Urban Studies, BA
Urban Planning & Geographic Analysis, BS
Civic Learning Distinction
Urban Studies, Urban Planning, and Geographic Analysis: Essential Skills for the Urban Century
The influence of urbanization during the twenty-first century cannot be overstated. As of 2019 over 82% of the United States’ total population lived in urban areas, ranging from exurban and suburban areas to dense central cities. Over 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas and yet it is more accurate to say that urbanization is planetary, influencing everyone regardless of their physical location. The answers to wicked problems including climate change, public health crises, social inequality, and housing affordability must all be based on how these problems affect urban areas. Because of the interconnected nature of urban problems, the tools and concepts that we use in urban studies, urban planning and geographic analysis are ever more important and will prepare students from the University of Pittsburgh to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.
Urban Studies offers a liberal arts major for students who have an interest in unraveling the complexities of the urban world. The major is interdisciplinary, meaning that students learn about urban and suburban realms as physical, environmental, social, cultural, economic, and political phenomena. The major is focused on applied learning and real-world context, connecting the learning experiences to concrete subjects outside the classroom. The major is sensitive to historic and social context, connecting contemporary patterns and processes to earlier periods of urban growth and change. The major is career-oriented, meaning that students will gain critical conceptual and technical skills that are necessary for urban vocations in the 21st century.
Geographic Analysis is based in the inherently interdisciplinary discipline of geography. Geographers evaluate questions of uneven development, urban change, and ecological disruption by first engaging with the “whys of where”. Using the conceptual perspective of critical thinking and community engagement that arises from place-based perspectives, geographic analysis attends to important problems by using geographic data, spatial analysis tools, and cartographic visualization techniques to interpret problems to broad audiences. Although the University of Pittsburgh has not had a geography department at the Oakland campus since the early 1980s, the discipline of geography is thriving within the United States and globally because of the valuable skills and concepts provided by application of Geographic Information Science. GIS Technologists and Technicians are sought after for their capacity to design or prepare databases or geospatial analysis and are proficient in map design. This is expected to be a growth field of the next several years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019-2029 employment projections.
Urban Planning is the profession that focuses on the design and transformation of cities and metropolitan areas into more livable, equitable, and sustainable spaces. Urban planning provides a conceptual framework and practical toolkit for people who are interested in transforming and shaping cities from the local scale of the neighborhood and block to the metropolitan scale of the city-region. Planners focus on issues including public health, sustainability, economic development, transportation, and housing. Such a range of interests reflects the multi-dimensional nature of urban life and indicates the challenge of shaping growth for current and future generations. Urban and Regional Planning is expected to be a growth field over the next several years, with employers looking for students with strong interdisciplinary skills including geography, map creation, and critical thinking.
Urban Planning and Geographic Analysis intersect naturally, as planning requires the geographic mindset to understand the ‘whys of where’ that shape urban form in a contingent manner across time and space. Geographic analysis allows planners to conceive and represent urban problems and opportunities in new ways, while both fields of practice can enhance student interests. For instance, a double-major in Urban Planning and Geographic Analysis and Economics would gain a powerful analytical framework for future careers in public administration, while a dual-degree student pursuing Urban Planning and Geographic Analysis with a Business Administration degree would be poised for a future career in commercial development. The Dietrich School offers a Certificate in GIS that complements both the BA in Urban Studies and BS in Urban Planning and Geographic Analysis.
 See Kerski, J. (2011) Why Geography Education Matters. ArcUser Online. Accessed at https://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/0611/why-geography-education-matters.html.
 See O*Net Online Summary Report for Geographic Information Systems Technologists and Technicians. Accessed at https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1299.02
 See O*Net Online Summary Report for Urban and Regional Planners. Accessed at https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/19-3051.00
Each incoming student is assigned an academic advisor within the Dietrich School’s Academic Advising Center. Students are required to meet with their advisor at least once per term before they can enroll in classes for the next term. Students are encouraged to schedule additional appointments as necessary. Students will remain with their assigned advisor until they declare a major; once a major is declared, the student will transition to a new advisor within their major department.
The Urban Studies Program is a vibrant, robust, interdisciplinary degree-granting undergraduate program. Over the past decade, the program has continued to grow and attract majors and our students are exceptional--energetic, intelligent, and interested in their work here at the University. Recent graduates have gone on to careers within the non-profit sector, many others have entered graduate school, and still others opted to volunteer for a year or two with organizations like AmeriCorps or Pulse. Ultimately, Urban Studies students are prepared to be responsible, engaged citizens when they graduate. Our alumni work for employers including community development corporations, private consulting firms, government and private planning departments, and local and state government offices.
Most of our students choose to double major or pursue various certificates in Sustainability, Historic Preservation, or the area studies of University Center for International Studies. They are active in the community as well as in various academic pursuits, and being involved with the community is critical for a student in relation to developing an understanding of their surrounding environment as Pittsburgh is the home to many non-profit opportunities. As a matter of fact, most Urban Studies classes require some community-based research project to enrich the relations within the immediate urban environment.
We understand that having options is essential to allowing students to fully explore their academic possibilities, and we are dedicated to providing our students with plenty of research opportunities. Our professors have included students on recent research projects which have led to peer-reviewed publications--that means those students earned a resume-building publication credit before completing their undergraduate degrees.
Considering Study Abroad?
Before COVID-19 our students have studied in Nepal, Germany, England, Ireland, South Africa, Argentina,Tanzania, India, Italy, Peru, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Spain. We also provide students with the opportunity to build their own professional networks by requiring six hours of internship experience.
For more information about our department, or to schedule a visit or tour, please contact the Dietrich School's recruitment team at firstname.lastname@example.org.