Courses and Requirements

Graduation Requirements

30 credits are required for the MA degree, including four required courses (12 credits).  Students must also complete a writing requirement and a final project based on original research.


  • URBST 705.            The Just City in Theory and Practice

plus two of three governance/policy classes:

  • URBST 718.            Governing the City
  • URBST 724.            Public Policy in Practice
  • URBST 706.           Non-Profits in the 21st Century Metropolis

plus one of three methods classes:

  • URBST 725.            Urban Research Methods
  • URBST 732.            Researching New York City
  • URBST 751.            Critical Perspectives on Urban Research

Electives (18 credits):

Students are free to choose from among any of the department’s MA-level non-required courses.

Writing Requirement: Students must demonstrate competence in urban research writing by passing an evaluation or by taking URBST 620. Urban Research Writing.

Final Project: Students must complete a final project based on original, community or studio research and presented in the form of a report or paper, or as a video, art, or web exhibition.

Remember: In order to graduate, you must have an overall “B” or 3.00 average or better. During the semester before you plan to graduate, you must submit for review a final project.

MA Courses

• 620 Urban Research Writing
• 725 Urban Research Methods
• 732 Researching New York City
• 751 Critical Perspectives on Urban Research
Criminal Justice
• 726 Special Topics in Criminal Justice
Public Sector Management
• 640 Public Administration
• 740 Making Cities Work
• 742 Public Budgeting
• 744 Human Resource Management
Social and Economic Policy
• 712 Urban Labor and Labor Movements
• 718 Governing the City
• 721 Perspectives on the Labor Movement
• 730 The Urban Economy
• 755 Community Development and Redevelopment
• 765 Urban Poverty
• 773 Labor and Globalization
Public Policy and Politics
• 701 Urban Politics
• 702 Urban Social Movements
• 703 Protest Movements in Film
• 705 The Just City in Theory and Practice
• 724 Public Policy in Practice
• 746 Urban Transportation Policy
Health and Welfare Policy
• 737 US Health System
• 743 Advocacy Politics and Disease
• 752 Women, Health, and Society
Community Planning and Development
• 706 Non-Profits in the 21st Century Metropolis
• 710 Urban Sustainability
• 711 Urban Infrastructures and Technologies
• 722 Processes of Urbanization
• 723 Dynamics of Housing and Homelessness
• 728 Non-Profit Organization Management
• 733 Planning the Just City
• 735 NYC Land Use Planning Process
• 745 Community Organization
• 750 Contemporary Urban Theory
• 755 Community Development and Redevelopment
758 Climate Change and Urban Policy
Urban Culture & Identity
• 707 Race, Place and Space
• 716 Immigration in Metropolitan New York
• 717 Sex and the City
• 763 Race, Ethnicity, and Public Policy
Course Descriptions

620. Urban Research Writing. 3 hr.; 3 cr.
This course will assist students in developing the skills necessary for graduate level writing in Urban Affairs. The focus will be on developing writing skills in three specific areas: (i) writing in response to texts; (ii) writing across texts (comparing and contrasting); and (iii) writing a research paper on a topic in urban studies. In each instance original drafts will be revised for clarity of content. The course will review the steps in writing a research paper including choosing a topic, developing a cogent thesis, using the library and internet for research, note taking, and drafting and revising the finished paper.

640. Public Administration. 2 hr. plus conf.; 3 cr.
This course offers a comprehensive survey of the field of public administration, from the philosophical underpinnings of government activities to the structure and function of present-day state and local government programs and agencies.

701. Urban Politics. 2 hr. plus conf.; 3 cr.
This course examines the historical development of local government structures, political parties, machine politics and reform movements.  The current forms of government in US cities, especially New York City, and their relationship to states and the federal government will be analyzed. Theories of power in the urban setting, and the role of advocacy groups, ethnic organizations, business, labor, and other interest groups will be discussed

702. Urban Protest Movements. 2 hr. plus conf.; 3 cr.
This course analyzes social change movements impacting urban institutions or policies, especially the mobilization of groups without ready access to power through normal political channels. Student will analyze one movement and use its experience to test the prevailing theories concerning protest movements.

