Wisconsin Idea

The Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture builds upon and expand our commitment to applied research, service learning and community-based pedagogy in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea. Department activities include student and faculty engagement with communities through service learning and applied projects. Several examples are included here.   

  • Capstone projects for current BSLA and BS major programs. BSLA seniors take on an individual yearlong capstone project with a community partner. These average about 18 per year and serve municipalities, agencies, nonprofits and communities throughout the State of WI and beyond, including Troy Communities, City of Milwaukee, City of Madison, UniverCity Year initiative, UW System, and more. BS majors will complete a one-semester capstone project. Capstone projects have occurred in more than 75% of Wisconsin's counties and with other organizations and tribal governments.
  • MSLA Graduate Workshops and Labs.  Most of these courses involve theory, concepts and processes that are then applied to problems facing national, state and local agencies and groups.  Examples of collaborations include the National Park Service, Natural Heritage Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, WI DNR, Fitchburg Center, Inc., other land trusts and conservancies, Department of Public Health, neighborhood associations and other community based organizations.
  • URPL Graduate Workshop. As a requirement of the MS URPL, second year graduate students enroll in a semester-long workshop addressing a community planning issue. Recent projects have addressed non-motorized transportation, housing, land use, water quality, community and economic development, and more. Recent partners include the City of Monona, Marathon County, City of Fitchburg, Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, Wisconsin DNR, and Jefferson County.
  • Client-centered community-based partnerships. Recent project partners for junior-level Landscape Architecture courses (LA365, LA351, LA451) include: International Crane Foundation, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (Milwaukee), Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers (Milwaukee), Franklin Elementary School (Madison), The Rudin House – Frank Lloyd Wright Historic Site (Madison), St. James Preschool (Madison), UW Facilities Planning and Management (Madison), Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC), City of Madison Department of Planning and Community and Economic Development, Fitchburg Center, Inc. and the City of Fitchburg's Mayors Office.
  • Service learning field courses. Recent courses offered in: Honduras (Park Planning and Design), Costa Rica (Cloud Forest Restoration and Education), and Nicaragua (Global Health Certificate Course). Many other courses include applied elements and joint team-based student projects (e.g., site design, housing, food systems, water quality).

Applied research, engagement, and extension activities include projects addressing community and economic development, food systems, human health and the built environment, local government planning, analyses of urban growth and land use change, housing and transportation, rural amenity and recreation analysis, environmental and natural resources restoration and protection. Several faculty have formal integrated appointments with UW-Extension addressing many of these topics. All faculty and staff are engaged in local, statewide, national, and international service, applied research, and outreach activities.

Research Labs

Environmental Design Lab

Kaufman Lab

Earth Partnership

Outreach Partnerships

PLA has outreach partnerships with the following:

URPL Research + Outreach

Urban and Regional Planning has three core missions of teaching, research, and outreach. First, our professional masters curriculum actively prepares graduate students to become competent, creative and effective practicing planners while our doctoral program trains students in planning research for their entry into academia. Second, we create new knowledge through multidisciplinary research relevant to planning; scholarship that is published in peer-reviewed journals, books, monographs, and technical reports. Third, we engage the Wisconsin Idea through professional planning activities and service to communities throughout the state and beyond in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Extension, a variety of public agencies, planning consulting firms and other private and non-profit sector organizations.

URPL takes an integrated approach to academic studies. Its research and service goals reflect the University's combination of scholarly and applied work. The research activities of our departmental faculty are diverse. They tend to cluster around the areas of: land use planning, economic planning, natural resources and environmental planning, community development planning, and international development planning, as well as on planning process themes. Faculty members are engaged in research on planning practice, the ethics and values of planners, community development planning, evaluation of economic development and social welfare programs, tourism and natural resources planning, comparative planning and public policy issues in the international area, integrated environmental planning and management, watershed planning, social conflict over land use and environmental issues, growth management, alternative dispute resolution, social justice in urban areas, and other related areas. These interests are reflected in the curriculum structure.