1. PROGRAM OVERVIEW
1.1 Intention/Role of Handbook
This handbook is intended for graduate students who are pursuing the Master of Science (MS) degree in Urban and Regional Planning (MS URPL). The UW–Madison Graduate School is the ultimate authority for granting graduate degrees at the University. The Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture (DPLA) administers this graduate program under the authority of the Graduate School. The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general University requirements. Program authority to set degree requirements beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the MS URPL program faculty.
This handbook serves as the Policies & Procedures guide for the MS URPL Program. Degrees and course
requirements may change over time. However, students may choose to meet the degree and course requirements
in effect when they enter the program or the requirements resulting from subsequent changes, whichever is best
for the student. In addition, the program’s administrative procedures and processes can change over time.
Students are required to follow the procedures and processes listed in this handbook, including amendments as
applicable. The information in this handbook should also be supplemented by individual consultation with your
advisors so that your individual interests and all degree requirements are met.
1.2 Department Mission + Vision
Department Mission: Our scholarship and educational activities will advance sustainable and livable communities,
cities, and regions that are vibrant, thriving, and resilient. We do this through integrative teaching, research, and
public engagement that seeks solutions to serve human needs and protect the integrity of natural environments.
The department, based upon the disciplines of landscape architecture and urban and regional planning, provides
opportunities to explore interdisciplinary research, design, planning, and policy analysis at local, regional, and
Department Vision: We are a dynamic network of scholars and stakeholders working to advance healthy,
prosperous, equitable, and sustainable built and natural environments in the tradition of the Wisconsin Idea from
the local to the global scale.
Expectations for Department Inclusion, Diversity, and Collegiality: The department is committed to establishing
and maintaining a supportive climate of inclusion, diversity, and collegiality among our interactions and through
our actions and policies. We envision a department in which all individuals are engaged in a vibrant learning
community, where ideas, experiences, and perspectives are supported, nurtured, and developed to their highest
levels. Attitudes, behaviors, and standards within our community will demonstrate inclusion and respect for
individual needs, abilities, and potential.
1.3 Program Mission + Goals
The mission of the MS Program in Urban and Regional Planning is to provide a learning environment that
promotes excellence in research, teaching, and outreach relevant to the professional practice of urban and
regional planning. The Program encourages discovery, critical examination, and application of the knowledge,
skills, values, and ethics necessary to foster sustainable natural and built environments, promote economic
opportunity and social justice, and improve quality-of-life within communities across Wisconsin and across the globe.
The goal of our MS Program’s professional curriculum is to prepare graduate students to become competent,
creative, effective, and ethical practicing planners. Our research goal – to create new knowledge through
multidisciplinary research relevant to planning – ensures that our learning environment reflects important
emerging areas in the field. Our outreach goal to engage in the Wisconsin Idea through professional planning
activities and service to communities reinforces our service commitments and enables applied learning
experiences for students and faculty. We pursue all these goals throughout the state and beyond in collaboration
with University of Wisconsin–Madison colleagues and institutional partners (e.g., Extension), a variety of public
agencies, planning consulting firms, and other private and non-profit sector organizations.
1.4 Background + History
The UW–Madison Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture (DPLA), housed in the College of Letters &
Science, formed in 2017 when the departments of Urban and Regional Planning (URPL) and Landscape
Architecture (LA) combined. This department strengthens and enhances planning and design for sustainable and
resilient communities and environments. DPLA supports accredited academic programs in Landscape
Architecture (BSLA) and Urban and Regional Planning (MS URPL), as well as a PhD degree (PhD URPL), an MSLA
degree, and the non-accredited undergraduate major in Landscape and Urban Studies (LUS).
The MS in Urban and Regional Planning (URPL)
The MS URPL degree is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB), which reviews the department for
accreditation every 5–7 years. As one of 76 accredited graduate planning programs in the United States, the MS
URPL program has a strong national reputation as a policy-oriented department with emphasis on applied social
science research and practice in community and economic development, environmental planning, food systems,
housing, land use, rural amenity development and tourism, sustainability, and an emerging emphasis in health and
the built environment.
