Frequently Asked Questions

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What is urban and regional studies (URS)?

The Department of City and Regional Planning's (CRP) undergraduate major in urban and regional studies encompasses an interdisciplinary, liberal arts-style course of study focused on the forces that shape the social, economic, and political character and physical form of urban/suburban areas and their surrounding regions. Students in this major pursue knowledge in a range of disciplines, acquire significant writing skills, develop quantitative and non-quantitative analytical skills, and gain the capacity to think both broadly and deeply regarding the past, present, and future of urbanized communities and their inhabitants.

Learn more about what URS students are learning and the work of URS students:

Why focus on urban and regional studies?

The world is in the midst of the greatest surge of urban growth and development ever seen. The 21st century has already been called the Century of the City, and it has barely just begun. Rapid urbanization in this era of economic instability and dwindling natural resources is an unprecedented challenge to the global community — a challenge that URS students are uniquely equipped to take on and help solve.

Who is invited to do honors work in URS?

URS offers seniors with a superior record of academic accomplishment the opportunity to write an honors thesis. To be eligible for the honors program, students must at least have completed the junior year, completed four semesters registered in URS, have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.500, have a minimum GPA of 3.700 in the major (including the microeconomics and statistics requirements), and have completed at least 10 of the 12 courses in the major. Once admitted, an honors student selects a faculty advisor and develops and writes a thesis with close guidance. The thesis must be 75 or fewer pages.

What kind of classes do URS students take?

URS students develop a broad academic base in the physical and biological sciences, quantitative methods and mathematics, social sciences and history, humanities and the arts, and writing. Students complete a series of four introductory classes. Through additional classes, they develop expertise in looking at cities/suburbs and metropolitan regions. Topics include theory, social and political dynamics, economics, history, design, land use, the environment, regional and global forces that affect cities and regions, and analysis of potential policy choices through the application of quantitative and qualitative methods.

Do URS students often spend a semester away from Ithaca?

Many URS students spend the spring semester of their junior year studying in Italy as part of the Cornell in Rome program. Some students take advantage of Cornell Abroad's wide range of opportunities to spend a semester studying in countries around the world. Others spend a semester studying at Cornell in Washington, DC.

Do students have opportunities to be involved with faculty members?

In this small, close-knit program, faculty members are generally available to talk with students. Most have regular office hours and set up appointments with students at other times as well. Professors teach nearly all classes, with graduate students sometimes working as discussion section leaders or class assistants. Students will also meet faculty at department events, both academic and social, and throughout the campus and Ithaca community.

Why is URS in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP)?

Architecture, city and regional planning, and urban studies are often colocated in universities. The URS program exemplifies AAP's mission of integrating design and social science to understand and improve urban environments. In addition, the URS program benefits from the perspectives of faculty and students involved in graduate degrees in City and Regional Planning, Historic Preservation Planning, and Regional Science.

How many students are in the program? How many first-year students?

There are approximately 120 undergraduates in URS; approximately 25–30 first-years enroll each year, plus a few transfer students.

Is there an opportunity to do fieldwork?

Yes! Some classes are organized around providing students with fieldwork experience. In addition, students can arrange fieldwork projects and other work experience in local agencies during the school year and in settings throughout the U.S. and internationally during summers and other vacation periods. These experiences prove to be invaluable to students when they seek employment.

What can I do with this degree?

Recent urban and regional studies graduates have gone on to careers in local government, urban design, environmental and international law, real estate and development, city planning, social policy, public health, and medicine.

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