Urban Studies

Program Offerings

Offering type

The Program in Urban Studies is an interdepartmental plan of study for undergraduates that offers an interdisciplinary framework for the study of cities, metropolitan regions, and urban and suburban landscapes. With courses in diverse departments including anthropology, architecture, art and archaeology, history, African American studies, English, Latin American studies, Spanish and Portuguese languages and cultures, civil and environmental engineering, energy studies, sociology, politics, theater, and the High Meadows Environmental Institute, along with the School of Architecture and the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, the program encourages students to think about metropolitan centers in all their complexity as physical spaces; social, cultural, political and economic nexuses; and historical artifacts.

In addition, students are advised about opportunities to acquire field experience in urban settings through the Program for Community-Engaged Scholarship (ProCES) and other programs. Those students with appropriate background and training are also encouraged to study and conceptualize cities via a comparative, international perspective, using the resources of Princeton's area studies and international programs.

Goals for Student Learning

Urban studies is the study of cities across disciplines. The key learning goals for a certificate in urban studies are:

  • To introduce architectural and urban design issues to build design and critical thinking skills from a multidisciplinary perspective.
  • To examine the key concepts of urban life, with its concentrated extremes, and how cities throughout history have brokered revolution, transformation and renewal, focusing on class, race, gender, immigration, capitalism and the built environment.
  • To consider cities as urban spaces, as objects of representation, and as part of cultural identities. To do so, we use an interdisciplinary approach, through literature, history, sociology, art history, architecture, etc.
  • To offer research methodological opportunities in classwork and through independent work that advance critical thought and the understanding of contemporary urban conditions.
  • To develop students’ capacity for analysis in multiple settings, including academia, public and private sectors, social organizations and local communities.

Admission to the Program

The Program in Urban Studies is open to all undergraduate students, regardless of discipline. Students apply for admission by filling out the application on the urban studies website and arranging an interview with the director of the program. Students are accepted into the program on the basis of interest and a coherent academic plan. Students are asked to propose a tentative course of study in their application.

Program of Study

The requirements for the certificate include two core courses and three electives, as well as engagement with urban studies in the student’s senior thesis research. 

Students must take either URB 200 with the approval of the director, an urban-focused elective such as URB 388 in a semester in which URB 200 is not offered. Students must also take a design studio course, either  ARC 205 or ARC 204 (for students planning to major in architecture), to satisfy the core course requirements. Students must pass both required courses with a grade of B or above.

In addition to the two core courses, students must complete three electives: one from social sciences; one from the humanities; and one from engineering or the natural sciences. A list of approved electives is posted on the website. Courses not on the approved list may be used as electives with the approval of the program director. However, each selected course must contain substantial urban content to fulfill the requirements of the certificate program.

As soon as possible after applying for admission to the urban studies undergraduate certificate program, students meet with the program director or urban studies faculty adviser to establish an approved course of study. Every student is strongly encouraged to take the two required courses as soon as possible, although the courses can be taken at any time. The core courses are designed to be accessible to all majors. 

These courses must be completed in addition to coursework taken to fulfill the requirements of the student's major, although they may be used to fulfill distribution requirements. Students can double-count one of the three electives toward their major and the certificate which is monitored in TigerHub. To be counted toward the certificate, all courses must be taken for a grade. Course overlap with another certificate program is permitted but dependent upon the other certificate program guidelines.

While urban studies students' senior theses are written in their home departments, their work must contain an urban component, approved by the program director. A faculty member from the student's home department serves as the primary adviser and first reader. Students' urban studies advisers selected from the program's associated faculty list provide additional consultation and layer of expertise as they write their thesis and think about potentially urban-related careers. The thesis title and abstract must be sent to the program director for final approval.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill the requirements of the program receive a certificate of proficiency in urban studies upon graduation.


  • Director

    • Mario I. Gandelsonas
  • Executive Committee

    • Sigrid M. Adriaenssens, Civil and Environmental Eng
    • João Biehl, Anthropology
    • M. Christine Boyer, Architecture
    • Michael A. Celia, Civil and Environmental Eng
    • Mario I. Gandelsonas, Architecture
    • Maria E. Garlock, Civil and Environmental Eng
    • Alison E. Isenberg, History
    • Gyan Prakash, History
  • Associated Faculty

    • Roland J. Benabou, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Elie R. Bou-Zeid, Civil and Environmental Eng
    • Leah P. Boustan, Economics
    • Marshall B. Brown, Architecture
    • Vera S. Candiani, History
    • Miguel A. Centeno, Sociology
    • Janet Y. Chen, History
    • Jill S. Dolan, Office of the Dean of College
    • Patricia Fernández-Kelly, Sociology
    • Simon E. Gikandi, English
    • William A. Gleason, English
    • Joshua B. Guild, History
    • Judith Hamera, Lewis Center for the Arts
    • Peter R. Jaffé, Civil and Environmental Eng
    • Harold James, History
    • Jennifer L. Jennings, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Michael Koortbojian, Art and Archaeology
    • Kevin M. Kruse, History
    • Germán Labrador Méndez, Spanish & Portuguese
    • Eduardo Morales, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Jan-Werner Müller, Politics
    • Guy J.P. Nordenson, Architecture
    • Alejandro Portes, Sociology
    • Stephen J. Redding, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Patrick T. Sharkey, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • James Smith, Civil and Environmental Eng
    • Janet A. Vertesi, Sociology
  • Sits with Committee

    • Aaron P. Shkuda

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.


URB 201 - Introduction to Urban Studies (also ARC 207/SOC 203/SPI 201) Spring SA

This course will examine different crises confronting cities in the 21st century. Topics will range from immigration, to terrorism, shrinking population, traffic congestion, pollution, energy crisis, housing needs, water wars, race riots, extreme weather conditions, war and urban operations. The range of cities will include Los Angles, New Orleans, Paris, Logos, Caracas, Havana, New York, Hong Kong, and Baghdad among others. M. Boyer

URB 210 - Urban Sociology: The City and Social Change in the Americas (also LAO 210/LAS 210/SOC 210) Fall SA

URB 227 - Race and Ethnicity (also SOC 227) SA

URB 237 - Contemporary Issues in Spain (also EPS 227/SPA 227) LA

URB 258 - Revisiting Paris (also COM 258/ECS 327/FRE 217) Fall HA

URB 262A - Structures and the Urban Environment (also ARC 262A/CEE 262A/EGR 262A) Not offered this year LA

URB 262B - Structures and the Urban Environment (also ARC 262B/CEE 262B/EGR 262B) Spring SEL

URB 264 - Urban Blues and the Golden Age of Rock (also MUS 264) LA

URB 268 - Introduction to African American History Since Emancipation (also AAS 268/HIS 268) Fall CDHA

URB 315 - Colonial and Postcolonial Africa (also AAS 315/AFS 316/HIS 315) Spring HA

URB 324 - 20th-Century Japan (also EAS 324/HIS 322) Fall HA

URB 388 - Unrest and Renewal in Urban America (also AAS 388/AMS 380/HIS 388) Fall CDHA

URB 401 - Theories of Housing and Urbanism (also ARC 401) Fall SA

URB 471 - Introduction to Water Pollution Technology (also CEE 471/GEO 471) Fall SEN

URB 481 - Special Topics in Institutions and Networks (also SOC 481/SPI 481) Spring SA

URB 492 - Topics in the Formal Analysis of the Urban Structure (also ARC 492/ENV 492) Spring