The MS URPL program has a long and distinguished tradition at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Courses in
City Planning were first offered on campus as early as 1911, and since its official inception as a department in
1962, the department served as the training ground for 1,125 Master’s (MS) and 66 Doctoral (PhD) graduates.
URPL MS alumni are found throughout the world working as leaders of organizations and communities at multiple
scales, and supporting sound decision-making for the benefit of individuals, their communities, and society as a
whole. Our graduates are well prepared for careers in planning and are consistently ranked among the highest
pass rates of those who take the field’s professional certification exam offered through the American Institute of
In addition to strengths in campus research and teaching, the department’s faculty also provides planning expertise to governmental, professional, and citizen organizations. Typically, these activities include:
• applied research and technical assistance to the network of county-based Cooperative Extension faculty, professional planners, and others in Wisconsin;
• continuing education of professionals and citizens in Wisconsin and beyond on critical planning issues;
• collaborations with agencies from the local to the international level on planning-related issues, including public policy education;
• practicum courses that engage service-learning and community-based research.
Extension linkages have long been a hallmark of PLA’s applied research and service to Wisconsin, and many of
the MS URPL program faculty have formal integrated appointments with the UW–Madison Division of Extension.
The most recent PAB accreditation report noted the department’s exceptional strengths in Extension, close
interactions with planners and policy makers, and the positive benefits and opportunities created for students.
1.5 Learning Outcomes
Assessment Plan – Master of Science Degree/Urban and Regional Planning
Student Learning Goals (What)
1. Students will demonstrate the comprehension, representation, and use of ideas and information in the
2. Students will use and apply knowledge to perform specific tasks required in the practice of planning.
3. Students will foster ethical and professional conduct.
Plan for Assessing Each Student Learning Goal
1. Who is responsible for assessment? Assessment of professional projects will be conducted by the student’s area-of-concentration advisor and one additional faculty member assigned by the MS URPL Committee. Surveys of Alumni will be conducted annually by the MS URPL Committee. Assessments of the internship will be conducted by the student’s area-of-concentration advisor.
2. What is the plan for review of the assessment information? Annually, the MS Program Committee will review all assessments of professional projects and report to the faculty and staff on student performance. Annually the faculty and staff will also review enrollment information, course progression, degree completion, and other structural features of the student experience in addition to the evidence about student learning.
3. What is the plan for production of an annual summary report? Annually the MS Program Committee will prepare a summary report that includes the materials that form the basis of discussion at the annual meeting of the program faculty and staff, along with any recommendations made after considering the student learning assessment information presented.
4. How will recommendations be implemented? Recommendations will be reviewed by department faculty and staff and acted upon at a meeting subsequent to the annual meeting. If approved, faculty and staff will take the necessary steps to implement the recommendation
1.6 Program Statistics
Statistics about the MS URPL Program can be viewed here: http://grad.wisc.edu/education/academicprograms/profiles/979MS.pdf. Additional public information about the program, including measures of student achievement, tuition and fees, student retention and graduation rates, AICP exam pass rate, and employment rates, can be found here: https://dpla.wisc.edu/academics/graduate-programs/ms-urban-and-regional-planning/ms-urpl-publicinformation/.
1.7 Institutional Structure
The Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture includes the following degree programs:
BA or BS Major in Landscape and Urban Studies
BLA – accredited professional program in Landscape Architecture
MS in Landscape Architecture
MS in Urban and Regional Planning
PhD in Urban and Regional Planning
Each degree has a program committee within the department. The department is housed within the College of Letters & Science at UW–Madison.
1.8 Program Structure
The following are standing committees established by the department that relate to the MS URPL program. The committee members are appointed to the committees at the beginning of each academic year by the Department Chair. The members of the committees may (and often do) change year to year.