703. Protest Movements in Film. 3 hr.; 3 cr.
This course examines the dynamics of  urban-centered protest movements in the U.S., such as the labor movement,  the African-American, feminist, and gay and lesbian civil rights movements,  and the anti-Vietnam war, and pro-life and pro-choice movements through a combination of reading books about such movements and watching film footage featuring the activities of movements.

705. The Just City in Theory and Practice. 3 hr.; 3cr.

A required course introducing the core themes in the Master of Arts program in Urban Affairs, the Just City in Theory and Practice explores the debates and proposals around the imperative to create more socially just and sustainable cities, with an emphasis on both theory and practice.  The course offers a theoretical and practical background into processes of social, cultural, economic, and physical change in urban society.  Themes covered include urban planning and policy, social movements, injustice, and inequality based on socio-economic status, race, nationality, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender. Students will be equipped with the tools and vocabulary to refine their interests and to explore these themes in further detail in subsequent courses.

706. Non-Profits in the 21st Century Metropolis. 3 hr.; 3cr.

The nonprofit sector serves a vital role in society by addressing needs that neither for-profit business nor government are prepared to fulfill. Over the past century, this sector has grown in size, impact, and influence. This course presents a broad overview of the nonprofit sector. Students will gain an understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the sector, the various domains comprising the sector, and the functions that nonprofit organizations play in this City, in the broader American society, and internationally. Domains covered include arts and culture, health, education, social services, community organizing, philanthropy, international assistance, and others.

707: Race, Place and Space.  3 hr; 3cr.

This course examines race and racism from a geographical perspective. It shows how spacial analysis broadens our understanding of the constructions of racial and ethnic identities, racial inequalities, and racial politics. How do different group’s experiences of urban spaces and places differ from one another, and why? How does racism shape the ways people view different places and the people who live, work or congregate there? How are racial politics produced and reproduced in the geographies of cities? Drawing on examples from across the world, this course offers students a greater understanding of the complex geographies of race, power, and resistance in the city today.

708. New York City Politics. 3 hr.; 3 cr. This course will provide a historical view of the development of New York City governmental and non-governmental institutions involved in policy-making, such as the development of Democratic and Republican parties, the impact of immigrant and ethnic groups on City politics, reform movements, and changes in NYC governmental structure over time. It will discuss the relation of policy-making in New York City to New York State and federal decision-making. It will analyze the roles and relative political resources of official actors such as the Mayor, the City Council and other citywide elected officials and of non-governmental political actors such as unions, corporations, business associations, civic and neighborhood associations, etc., in the policy-making process. The role of ethnicity, immigrant status, gender and sexual orientation in terms of access to political resources and influence in policy-making will be discussed. The instructor will use a series of historical and contemporary policy case studies as illustrations. The course may include invited speakers involved in the policy-making process who can discuss some of the case studies used in the course.

710. Urban Sustainability. 2 hr. plus conf.; 3 cr.
This course will examine the theory and practice of American urban environmental policy in the second half of the twentieth century. We will focus mainly on the natural, social and political forces that have shaped New York City’s urban environment, but will also look at comparative case studies of other American and European cities. This course will be of interest to graduate students in urban planning, sociology, and environmental policy and science.

711. Urban Infrastructures and Technologies. 2 hr plus conf.; 3 cr.
This course focuses on the relationship between contemporary cities and the technological infrastructures that sustain their existence. From transport to sanitation, telecommunication to electricity transmission, modern cities rely upon complex systems that are often invisible or taken for granted, yet the city could not sustain itself without them. We will explore how technological change impacts cities, how policies influence infrastructure provision and management, how technical systems can work to make societies more or less equal, and the relationship between technological systems and urban sustainability.

