University of Southern California
black horizontal bar for print styles

Interdisciplinary Programs

Urban Initiative

The USC Urban Initiative offers an undergraduate minor in urban neighborhood studies and a graduate certificate in urban and global studies. Faculty from across the university's professional schools and USC College actively engage in inter- and trans-disciplinary scholarship that bridges basic and applied research.

Faculty and students undertake applied and theoretical urban scholarship in an environment that promotes inquiry, introduces principles and values and teaches the skills necessary to work on complex urban problems in multidisciplinary environments and to develop the common language essential to effective collaboration.

Minor in Urban Neighborhood Studies

The focus of this minor is on the quality of urban life at the scale of the neighborhood or district. This is the location of the places of residence and work, of education and religion, of everyday life. Neighborhoods are the fundamental building blocks of cities.

The minor is supported by the School of Architecture, Rossier School of Education, School of Social Work and School of Policy, Planning, and Development. The core studies are "hands-on" as a practicum in learning about neighborhoods and learning how the disciplines of the four schools provide the means for understanding and treating urban issues. The core courses are team taught by faculty from the collaborating schools.

This minor should be of interest to students generally, but especially to those interested in the nature of urban life and the policies and actions directed toward the improvement of cities.

The requirements for the minor include two required courses and 12 units of elective courses, including at least one from each of three of the Schools of Architecture, Education, Social Work, and Policy, Planning, and Development.

One of the listed geography courses may be substituted for a course from one of the sponsoring schools. At least 8 of the 12 elective units must be upper division. Students in the School of Architecture and in the School of Policy, Planning, and Development may not apply more than one core course toward their major and must take all of their elective courses outside their major.

Required Courses (8 units)Units
URBN 375The Urban Neighborhood4
URBN 475Urban Practicum4

Elective CoursesUnits
One course each selected from three of the four schools:
ARCH 114Architecture: Culture and Community2
ARCH 206Shelter4
ARCH 432People, Places, and Culture: Architecture of the Public Realm4
EDPA 302Global Education4
EDPA 308Politics and American Education3
GEOG 325*Culture and Place4
GEOG 340*Latino L.A.4
GEOG 410*Urban Geography4
PPD 350Urban Institutions and Policies4
PPD 372Public Service in an Urban Setting4
PPD 417History of Planning and Development4
PPD 425Designing Livable Communities4
PPD 439Housing and Community Development4
SOWK 200Institutional Inequality in American Political and Social Policy4
SOWK 304Children and Families in Urban America4
SOWK 400Children and Families in Urban America Capstone Course4

*May be substituted for a course from one of the sponsoring schools.

Graduate Certificate in Urban and Global Studies

The Urban and Global Studies certificate provides an intense, interdisciplinary, intellectual educational, research and training experience focused on cities in global context to doctoral students from diverse professional and academic disciplines.

Urban challenges today are complex, often global problems that defy solutions from one discipline. The Urban and Global Studies certificate seeks to train a new generation of scholars with the skills to bridge basic and applied research, work collaboratively across disciplines, and think beyond national or local spheres to discover better solutions to complex problems. It offers scholars from interdisciplinary and disciplinary fields a unique opportunity to exchange respective methodologies and develop an enlarged community of communication.

A critical component of participation in the Urban and Global Studies certificate will be an international research project in the summer of the second year of the Ph.D. program. This will provide the student cohort with critical international comparative experience.

Admissions Criteria
Applicants for admission to the Urban and Global Studies certificate must be full-time currently enrolled students in good stand- ing in a USC Ph.D. program. Applicants will be expected to have completed one year of full-time study in their respective schools prior to admission (generally, students will apply in the spring of their first year of study; however, other applicants further along in their Ph.D. studies will also be considered). Admitted students will generally enroll in the certificate courses during the second and third year of their Ph.D. studies.

Admission to the certificate program is highly selective and competitive. Preference is given to those with professional and academic qualities favoring success in interdisciplinary collaboration and scholarship around complex problem-solving.

Applicants must supply (1) a one-page statement of their professional and academic background and interests and career goals related to the certificate; (2) a letter of recommendation from a faculty member who knows the student's work well; and (3) a brief letter from the departmental chair (for applicants in USC College departments) or program advisor (for professional school applicants) indicating that the applicant is a currently enrolled student in good standing. Applications must be signed by the dean or a designated signer.

For specific information on admission requirements, application procedures and urban and global fellowships contact the Urban Initiative office at (213) 740-8181.

Urban Studies (URBN)

URBN 375 The Urban Neighborhood (4, Fa) Understanding neighborhoods as the fundamental places of everyday urban life from the perspective of the fields of architecture, education, planning and social work. (Duplicates credit in former ARCH 375.)

URBN 475 Urban Practicum (4, Sp) Critical assessment of existing urban neighborhoods as a basis for proposing positive social and physical interventions. (Duplicates credit in former ARCH 475.) Recommended preparation: URBN 375.

URBN 601 Pro-Seminar in Urban and Global Studies (1, max 3, FaSp) Introduces students to the issues and problems of global cities and a range of urban scholars via the Urban Initiative lecture series. Open to Urban and Global Studies students only. Graded CR/NC.

URBN 603 Comparative Urbanism: Theory, Method, Policy (4, Fa) A critical overview of the city in history, past and present approaches to urban theory, the dynamics of contemporary urbanization and urban outcomes, and prospects for managing urban growth and change. Open to Urban and Global Studies students only. Concurrent enrollment: URBN 601.

URBN 605 Interdisciplinary Methods of Inquiry in Urban and Social Problems (3, Sp) Engages participants in discourse about the characteristics of urban problems and intellectual foundations of ways to solve them. It offers communication and language skills across disciplines. Open to Urban and Global Studies students only. Prerequisite: URBN 603; concurrent enrollment: URBN 601.

URBN 700 Grand Challenge Integrative Seminar (3, Sp) Seminar builds on knowledge and assignments of the Grand Challenge courses. Students describe, analyze and compare the work they did in their separate Grand Challenge courses. Open to Urban and Global Studies students only. Prerequisite: URBN 603, URBN 605.