Students in the MS URPL program can earn another graduate degree through the La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW-Madison. La Follette offers domestic and international degrees in public management and policy analysis. Students who choose to pursue this route will receive a Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning and a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) or Master of International Public Affairs (MIPA) degree.
The program takes three years and 72 credits to complete and provides an excellent background for those whose goals are to pursue professional planning careers in government, nonprofit and community organizations related to public policy, analysis, and management.
Manpreet Kaur, who graduated Spring 2022 with her double-degree, says:
“The degrees in Urban Planning and Public Affairs made my world bigger. While applying for Graduate School, I knew I wanted to explore policy analysis [from my experience working in a nonprofit organization]. But it was not until I took a Housing and Public Policy class that I realized which policy realm I wanted to delve into. I hear Urban Planning professionals say – it seems as though we all stumbled into studying Urban Planning, and this could not be truer for me. As a First-Generation student, I knew little about an Urban Planning degree and had even fewer tools to explain it. I used anecdotal tools to explain to my community members and family what I am studying – “You know how you wish our elders had safer options for cycling through the city? That is what I study!” Double-Degree programs are a part of the “cheat sheet” of university degree programs, I did not know about them until I arrived at UW Madison and met peers in double- and dual-degree programs. Now, I tell youth to absolutely explore these degree options.
The double-degree program has helped me apply the policy analysis tools from La Follette to the practical Urban Planning troubleshooting we encounter – I see an issue [or a solution] and immediately go into policy mode to understand the advocacy or legislation that supports planning problems and solutions. Most memorable is a longform policy memo course we took at La Follette – this class felt most grounding for me in piecing together a policy issue towards solutions. I use the lessons learned in that course in my Urban Planning courses. The beauty of the Urban Planning courses though is the DIY nature of the journey a student can have in the program – I had an opportunity to learn from peers studying everything from food systems to outdoor classrooms. I brought my community organizing lens as I prioritized building social infrastructure in class discussions and projects. For example, a standout class during my Urban Planning degree was the very last class I took – Climate Action by Design with Nathan Larson – where we explored a new and nuanced topic every week then had class time to design a program under the same theme. The projects were designed in-class. With each project, we had to think through policies, funding, and most importantly, the people who would bring these ideas to life. This class was the perfect culmination in applying the skills of my two degrees but also the professional experiences that brought me to Graduate School – centering people and community experience while activating change to improve their experiences in new ways that then build stronger roots in a community.
Some projects my groups designed were:
- The Magic Food Bus, a food aggregation bus that travels to connect community gardens and small farms while building connectivity of pollinator habitats
- Go Big Seed, an heirloom seed competition across Wisconsin public schools [from our seed saving class lesson]
- Farmer in Residence program which pays members of the community to curate a public garden focusing on cultural plant varieties and agricultural practices as educational plots.
Being a double-degree student is rigorous and challenging but not without reward. I am excited at the career opportunities to explore where I can find symbiosis between my community organizing past with my Urban Planning and Policy present to build programming alongside the physical infrastructure of our communities. Everything is policy, and urban planning is entirely policy, so the natural fit between the two programs made sense for me. Plus, having double the resources between faculty and administration of two programs was critical for me to complete both degrees and feel equipped and confident to explore career possibilities.
I have valued the opportunity to explore my home community of California’s Central Valley as case studies in classes like Land Use Policy, or using lessons learned from my father’s experience as a long-haul trucker in the Transportation course, or challenging popular notions of Gentrification to think of a more nuanced approach in Revel Sims’ course. Once you study Urban Planning, it is difficult to unsee it in our built environment and not to imagine new possibilities. As a graduation gift, I traveled to Mexico City and was in awe of the infrastructure that prioritizes pedestrians, but I cherished most the organic movement of people in harmony with the more structured policy and design of the city – the street vendors that provide daily breakfast, next to restaurant sourcing from small producers within the Valley of Mexico City and its surroundings, Puebla, Michoacán, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, the State of Mexico and Morelos, next to the pollinator buffer between the sidewalk, beside the protected bike lane, and then the bus lane. These observations could not have been made without my time in both degree programs and the lessons I have taken from both.”
Graduate students can pursue the MS URPL-MPA/MIPA double-degree at the start of their Graduate career here at UW-Madison, or they are welcome to add the double- degree to their program after they matriculate and have had a chance to take a few courses. Students interested in the MS in Urban and Regional Planning may contact Amy Rivera at firstname.lastname@example.org, and students interested in the Master of Public Affairs or Master of International Public Affairs may contact Mo O’Connor at email@example.com.