712. Urban Labor and Labor Movements. 3 hr.; 3 cr.
This course introduces students to the nature of work and work organization in contemporary urban settings. It covers such topics as the social organization of work, changes in the composition of the work force, the impact of technology on work and workers, and the organization of workers through labor unions and other forms of worker organization. The evolution of work and worker organization from the beginning of industrialization through the shift to a service-oriented economy will be central focus of the course.

716. Immigration in Metropolitan New York. 3 hr.; 3 cr.
This course examines the social, political, economic, and environmental factors affecting the successive waves of migration to New York from the 1800s to the present.  It analyzes the development and role of ethnic and immigrant organizations during the early migrations and through the changes in contemporary migrant flows.  The course introduces theories of immigration and models of assimilation/acculturation and analyzes these processes for several of the newer immigrant groups (Asian, Latino, Afro-Latinos, Indo-Caribbean and others) as compared to several of the older groups (Irish, Jewish, Italian).  Finally, the course assists students in conducting immigrant enclave analysis for some of the major groups that have settled in the area in the recent period.

717. Sex and the City. 3 hr.; 3 cr.
This course will examine sexuality and city life.  The unique social, political and cultural features of US cities have long made them important to the pursuit of self-discovery and sexual freedom and to the creation and growth of robust sexual subcultures and communities.  Yet cities have also found ways to regulate sexuality and to oppress sexual minorities as well.  In this course, we will discuss how the modern US city simultaneously shaped and was shaped by the development of modern sexual identities. The course proceeds through several themes: 1) fundamental concepts in the study of sex and the city; 2) specific histories and case studies of sexual oppression and liberation; and 3) landscapes of power and sex in the city today.  We will answer questions such as, what role did sophisticated forms of policing and regulation, municipal bureaucracies, and consumer cultures play in encouraging and discouraging the growth of sexual subcultures? How did sexual and gendered ideologies shape the making of urban public and private spaces?  And how have the political struggles of sexually oppressed groups, including working class women, gays and lesbians, and transgender people reshaped the city itself?

718: Governing the City. 3 hr,; 3cr.

This course provides an overview of the major debates around the political and governmental forces, institutions, and movements that guide economic and physical development, the distribution of resources, and other aspects of daily life in urban areas. It examines what structures enable and constrain collective decision making about particular urban issues such as housing, immigration, economic development, education, and health.

721. Perspectives on the Labor Movement. 2 hr. plus conf.; 3 cr.
This course examines theories of industrial relations systems; the philosophy and political perspectives of labor unions; and the current discussion concerning the state and future of the labor movement. Issues examined will include the meaning of work, its changing nature, and the consequent implications for industrial relations and the trade unions.

722. Processes of Urbanization. 2 hr. plus conf.; 3 cr.
Provides an overview of 1) the historical growth and economic position of cities as centers of industry or commercial and bureaucratic control, 2) internal differentiation within cities, 3) the experience of urban life at different socioeconomic levels.

723. Dynamics of Housing and Homelessness. 3 hrs.; 3 cr.
This course explores the situation of renters and owners in New York City. How does the housing market affect how neighborhoods change? What is government doing to assure that all residents have decent safe housing? What housing options and programs are available in the City? How do they differ from those in the rest of the country? What role do public housing, rent regulation, mortgage finance, and other public and private programs play in the development of housing in the City?

724. Public Policy in Practice. 2hr. Plus conf.; 3cr.

This course is an introduction to policy making in public and nonprofit organizations. Students learn the major elements of the policy making process: defining problems, developing alternative policies, evaluating alternatives, policy implementation, and evaluating policy outcomes. The focus is on policy making at the local and state level. Substantive policy areas covered in the course include: welfare, urban economic development, environmental and land use policy, housing policy, and health policy. The course is intended to provide theoretical and analytical basis for a series of proposed courses in each of these areas.

