Urban Studies

Concentration Requirements

The program’s interdisciplinary curriculum provides students with the flexibility and range to craft an individualized course plan exploring their own specific interests in the urban world.

The urban studies concentration does not have pre-designed tracks; instead, students are able to select courses that together address particular themes or issues, e.g. urban planning and design, cities and climate change, urban history and culture, etc. 

All students take the following:

  • 1 Introductory course
  • 1 Research Methods course
  • 3 Basic Curriculum: Core courses
  • 3 Basic Curriculum: Seminar courses
  • 2 Complementary Curriculum courses
  • Capstone Project or Honors Thesis

For a complete list of courses that currently count for urban studies credit, please consult the most recent version of the concentration worksheet, which is updated each semester. It is strongly encouraged that all concentration requirements be taken for a grade with the possible exception of the research methods requirement.

If you are interested in declaring urban studies as your concentration or have any questions about the courses and requirements, you should make an appointment to speak with one of our faculty members or reach out to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Lauren Yapp at lauren_yapp@brown.edu.

Our introductory courses offer students a broad overview of the past, present, and future of cities and urbanization, as well as familiarizing them with the key thinkers and theories of urban studies scholarship. Some courses expose students to urban contexts around the globe, while others feature a deep dive into urban issues close to home in Providence.

Students can choose from a range of research methods courses focused on both quantitative and qualitative methods, including ethnography, statistics, and econometrics.

Our core courses introduce students to a range of key subject areas and theoretical perspectives within the urban studies field. Students must take core courses in at least three different disciplines, such as American studies, anthropology, archaeology, economics, education, environmental studies, history, history of art and architecture, literature, political science, sociology, and urban planning.  

Seminars offer students the opportunity to engage in an intensive study of specialized urban themes or challenges. These smaller classes ensure that students have the chance to work closely with faculty and to carry out research or applied projects. Seminars often serve as the basis for extended writing projects, such as capstone papers, in which students bring together what they have learned throughout their time in the urban studies program.

The complementary curriculum recognizes courses with urban studies content that are taught throughout Brown’s many departments and programs. Students may also choose to fulfill their complementary curriculum requirement by taking additional introductory, core, or seminar courses. Certain RISD courses or study abroad courses may also be used to meet this requirement, but students should first consult with their concentration advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies to see if the specific courses they have in mind are eligible for urban studies credit.

All urban studies concentrators will need to complete either a capstone paper/project or an honors thesis in their senior year.

Double Concentrators

Many students find that the urban studies curriculum pairs well with another concentration they are also pursuing. Our program welcomes double concentrators and encourages students considering this route to consult with their concentration advisors in both departments to make sure that they are fulfilling all their requirements in a timely manner. Please note that only two courses can be used to simultaneously count for both urban studies credit and credit in a second concentration.

Sample Path to Completion of the Concentration

Year 1:

  • Take one introductory level course.

Year 2:

  • Take two or more core courses, plus possibly a research methods course or complementary course.
  • In the Fall, meet with an urban studies faculty member or the Director of Undergraduate Studies to discuss your goals and interests in the program.
  • In the Spring, declare the concentration through ASK, build your course plan (using the concentration worksheet as your guide), and select a concentration advisor (one of the urban studies faculty).
  • If you are considering studying abroad in your junior year, plan in advance how you will complete the rest of your courses and whether you will need to petition for any courses taken abroad to count towards the complementary curriculum requirement.
  • In the summer, consider participating in an internship in an urban-related field or community-based organization.

Year 3: 

  • Finish core courses and begin taking seminars (urban studies concentrators in the third and fourth year are given priority for registration in seminars with an URBN course code). If you haven’t done so already, consider also taking a research methods course or complementary course.
  • If considering doing an honors thesis, attend the program’s informational session in the Fall and begin to brainstorm ideas for possible topics. Meet with faculty who have relevant expertise in your possible topics to discuss your interests and thesis plans. In the Spring, attend the program’s thesis prep workshops, identify your thesis topic, and reach out to a faculty member to ask them to serve as your thesis advisor. Prepare your thesis proposal application and submit it to the department in April. Apply for research funding if applicable. Consider beginning your thesis research over the summer before your fourth year.

Year 4:

  • Complete any remaining course requirements.
  • If not writing a thesis, enroll in a seminar in which you will write your capstone paper. Or, enroll in an independent study with an urban studies faculty if taking this option to complete your capstone requirement.
  • If writing a thesis, enroll in the thesis writer’s seminar in the Fall and work with your advisor during the Fall and Spring to complete your research, analyze your findings, and write your thesis. Final drafts are due to thesis committees in mid-April.
  • Present your capstone or thesis project to students and faculty at the end-of-year urban studies senior presentations.