MS URPL Program Committee responsibilities include admissions, recruitment, and retention, ensuring the program meets accreditation standards, waiving requirements, student awards, approving substitutions, and other matters for the MS URPL degree program. Additional responsibilities outlined in MS URPL program policies. Areas not under jurisdiction of the MS URPL Program Committee include: course waivers (substitution) for required courses (course waivers may only be granted by instructors of required courses); course decisions related to a student’s area of concentration (these courses are approved by the student’s area-of-concentration advisor); issues under the jurisdiction of the Curriculum Committee.
Curriculum Committee will assess curricular needs and requirements for the department’s academic programs and ensure coordination and consistency across programs. It will also coordinate the scheduling of when courses are taught and maintain an overall three-year teaching plan. The committee will review appeals of decisions of the program committees.
Climate Committee is responsible for coordinating discussions, activities, and policiesto ensure the department establishes and maintains a diverse, inclusive, vibrant, and excellent learning and work environment for all students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others who partner with it. The scope of committee activities will include: oversee implementation of annual climate surveys for students and for faculty/staff; review of department inclusion and equity issues (such as participation in governance); help to identify professional development opportunities regarding climate; help recognize and quickly respond to emerging concerns about climate and community throughout the year.
Communication and Outreach Committee is responsible for coordinating the department’s extension, outreach, and public relations activities. Responsibilities include coordinating social media presence, producing newsletters and alumni communications, helping programs with marketing and recruitment, and promoting department activities and events.
Facilities and IT Committee is responsible for recommending policies and priorities related to maintenance and improvement of the facilities, and for policy and procedures regarding the use of IT and computer resources within the department. This shall include developing policies regarding usage of the computer labs by students and others and may include periodic recommendations for IT resources to meet department needs. FAIT Committee also works with other committees to arrange updates to building artwork and displays, display cases, and bulletin boards.
1.8.2 Department/Program Staff
Department Chair – The chair is the head of administrative and academic decision-making for the department.
The chair is always available to students who have concerns or comments about the programs or courses.
Department Administrator – The department administrator serves as the onboarding coordinator for new
employees, including students. They also oversee human resources functions for the department, are the contact
for personnel and workplace issues and policy questions, and serve as a backup for financial, payroll, and benefit
Graduate Student Services Coordinator – The graduate coordinator manages all aspects of graduate student
services from the time students apply to the program through their transition to PLA alumni. The graduate
coordinator is also responsible for the department’s recruitment, admissions, academic and career advising,
student graduation, marketing communications (e.g., website and social media), campus leadership and
engagement, and alumni relations.
Undergraduate Student Services Coordinator – The undergraduate coordinator manages all aspects of
undergraduate student services. PLA’s undergraduate degree programs include an accredited professional design
program, the Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA) and a major degree program, Landscape and
Urban Studies, in the College of Letters & Science. The undergraduate coordinator is also responsible for
undergraduate recruitment, internships, academic and department policy, as well as alumni outreach for LA.
Financial Specialist – The financial specialist is responsible for fiscal administration in the department, as
well as payroll and benefits. They also handle appointment letters, benefits, faculty and student payroll
(though individual faculty approve the hours of their student employees), student reimbursements of
conference travel, and any other financial questions.
Departmental IT Support – IT support serves as the primary computing consultant for faculty, staff, and students
in the department. They manage the student computing labs and provide IT support to the digital studios,
graphic labs, and faculty and administrative offices.
1.8.3 Faculty/Instructional Staff
MS URPL faculty have their tenure homes in the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture. Program
faculty teach courses relevant to the program, serve as advisors to students, and are the chairs on their advisees’
professional project or thesis committee.
Affiliated faculty have tenure homes and offices in other departments, but their research interests align with those
of the PLA Department. They do not advise MS URPL students formally but are happy to speak to or work with
students as time allows.
Adjunct faculty are hired on a semester basis to teach a specific class. They do not have advising or committee