725. Urban Research Methods. 2 hr. plus conf.; 3 cr.
A survey of the methods employed in urban research, with an emphasis on demographic analysis, survey research, and observation. Students are taught how to interpret published research and how to plan and organize their own research and prepare reports.

726. Special Topics in Criminal Justice. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
This course will deal with he modern criminal justice system as it was developed through time in cities. Special attention will be given to the urban problems that led to the creation and evolution of the professional police, criminal courts, and penal institutions. Emphasis will be placed upon the specifically urban influences (demographic, geographic, political, economic, and social) that originally shaped and continue to mold the criminal justice system.

728. Non-profit Organization Management. 3 hr.; 3 cr.
This course is an introduction to the management and operation of non-profit organizations. Non-profit organizations have a long and respected history in the delivery of services to the communities of New York City and State. This course reviews their and evolution to their current status and importance for the millions of constituents that depend on their existence. We focus on the different types of non-profit organizations, from those whose mission is to deliver services to seniors, adults, and children, to entities that are primarily advocates for specific services and constituencies, to watchdog groups whose oversight and expertise influence public policy. We review their mission statements, corporate infrastructure, budgeting, governance, community outreach, advocacy, the dangers of non-compliance with laws and regulations, and the role they play in the development of public policy.

730. The Urban Economy. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
This course examines the multiple dynamic industry sectors that comprise an urban economy, along with trends in economic growth and related consequences for employment conditions and patterns of inequality. We will study emergent sectors based on immigrant entrepreneurship as well as declining sections such as industrial manufacturing. By focusing on New York City, the class examines the economic restructurings of this current period of globalization and how these changes in the urban economy create opportunities for immigrants, along with hardships for native-born minorities.

732. Researching New York City. 2 hrs., 3 cr.
The application of urban research methods to investigate a specific planning or policy challenge in New York City. It gives students the opportunity to work together, in studio format, to scope out a planning or policy problem, to design the appropriate planning or policy process, and then to pursue that process to its conclusion. Course topics vary year to year.

733. Planning the Just City. 3 hr.; 3 cr.
This course provides a broad introduction to urban planning theories, practices, actors, and issues. This course reviews the historical development of modern city planning and introduces the administrative and legal context in which planning takes place and the multiple players that engage in city planning, as well as the theories that shape different types of planning practice. As an introductory course, this class provides an overview of key planning issues including issues like land use and zoning, comprehensive planning, affordable housing, community and neighborhood planning, transportation planning, economic development, and environmental sustainability.

734. Women, Health, and Society. 2 hr. plus conf, 3 cr.
This course examines the broad range of health issues confronting women.  Using basic information on the health status of women in the US, the focus is on how this health status is influenced by gender, race, and class.  Careful attention is paid to political and economic factors influencing the health of women in our society and to the impact of health policy and social policy on health status.  Models of care including the Western medical model as well as some of the new and emerging models are explored.  Finally, we examine the latest thinking on specific health issues women face including reproductive health, mental health, peri- to post-menopause, sexually transmitted diseases, and aging.

735. NYC Land Use Planning Process. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
All cities exercise some form of control over the use of the land within their borders. As a scarce resource, it is considered a proper function of government to exercise zoning and other authority over the types of uses to which specific parcels of land are put. This course examines the ways in which New York City has historically exercised the zoning authority and has created a variety of institutions to intervene in the zoning process. It examines the role of real estate interests, the general public, and the City government agencies specifically charged with planning functions.

737. US Health System. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
This course describes and analyzes health care delivery and financing in the US using concepts and data from sociology, economics, history, philosophy and political science.   It begins with the history of American medical practice and education, tracing the ways in which scientific ideas, technological innovation and the politics of professional competition shaped the current US health care system.   Next, the patterns of illness in the US population are described in relation to the distribution of health care resources and other social and economic resources.  Issues of health services access, quality, financing and cost are discussed, including the ethics of resource distribution. The US health care system is then compared to the systems in Canada, Japan and several European countries.   The recent history of health care reform in the US is analyzed and students engage in a debate over current and future policy options.

