovation in society, continuously generating new possibilities and opportunities for human experience while at the same time giving rise to new problems requiring public attention. As we begin the twenty-first century, the processes of globalization have brought enormous new challenges to urban areas. Global investment decisions and “free trade” affect not only jobs and economic opportunities but cultural expectations, population movements, and environmental change. As critical nodes in these global processes, cities play a critical role in responding to these new changes.

Nowhere are these changes, and public efforts to respond to these changes, more evident than in the San Francisco Bay Area with its integral connection to the global economy. Rapid population growth, continuous economic restructuring, and sprawling development patterns have combined to produce a dynamic and ongoing process of urban transformation and an ongoing agenda for public policy. New organizations have emerged to demand new policy initiatives focusing on both global and local needs: environmental sustainability and social justice at the global level require “smart growth” and regional equity at the local level.

How do we create smart growth and regional equity? What are the policy and planning tools which can be used to promote affordable housing, transit-oriented development, living wage employment, access to health care? These are the kinds of questions addressed by the Urban Studies curriculum.

A fundamental mission of the Urban Studies and Planning Program at San Francisco State University is to prepare students to address issues of urban planning and policy in cities throughout the world. Our program is founded upon the conviction that urban universities have a unique opportunity as well as responsibility to work with their communities both in educating future urban professionals and in developing innovative approaches to critical urban issues.

The Urban Studies and Planning curriculum provides both a high-quality liberal arts education and rigorous preparation for professional careers in planning and public policy. Drawing upon the complementary perspectives of the basic social science disciplines, it develops a broad-based understanding of the historical evolution and current condition of urban areas. Applied research and data analysis using cutting-edge information technology are emphasized, as are essential analytic and conceptual skills necessary for planning, policy-making and evaluation. Critical contemporary issues are addressed through substantive courses focused on policy areas such as sustainable urban development, housing and community development, land use, health policy, poverty, transportation, environmental justice, and social policy. Hands-on practical experience is given particular emphasis through carefully supervised internships and a practicum in which teams of student consultants produce projects for local agencies and organizations.

Our program has been unusually fortunate in attracting talented and motivated students from diverse backgrounds who are concerned about urban life and want to play a role in the effort to improve urban life. These students have made significant contributions as interns and researchers; as alumni, they have gone on to work in public, private, and nonprofit organizations throughout the area. The network of contacts which we maintain with our alumni provides solid evidence of the opportunities available to graduates of the Urban Studies program and of their continuing contribution and commitment to the larger urban community.