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Urban Studies

The Urban Studies program teaches students to analyze the city, urban life, and urbanization through a variety of disciplinary lenses. Students learn where cities come from, how they grow, thrive, and decline, how they are organized, and how to construct meaningful, inclusive, secure, and sustainable places. The curriculum examines how urban problems arise, how they have been previously addressed, and how to plan cities of the future.  Concentrators enjoy the breadth of courses in American Studies, economics, history, literature, history of art and architecture, political science, sociology, and planning as well as provide in-depth courses integrating those perspectives. We introduce the fundamentals of Urban Studies scholarship as well as intense examination of an urban problem in focused seminars. These advanced seminars offer opportunities to write extensive and synthetic interdisciplinary analyses that serve as capstones to the concentration.  The program’s 10-course curriculum provides sufficient flexibility to allow students to pursue specific urban interests or to take courses in urban focus areas of Built Environment; Humanities; Social Sciences; and Sustainable Urbanism. The Program insures that students master at least one basic research methodology and perform research or fieldwork projects, which may result in an honors thesis. Fieldwork training includes working with local agencies and nonprofit organizations on practical urban problems.  Capstone projects entail original research papers in Urban Studies seminars; academically supervised video, artistic, or community service projects; and Honors Theses for eligible concentrators.

Concentrators who are especially interested in making deeper connections between their curriculum and long-term engaged activities such as internships, public service, humanitarian and development work, and many other possible forms of community involvement might consider the Engaged Scholar Program in US. The program combines preparation, experience, and reflection to offer students opportunities to enhance the integration of academic learning and social engagement.


For a concentration, the program requires ten courses selected from four course groups:

Introduction (choose one):1
City Politics
The City: An Introduction to Urban Studies
Urban Life in Providence: An Introduction
Research Methods (choose one):1
Essential Statistics
Statistical Inference I
Statistical Inference II
Statistical Methods
Introduction to Econometrics
Essentials of Data Analysis
Political Research Methods
Methods of Social Research
Introductory Statistics for Social Research 1
Core Courses (3 courses required, in at least 3 disciplines, such as American studies, anthropology, economics, education, English, history, history of art and architecture, political science, and sociology, as well as urban planning when staffing allows)3
Cities of Sound: Place and History in American Pop Music
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Analysis
Urban Life: Anthropology in and of the City
Anthropology of Disasters
Urban Economics
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems for Environmental Applications
City Novels
Modernist Cities
Reading New York
Sustainable Design in the Built Environment
Environmental Stewardship and Resilience in Urban Systems
Introduction to Architectural Design Studio
The Other History of Modern Architecture
Architecture and Urbanism of Africa
Modern Architecture
Contemporary Architecture
City and Cinema
American Urban History, 1600-1870
American Urban History, 1870-1965 (HIST 1550::American Urban History to 1870)
City Politics
African American Politics
Remaking the City
Principles and Methods of Geographic Information Systems
Social Exclusion
Nineteenth-Century Architecture
Fieldwork in the Urban Community
The United States Metropolis, 1945-2000
The Political Foundations of the City
Housing in America
Urban Politics and Urban Public Policy
Seminar courses (choose three) 23
City of the American Century: The Culture and Politics of Urbanism in Postwar New York City
Berlin: Architecture, Politics and Memory
Providence Architecture
Theory and Practice of Engaged Scholarship
American Culture and the City
Downtown Development
Ancient Cities: From the Origins Through Late Antiquity
The Changing American City
The Politics of Community Organizing
Jerusalem Divided: Politics and Cultural Heritage
Urban Regimes in the American Republic
The Cultural and Social Life of the Built Environment
Cities in Mind: Modern Urban Thought and Theory
The City, the River, and the Sea: Social and Environmental Change at the Water's Edge
Transportation: An Urban Planning Perspective
City Senses: Urbanism Beyond Visual Spectacle
Housing Justice
Berlin: Global Metropolis (1945-2020)
How to Shape a City: An Introduction to Real Estate Development
Complementary Curriculum (Total of 2 courses required):2
1. Any course from the Introductory or Core Curriculum options above not used to fulfill another requirement
2. OR Any of the following:
Race, Gender, and Urban Politics
African-American Life in the City
Making America: Twentieth-Century U.S. Immigrant/Ethnic Literature
Oral History and Community Memory
Charles Chapin and the Urban Public Health Movement
Inequality, Sustainability, and Mobility in a Car-Clogged World
Anthropology of Homelessness
Heritage in the Metropolis: Remembering and Preserving the Urban Past
City and Sanctuary in the Ancient World
Cities and Urban Space in the Ancient World
Cities, Colonies and Global Networks in the Western Mediterranean
City and the Festival: Cult Practices and Architectural Production in the Ancient Near East
Archaeologies of the Near East
How Houses Build People
The Archaeology of College Hill
Race and Inequality in the United States
Harlem Renaissance: The Politics of Culture
Land Use and Built Environment: An Entrepreneurial View
Wild Literature in the Urban Landscape
Environmental Law and Policy
Local Food Systems and Urban Agriculture
Painters, Builders, and Bankers in Early Modern Italy
Constructing the Eternal City: Popes and Pilgrims in Early Modern Rome
Renaissance Venice and the Veneto
Contemporary American Urbanism: City Design and Planning, 1945-2000
Samurai and Merchants, Prostitutes and Priests: Japanese Urban Culture in the Early Modern Period
Capitalism, Land and Water: A World History: 1848 to the present
Cities and Urban Culture in China
City as Modernity:Popular Culture, Mass Consumption, Urban Entertainment in Nineteenth-Century Paris
History of Rio de Janeiro
London: 1750 to the Present
Urban History of Latin America
Modernity, Jews, and Urban Identities in Central Europe (JUDS 1718)
Program Evaluation
Social Entrepreneurship
Word, Image and Power in Early Modern Italy
Japanese Cities: Tokyo and Kyoto
Infrastructure Policy
Power and Prosperity in Urban America
Imagining Moscow: Utopia and Urban Spaces in 20th-Century Russian Culture
The Fate of the Coast
American Heritage: Democracy, Inequality, and Public Policy
Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the Modern World
Human Needs and Social Services
3. RISD courses approved by the Urban Studies Program each semester as applicable to the Urban Studies concentration. 3
4. Any course taken at another university in the US or abroad and approved by the Urban Studies Program each semester (2 maximum)
Total Credits10

Off-Campus Courses: Some courses taken outside Brown (e.g., in study abroad programs) may be used for credit towards the concentration if the material covered directly corresponds to that taught in Brown courses, or is relevant to the complementary curriculum. Such courses will be approved each semester by the concentration advisor.


The Urban Studies Honors Program is intended for students who have been highly successful in their Urban Studies concentration coursework and who want the opportunity to pursue a research project in more depth than is possible in an undergraduate seminar. Such a project requires a high degree of initiative and dedication. It also requires significant amounts of time and energy, as well as demonstrative skills in research and writing. Students must apply in the middle of the second semester of their junior year. (This applies to students who will complete the degree requirements in December, as well as May.) The student's honors application must include a brief research proposal, a list of completed urban coursework, and must be signed by a faculty member willing to serve as the student's honors advisor.  During the Fall and Spring of the senior year, honors candidates must complete two additional courses beyond the ten courses required for the concentration: URBN 1971 Senior Honors Thesis I in Urban Studies(S/NC) and URBN 1972 Senior Honors Thesis II in Urban Studies (grade). The candidate's final thesis must be of outstanding quality, in order to qualify for honors.