738. Emerging Diseases and Public Policy. 2 hr. plus conf.; 3 cr. This course deals with the problem of “Emerging Diseases” and the policy implications that they entail. Emerging diseases are broadly defined to include: (1) new diseases that have not been seen before (e.g., HIV, SARS, Lyme); (2) diseases that are spreading into geographic areas from which they have been absent (e.g., Dengue Fever and Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever); and (3) older diseases that were in significant decline but have now reversed direction (e.g. tuberculosis itself, and also in its antibiotic resistant form) and pose a major threat to the public’s health. The course emphasizes the social causation of infectious disease (i.e., the political, economic, social, and cultural practices that inadvertently favor the emergence of disease) and the social construction of disease (i.e., how diseases and their victims are perceived, and how that helps or hinders measures aimed at controlling them). The course entails reading both theoretical and descriptive material and emphasizes learning a body of factual material.

740. Making Cities Work. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
This course examines the theory and practice of public service delivery by urban government within the context of budgetary constraints, calls for the “re-engineering” of government, privatization of public services, and politicization of issues relating to public services. Although New York City is the focus of the course, practices here are compared with the delivery of public services in other political jurisdictions in the United States and other countries.

742. Public Budgeting. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
Budgets are used to plan and control the major activities of modern organizations. This course examines contemporary government budgeting practices within the context of urban politics, public administration, and collective bargaining. The emphasis is on the budgeting process in New York City’s government, beginning with the role of the fiscal crisis of 1974-75 in reforming City government budgeting. This course explores the components and varieties of City budgets, the influence of political corruption, of changes in the private sector and their impact on the public sector, and the effect of federal and state policy on local budgeting. Guest speakers from the Mayor’s Office of Operations, the New York City Council, and agencies with the City government will discuss present-day concerns and opportunities for budgeting improvement.

743. Advocacy, Politics, and Disease. 3 hr.; 3 cr.
This course is concerned with the politics of emergent diseases, the controversies and conflicts among various social groups — communities of sufferers, “disease champions,” medical specialists, and their disciplinary organizations, biomedical researchers and their institutions, politicians and political institutions at the local, state and federal levels, and governmental bureaucracies — and their impact on whether or not an emergent disease is recognized as a legitimate ailment, and if it is, what level of priority or neglect it deserves in the allotment of scarce financial and bio/scientific resources. The course emphasizes diseases found disproportionately in urban populations, but not to the exclusion of diseases found scattered in the general population.

744. Human Resource Management. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
This course examines personnel management, including the legal issues associated with the day-to-day employment related decisions and actions of managers. The Human Resources function is divided into major areas of  Personnel, Labor Relations, Equal Employment Opportunity, and discipline.  Students will openly discuss topics associated in the context of problems that most typically arise in the work place. The framework for studying the topics will be reading Federal, State, and Local Laws, along with reviewing the government policies and Court decisions.

745. Community Organization. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
Analysis of the structure and organization of urban communities and how community resources can be mobilized to solve social and economic problems.

746. Urban Transportation Policy. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
This course provides an overview of urban transportation policy in the United States. Course topics include the historical relationships between transportation innovations and urban development; the evolution of federal transportation policy; the impact of the Interstate highway system on U.S. metropolitan areas; the decline and revival of mass transit in U.S. cities; policies for combating traffic congestion,  metropolitan sprawl and air pollution; the impact of current transportation policies on women, the elderly and the poor; and recent efforts to encourage the development of pedestrian-friendly cities.

750. Contemporary Urban Theory. 2 hr. plus conf, 3 cr.
This course explores the principal theoretical perspectives, paradigms and schools of thought that can help understand such urban phenomena as gentrification, urban poverty, urban activism, neighborhood development, segregation, city politics, suburbanization, economic restructuring, and urban planning. Urban theory encompasses many interdisciplinary points of view, and we will explore the work of geographers, sociologists, economists, historians, political scientists and anthropologists. The goal of this course is to understand not only how cities have changed in recent decades, but also the theoretical basis for describing these changes.  Students will learn to appreciate the importance of theory for making sense of the social world around us and will learn how to think theoretically, a skill that they can bring to bear in their future analyses of urban issues.

