Jun 14, 2024  
2022-2023 Catalog 
2022-2023 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Urban Planning and Sustainable Development, BA

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Department of Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy, College of the Environment

97 credits minimum


This interdisciplinary program prepares students to enter professional fields concerned with the sustainability of the human and natural environment. The Urban Planning and Sustainable Development major consists of foundation, urban planning core, specialization, capstone and experiential courses. The foundation and planning core requirement incorporates the interdisciplinary foundation of the College of the Environment’s approach to the study of the human and natural environment, with an emphasis on public policy development, law, and the methods, theory, and processes of planning and decision-making. The specialization courses allow students to develop an area of specialized interest in a defined planning sub-discipline, to concentrate on a minor in an academic discipline, or to select from a number of thematically oriented clusters of courses.

College of the Environment’s Urban Planning and Sustainable Development major emphasizes innovative approaches to solving complex problems facing communities from the local to the global level. The program stresses progressive change leading towards equitable, healthful, livable, and sustainable communities with the emphasis on social and environmental justice, diversity, and service to under-served communities. The curriculum combines urban planning, urban and sustainable design, planning laws, environmental policy, and natural sciences to provide students with an understanding of the linkages between urban and natural systems and the multidimensional problems in urban development.

Graduates are prepared for entry-level careers in planning agencies, consulting firms, and nonprofit organizations in various fields locally, nationally, and internationally, as well as advanced graduate studies.

Why Consider a Study of Urban Planning and Sustainable Development Major?

Do you want to shape the cities of tomorrow by:

  • planning and designing livable communities and neighborhoods?
  • addressing climate change and environmental sustainability?
  • promoting social justice and equity?
  • developing housing affordability solutions?
  • incorporating transportation and climate action innovations in city plans?
  • collaborating with government agencies, non-profit organization, and community groups to address local, regional, and global problems?

Then Urban Planning and Sustainable Development, BA is the major for you. Cities are at the forefront of innovations that deal with these challenges and Western’s UPSD program will prepare you to be part of the solution!

 Contact Information

Department Chair
Nabil Kamel
Arntzen Hall 230

College of the Environment
Professional Advisor

Kathryn Patrick
Environmental Studies 539

Planning Program
Faculty Advisor

Nicholas Zaferatos
Environmental Studies 444

 Sample Careers

Urban Planner | Regional Planner | Sustainable Development Consultant | Planning Consultant | County Planner | Environmental Planner Natural Resources Manager | Non-Profit Organizations

 Major/Career Resources


How to Declare (Admission and Declaration Process):

How to Apply as a Pre-Major:

At any time, you can declare yourself as a pre-major in Urban Planning and Sustainable Development by emailing cenv@wwu.edu. A declaration form will be sent to you to complete and return. Once you are declared as a pre-major you are assigned a College of the Environment professional advisor and a UPSD program faculty advisor based on your academic interests. Your professional advisor can help you understand graduation requirements and how to navigate through the College of the Environment curriculum. Your faculty advisor guides you in which courses to take, and when, and gives you advice about internships and how to prepare for graduate school or a future career. As a pre-major, your email is added to distribution lists for College of the Environment majors so you will begin to receive notifications and general announcements. The pre-major status will also give you access to priority registration for some classes.

How to Apply to the Major:

As a nationally accredited professional planning program, admission to the Urban Planning and Sustainable Development major at the College of the Environment is a competitive process. The program accepts a junior cohort class of about 25 students annually during the spring quarter, but other application periods may also be announced. Before applying, students should complete required GURs and foundations courses. 

To apply, submit an application (and a PDF file) that includes the following:

  • A statement of interest (700-1,000 words) that describes your interest in the urban planning major; your familiarity with urban planning and sustainable development; and your vision and affinity to work in the planning field and in the public interest. 
  • A resume summarizing academic, curricular, extra-curricular, and any volunteer activities.
  • A portfolio of work that demonstrates your skills and affinity with the major. Suggested portfolio materials include any of the following, or other materials that represent your vision, skills, and experience: a) examples of your best academic writing; b) an annotated list of no more than three inspirational readings; c) examples of creative expression, drawings, or other illustrative skills; and d) description of volunteer or work activities. 

Applications are ranked based on the applicants’ demonstrated interests in solving urban planning problems; commitment to planning’s social and environmental justice goals; aspirations for working in the public interest; relevant skills and experiences; and academic performance. Applicant selection is also based on creating a cohort representing diverse perspectives and lived experiences.

To become familiar with the work of urban planning and our program’s curriculum, applicants are strongly advised to review the American Planning Association website (planning.org) as well as the program’s brochure (cenv.wwu.edu/uepp/ba-urban-planning-sustainable-development).

Applications are accepted at the College of the Environment office, ES 539, in the spring quarter for admission to the program beginning in fall quarter. Applications may be accepted in other quarters when announced.

If you have any questions, please contact a professional advisor at the College of the Environment Student Support office in ES 539.

Grade Requirements

A grade of C- or better is required for a student’s major or minor courses, and supporting courses for majors and minors.


Students select either Option A: Environmental Studies Foundation courses OR Option B: Environmental Sciences Foundation Courses.

Urban Planning and Sustainable Development Major Core Courses (69 credits minimum)

Planning Elective Specialization (10 credits minimum)

❑ Students must complete a minimum of three courses from one of the specialization groups listed below:

G. Student and Faculty Designed Specialization

Three courses for a total of 10 or more credits. Students may elect to take any combination of elective courses listed in this section.

H. Completion of Minor with Faculty Advisor and UPSD Program Director approval

Culminating Courses - Capstone and Experiential (8 credits minimum)

College of the Environment Capstone

Students are required to take one ENVS/ESCI/UEPP approved course with a capstone “CPST” attribute during their senior year. Several capstone options are open to all College of the Environment students; others have prerequisites. Urban Planning and Sustainable Development majors in Foundations Option A are encouraged to select from ENVS/UEPP 474 or ENVS/ESCI/UEPP 493 as their capstone: Foundations Option B majors are encouraged to select from ENVS/ESCI/UEPP 493 or from other ESCI courses


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