USC Price establishes new executive urban planning master’s degree

September 18, 2018

Price executive urban planning master’s degree

By Matthew Kredell

Recognizing that urban planning and real estate development must seamlessly weave together to make cities work for the common good, the USC Price School of Public Policy is launching a new accelerated Executive Master of Urban Planning degree that trains students to develop a deep understanding of both the public and private sectors — and how they interact.

Professor Marlon Boarnet (Photo by Tom Queally)

The new degree offers a comprehensive focus on urban planning practice and the economics of urban development, while also giving students the flexible schedule of online study.

The program is designed for rising executives with approximately five to seven years of experience in a related field. The 16-month program features online coursework combined with a small number of in-person meetings to provide flexibility for working professionals.

“Most important for us is training a group of people to take leadership positions in urban development,” said USC Price Professor Marlon Boarnet, who chairs the department of urban planning and spatial analysis. “Cities increasingly find it difficult to finance projects, as they need to navigate the split between public and private involvement in an era of income inequality and dwindling resources. This creates the need for more specialized training to pursue traditional urban planning objectives with enhanced understanding of development economics and local government constraints.”

Distinctive qualities

The Executive Master of Urban Planning degree has three distinguishing facets. First, by combining the study of urban planning and real estate development, it will train leaders who can span both fields and work at the intersections between those fields.

“In my role leading L.A. Metro’s transit-oriented communities, I span urban planning and development every day,” said Nick Saponara, who earned dual master’s degrees in urban planning and real estate development from the Price School in 2007. “At USC Price, I was fortunate to learn from some of the best scholars and practitioners who bridge those fields, and this degree is an exciting commitment to integrating the fields of urban planning and development.”

Second, the program’s emphasis on training executives will have graduates ready to take positions as team leaders and strategic thinkers at public agencies, private firms, nonprofit organizations and consulting companies.

“We’re trying to train people to be managers and eventually process leaders,” Boarnet said. “They aren’t going to specialize by being only the designer or data analyst or finance guru. What we envision is our graduates being the people bringing together the team who does all of these.”

Third, the online focus will not only allow the program to serve the needs of working professionals in Southern California, but to connect with people working around the nation and across the world. Boarnet’s goal is to bring in students from the global market.

The curriculum will focus on four key areas:

  • urban economics and project finance;
  • politics and process of urban development;
  • urban design and site analysis;
  • big data analytics and visualization.

“During the development of the curriculum, we discussed the importance of a case-study focus, having students work in teams, and having a leadership class at the end of the program,” Boarnet said.

Legacy of innovation

The establishment of this new degree furthers USC Price’s long-standing commitment to urban planning education, which dates back to 1929. USC was also one of the first universities to offer graduate education in real estate development. The new executive degree adds to the undergraduate, masters and PhD programs already offered at the Price School in the field of planning. It is the first online graduate degree program in urban planning offered by the school.

“Price is unique in combining real estate, urban planning, governance and public policy all in one school,” Boarnet said. “We wanted to bring those together in the very specific area of how the public purpose of planning interacts with real estate development activity in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.”

The Executive Master of Urban Planning’s inaugural class will begin in spring 2019. Applications for that first class are being accepted now, with a priority application deadline of October 5. People interested in taking part can email [email protected] for more information.

Related faculty

  • Marlon Boarnet headshot

    Marlon Boarnet

    Chair, Department of Urban Planning and Spatial Analysis