Undergraduate Major

Urban Studies Through An Interdisciplinary Perspective

The major in Urban Studies explores cities, suburban communities, and metropolitan regions from an academic perspective. The interdisciplinary nature of the Urban Studies program draws from five UWM schools and eleven departments in the affiliated areas of Africology, Architecture, Criminal Justice, Educational Policy and Community Studies, Geography, History, Political Science, Nonprofit and Public Administration, Public Health, Sociology, and Urban Planning. From the perspectives of the different disciplines, the Urban Studies major will find the Program flexible enough to allow them to pursue their particular interests in relation to cities, suburban communities and metropolitan regions.

General Curriculum Guideline

Core Courses

The Urban Studies curriculum promotes a perspective that is holistic, historical, and global in its approach to urban development and change. Urban Studies students will attain this perspective by building a strong foundation through the program’s four core courses. These core courses are:

  • Urb Std 150: Multicultural America — includes a service learning component in which students complete part of the course requirements working in an urban organization or agency
  • UrbStd 250 or UrbStd 360 — take one of these urban studies survey courses
  • UrbStd/Sociol 377 — a theory course on urbanism and urbanization
  • Capstone Seminar — to be taken in the student’s senior year

Students must also take a statistics course, which is a standard requirement for social science majors. This required course may be Sociology 261, Geography 247, Political Science 390, History 595, or an approved equivalent course of 3 credits.

Elective Courses

From there, students will choose five elective courses selected from the list of approved courses for the major. Each will address urban issues from different disciplines. Students will choose their elective courses based on their interests and future goals. These courses will enable students to understand and communicate across the disciplines by providing their unique viewpoint and methods of inquiry that are designed to give greater understanding of the complexities of cities and regions.

Students are encouraged to complete some of their elective credits with an internship (UrbStd 289 or 489) or study abroad (UrbStd 297 or 497), such as the Understanding Cuban Urbanism in Havana course.

Senior Capstone Course

The senior capstone course is a critical part of the major curriculum. The course is designed to ensure students have a clear understanding of urban studies as an interdisciplinary field with its distinct foci and subject areas, theoretical frameworks, and methodologies for conducting research—in short, what it means to be an urbanist. As a capstone course, the class draws on students’ past work in the major to hone their critical assessment of scholarship in the field. Students are exposed to different methodologies and methods in the field, and develop the skills necessary to evaluate, plan, and conduct research. Students use this exposure to formulate a research project which they present during a poster session at the Annual Urban Studies Student Research Forum. In addition to these curricular features, the focus of the class turns near the end of the semester to working in the field after graduation or entering graduate studies.

Additional Urban Studies Opportunities

Majors will be integrated into, and take part in, USP’s active public programming and speaker events. Majors will also participate in the student-directed ejournal e.polis, in which one of the top three papers from the senior capstone course will appear in each issue.

USP alumni events draw on our many local alumni that work in distinguished careers across the region. Each year, students from the required 150 core course attend the annual Urban Studies Programs’ Henry W. Maier State of Milwaukee Summit, a public event that includes a panel of community leaders and scholars who focus on pressing issues facing Milwaukee and the region. Previous Summits have included a wide variety of topics, such as: “Can Urban Agriculture Save our Neighborhoods?,” “Public Education in Milwaukee at a Crossroads,” “The Future of Transit,” and “Water Security and Urban Development.” Prior to this event, students read relevant articles from panelists and familiarize themselves with the current Summit topic in order to engage with panelists during the question and answer session. In addition to providing students with a connection to local issues and pertinent civic actors – as well as linkages between course content and real work problems – student participation in the Summit has the added benefit of engaging students in civic leadership and citizenship.

As mentioned above in the capstone course section, another highlight of the major is the opportunity to participate in the Annual Urban Studies Student Research Forum. The purpose of this event is to give majors an opportunity to present on their research projects in a poster session format, to participate in a professional, scholarly setting, and to interact with other undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and alumni. During each Student Research Forum, an undergraduate participating in the poster session from the senior capstone class is selected for “best poster” as part of the Scott Greer Awards. In addition to a small monetary prize, the winner also receives free registration at next year’s Urban Affairs Association Conference. Students have presented posters on a variety of topics and urban themes such as: “A Comparison of Traditional Public Housing and Hope VI: Milwaukee, Chicago, and Seattle;” “Supplemental Nutrition Access Program’s (SNAP) Impact on Food Deserts in Milwaukee;” “Abandoned Housing – Demolition or Renovation? A Comparison of Three Cities;” Racial and Class Segregation Patterns in the U.S: A comparison of Chicago and Atlanta.”

To declare a major in Urban Studies, make an appointment with the Urban Studies Associate Director, Dr. Jamie Harris, to discuss and complete the declaration form and written statement.