751. Critical Perspectives on Urban Research. 2 hr plus conf.; 3 cr.
Critical analysis of urban research methodologies including macroscopic analysis, demography, intensive interviewing, survey research, participant observation, community studies, policy analysis, and evaluation

752. Women, Health, and Urban Society. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
Effects of urban life on the status of women in the family and the political economy, current changes, and future prospects.

755: Community Development and Redevelopment. 3 hr,; 3cr.

This course is focused on the theory and practice of community development in urban neighborhoods, particularly in neighborhoods undergoing redevelopment. It draws from community-based urban planning processes, community organizing, and contemporary debates around processes of economic development and gentrification. Students will learn how to assess the assets of a neighborhood based on human, social, physical, financial, political, environmental, and cultural capital. Issues of social equity and inclusivity will be emphasized in exploring how community-based planning can be a tool of social justice organizing.

758. Climate Change and Public Policy. 3 cr.; 3 hr.
This course will examine the science, politics, and economics of global climate change and its likely impact on humankind’s use of energy. Data showing the past and likely future of global warming will be examined, including alternative interpretations and the controversy surrounding these data. The future of energy production and consumption will be studied. Issues related to climate change including population growth, urbanization, transportation, energy consumption and energy alternatives will be discussed. The role of public policy, especially urban policy, and of the environmental movement will be examined. Videos, internet sources, and guest speakers will be brought into the course to provide the most up-to-date information.

760.1-760.6. Selected Topics in Urban Policy and Planning. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
An intensive analysis of policies and planning in one urban topic in one semester (e.g., health, housing, transportation, education, welfare). May be repeated for credit.

763. Race, Ethnicity, and Public Policy. 3 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
This course begins with an overview of the status of racial and ethnic minorities in contemporary American society. It then examines a number of critical policy issues such as enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, affirmative action, bilingual education, transracial adoptions, the creation of black-majority Congressional districts, and multicultural education.

765. Urban Poverty. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.

770.1-770.5. Roots of the Urban Crisis. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
Selected topics in the development of urban institutions in American cities and their problems in meeting individual and social needs. May be repeated for credit (each institution will be dealt with in a separate course).

773. Labor and Globalization.  3 hrs., 3 cr.
This course examines the social, political and economic effects of the expansion of global capitalism, with an emphasis on the impact on workers in the United States, and New York City in particular. The course surveys the phenomenon of “globalization” from several critical angles—as a central aspect of the historic development of capitalism, as a recent development of an old process, as a new frontier in social studies, and as a force for the betterment and/or detriment of the world. It explores theories of economic development and trade and examines those from a variety of differing perspectives. What is the relationship between corporate globalization and economic growth, employment, poverty, and democracy? We examine the impacts on workers and unions and consider models of organizing in the current context including global unions, cross-border solidarity campaigns, anti-sweatshop work, corporate social responsibility, and worker protest. Finally, we consider some of the models of political economy that are posed as alternatives to corporate globalization.

780. Field Work I. Hr. to be arranged; minimum of 12 hr. a week required; 3 cr.
Includes field work assignment and seminar sessions.

781. Field Work II. Hr. to be arranged; minimum of 12 hr. a week is required; 3 cr.
Includes field work assignment and seminar sessions. Must be different assignment from that of Field Work I.

785. Tutorial. Hr. to be arranged; 3 cr.

790. Seminar in Selected Topics in Urban Studies. 2 hr. plus conf, 3 cr.
The topic will vary from semester to semester.

791. Research and Writing Seminar. 2 hr. plus conf; 3 cr.
Students will learn to do research and organize and write an original research paper on a subject of their choice. This research paper can be used to fulfill the Final Project required for graduation.