Apr 17, 2024  
Graduate Record 2005-2006 
Graduate Record 2005-2006 [ARCHIVED RECORD]

Master of Urban and Environmental Planning

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Students from a wide range of academic backgrounds are admitted to the Master of Urban and Environmental Planning degree program. Applicants with an accredited bachelor’s degree in the social sciences, engineering, design, or liberal arts contribute to the vitality of the program and to the field of planning.

Overview and Philosophy

The Master of Urban and Environmental Planning degree is designed to prepare students to become significant contributors as professional planners in a variety of public, private, and non-profit settings.

The requirements for the degree consist of 50 credits: 20 in the core generalist courses, 15 in a special concentration, 6 in planning application courses (one of these courses must be in the area of concentration), and 9 in open electives. Courses are selected from those offered in the department as well as those available through other departments in the School and University. Students earning dual degrees or who have transferred from other planning programs may warrant advanced standing and be able to complete the planning program in less than two years. Students may take more than the minimum 50 credits if their schedules allow it.

One of the distinctive features of our program is our commitment to community sustainability. Sustainability is addressed in specific courses with that title, but sustainability also provides the underlying framework for virtually all of the department’s courses. The title of our department is Urban and Environmental Planning. We believe it is necessary to consider both the urban and environmental aspects of a setting to address its issues, problems, and opportunities. We are as much concerned with the economy and issues of equity as we are with the environment and find it more useful to emphasize linkages than distinctions, although both are sometimes necessary. We hope to inspire our students to share our enthusiasm for addressing the planning needs of sustainable communities.

Planning Application Courses

In addition to the above courses, all students must take at least two planning application courses (PLAC). A planning application course combines theory and application, emphasizing application through a project approach. These are listed each semester in the Course Offering Directory, with their subject matter rotating among land use planning, housing, community development, environmental impact analysis, social planning, transportation planning, neighborhood analysis, and other subjects.

Planning Concentrations

While the core classes provide the basic curriculum, students meet with their advisors to plan a course of specialized study called Planning Concentrations (PCs). Their purpose is to guide the student in designing a coherent program with an individual focus. The Planning Concentrations listed below should not be viewed as mutually exclusive program compartments. Rather, they are umbrella categories that assist students in focusing their interests. Within these categories, individual students may develop subspecialties. The PCs overlap, combine, and reinforce each other, remaining flexible while suggesting the types of programs we emphasize at the University of Virginia.

Housing and Community Development

This concentration stresses the issues of established communities, land reuse and redevelopment, and community and economic development. Housing is a key element in each. Different emphases are feasible depending upon whether one’s interest is primarily physical, economic, or social. Opportunities are provided to explore land development and public/private development partnerships, and/or to concentrate on urban design and preservation planning. Community organization, social equity, and participatory aspects of communities are also important. The foundation course for this concentration is PLAN 540.

Environmental Management and Conservation

Planners who specialize in the environment perform functions such as assessing the impacts of land development on the biophysical environment and recommending policies to conserve air, water, land, energy, and minerals. These individuals also develop plans for addressing the issues of sensitive settings, such as coastal, mountain, wetland, heritage, and special habitat areas. Environmental planning embraces many settings, ranging from urban environments to wilderness areas to agricultural ecosystems.

The foundation course for this concentration is PLAN 553.

Land Use and Growth Management

As communities change or grow, decisions are made about the uses of land, about qualities desired in the physical environment, and about the location of development and the protection of open areas. Questions of public facilities and financial resources arise alongside issues of timing and adequacy. A wide range of tools now exists in land use and growth management planning. These include plans, regulations, tax and finance policies, as well as public service programs. Local land use and growth management activities are frequently linked with regional and state level concerns.

The foundation course for this concentration is PLAN 560.

Historic Preservation Planning

Planners with a special interest in historic preservation work in numerous settings. They may be on the staff of a local planning agency, work closely with a historic architectural review board, develop the historic element for a comprehensive plan, prepare nominations for building or districts, or prepare strategies to take advantage of historic assets for economic development purposes. Planners also work for state offices of historic preservation, non-profit preservation advocacy groups, and private consultants. Many planners combine their interest in historic preservation with housing and community development or with land use and growth management. Students may earn a Certificate in Historic Preservation and choose their courses accordingly, or they may select a more flexible course of study while completing this planning concentration.

The foundation course for this concentration is PLAN 530. The year-long community history sequence offered through the Department of Architectural History can also provide an appropriate starting point for this concentration.

Student-Designed PCs

Although the four PCs described above permit a substantial degree of flexibility, students are also free to develop planning specialties outside these categories. Students might wish to develop specializations in urban design, transportation planning, or planning and public health. Required course work depends on the individual’s previous study.


The internship is an approved ten-week assignment in an agency, firm, or organization engaged in planning activities. It takes place during the summer between the first and second years of study, for which no course credit is given and no tuition is charged. Prior work experience may satisfy this requirement.

Two-Year Program Summary

A typical two-year program leading to the Master of Urban and Environmental Planning degree would follow this general pattern:

First Year

First Semester - Credits: 13

  • PLAN ___ - Concentration course
  • elective Credits: 3

Second Semester - Credits: 13

  • PLAN ___ - Concentraion course Credits: 3
  • PLAN ___ - Elective Credits: 3

Summer Session

Internship in a planning agency, organization, or firm (no credit)

Second Year

First Semester - Credits: 12

  • PLAC ___ - Application course Credits: 3
  • PLAN ___ - Concentration course Credits: 3
  • PLAN ___ - Elective Credits: 3

Second Semester - Credits: 12

  • PLAC ___ - Applications course in concentration Credits: 3
  • PLAN ___ - Concentration course Credits: 3
  • PLAN ___ - Concentration course Credits: 3
  • PLAN ___ - Elective Credits: 3

Degree Total - 50 Credits

As many as six credits may be gained by independent study for approved projects or work experience. These credits are granted only when the work or subject has been approved in advance by the faculty. Normally, the independent study credits include periodic faculty review, appropriate readings, and a final report in the form of an analytical paper or case study.

Students are encouraged to take courses throughout the School and University. The School of Law, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences all offer a variety of courses appropriate for degree requirements.


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