Our curriculum embodies our three Initiatives, and makes the most of our geographic context and our unique program features. Our curriculum balances a strong, comprehensive core set of courses with a self-directed path through a wide range of elective choices.
Completing the MURP degree requires 54 credit hours, comprised of 36 credits of required “core” courses and 18 credits of elective courses. (Six of the 36 required credit hours represent a self-directed studio/project/thesis, which essentially functions as an elective course since each student chooses the topic they want to study.) Most full-time students complete the program in two years, while other students complete the program at a slower or part-time pace.
The MURP Program curriculum includes 10 required “core” courses totaling 36 credit hours. Together, these represent a broad and robust survey of the most critical topics in the planning field. The table below shows the 10 courses, the program year in which the course is intended to be taken, the credit hours granted, and a list of the major topics covered in each course.
Course Topics / General Description
Natural and Built Environments
|Natural systems and ecology; environmental policies and regulations; history of cities and urbanization; urban growth and development; land use and transportation; sustainability; regional planning; global planning issues.|
Planning History and Theory
|Purpose and meaning of planning; planning history; planning theory; planning processes; public participation and engagement; social justice; planning leadership and advocacy; future of planning.|
Planning Law and Institutions
|Planning law and legal precedents; government powers and responsibilities; types of governments; inter-governmental agreements and relationships; government regulations and policies.|
The Planning Profession
|Scales and dimensions of planning; planning careers; planning academia; planning ethics; business aspects of planning; professional development; business development; portfolio/resume development.|
|Real estate development process; land division and entitlement; plan implementation and regulation; site planning and development review; development finance/pro formas; public infrastructure and finance. |
|Qualitative and quantitative data collection methods and techniques; data organization and management; data analysis; descriptive statistics; data presentation and graphics.|
Planning Skills Workshop
|Physical planning/design/planning process fundamentals; planning data; planning contexts; plan making/planning projects, collaborative planning. (Course coordinated with Planning Technologies Workshop).|
Planning Technologies Workshop
|Planning technologies overview; geographic information systems; graphics and photo-imaging; 3D/visualization; mobile/social media; emerging planning technologies. (Course coordinated with Planning Skills Workshop). |
Planning Project Studio
|Instructor-directed, client-based, project-oriented studio. (Five options: Healthy Communities, Urban Revitalization, Regional Sustainability, International Experience, or Summer in Colorado).|
Planning Capstone Experience
|Student-directed, independent study/thesis/small-group project option requiring an intensive planning research or project experience. Course spans two semesters and requires faculty approval and oversight.|
Required Course Highlights:
Natural and Built Environments covers the fundamentals of physical planning, the history and evolution of cities and urbanization, and regional and global perspectives in planning. The course also focuses on sustainability, natural systems, ecology, environmental regulation and policies, and the relationships between the natural and built environments.
Planning History and Theory offers a comprehensive review of the major historical and theoretical developments in the planning field, with a particular emphasis on the human aspects of planning and how planning exists as a social, political, and community-oriented process.
Planning Law and Institutions emphasizes the legal basis and evolution of planning law. The course also covers the types and hierarchies of local governments, their powers and relationships, and how planning operates within those institutional contexts.
The Planning Profession offers students a comprehensive survey of the breadth and depth of the planning profession, what different types of planners do, and who they work for. The course will also address the business aspects of planning, planning ethics, and professional/career development.
Urban Development provides a comprehensive overview of how cities get built, exploring the players, processes, politics and policies of city building and real estate development, and how planners must successfully operate in a multi-disciplinary environment.
Planning Methods focuses on the most commonly applied quantitative and qualitative methods used in planning and how planners can effectively collect, organize, analyze, and communicate data.
Planning Skills Workshop and Planning Technologies Workshop together represent a planning studio course. These two 3-credit courses share common syllabus elements and are intended to be taken concurrently. Planning Skills Workshop covers physical planning and design, plan making, the planning process, and team collaboration. Planning Technologies Workshop is intended to give students a baseline understanding of essential technologies, focusing on GIS, Adobe Creative Suite, and other commonly used computer applications. Assignments for both workshops are coordinated, so students can work with technology in Planning Skills Workshop and have planning projects to practice on in Planning Technologies Workshop.
In Planning Project Studio, students work in teams to complete a substantial project that requires a broad range of planning knowledge and skills for a real-world client. Five different sections of Planning Project Studio are offered annually. Three sections are offered every fall and spring semester: one section each focusing on a Healthy Communities, Urban Revitalization, or Regional Sustainability topic; and two intensive sections during the summer semester: the International Studio held outside of the United States, and the Summer in Colorado Studio focused on a local project.
Planning Capstone Experience is the culminating educational event in a student’s MURP career. Although a required course, the planning topic to be studied is entirely student directed; therefore, it functions much like an elective course. The Planning Capstone Experience is a 6-credit hour course that can take one of three forms: a master’s thesis, an individual project, or a small-group project for a team of two or three students. Regardless of which form is chosen, the course spans two semesters in a “1 + 5” credit hour format. The semester before the project/study/thesis is conducted, students enroll in the 1-credit Planning Capstone–Part A in which you’ll work with a faculty advisor to identify your project topic and develop a detailed scope of work and schedule. Upon faculty approval, you’ll enroll the following semester in the 5-credit Planning Capstone–Part B, where you’ll complete and present your project/study/thesis work and receive a final grade from your faculty advisor.
As part of our emphasis on allowing students to craft a self-directed educational path, we offer MURP students a broad selection of elective courses. Students may choose any combination of courses, whether aligned with one of our three Initiatives, a traditional specialization, or a generalist survey of the planning field. The courses listed in the table below are those that are housed within the MURP Program and taught primarily by Department of Planning and Design faculty. However, in addition to these courses, numerous other elective courses applicable for MURP credit are available through our allied programs within the College (Architecture, Urban Design, Historic Preservation, and Landscape Architecture) and through cross-listed courses offered by other UC Denver programs, such as Public Affairs, Geography, and Business.
Elective Courses (3 credits)
Course Topics / General Description
Advanced GIS for Planners
|Advanced studies in GIS applications; cartography; geographic planning analysis. Prerequisite: Planning Technologies Workshop or other approved GIS course.|
Advanced Planning Research
|Survey design; sampling; probability distributions; hypothesis testing; inferential statistics; other topics associated with scholarly research.|
Analyzing the Built Environment
|Land division and development measures; spatial analyses techniques; urban morphology; spatial attributes of cities and regions.|
|Neighborhood planning; gentrification; asset-based development; organizing; community-based organizations; CDCs; community benefits agreements.|
|Comparative International Planning
||Global dimensions of planning; global planning issues; comparative planning techniques; international planning coordination/organizations. |
|Emerging Planning Technologies
||Web-based applications; mobile technologies; virtual participation; data visualization; social media; crowdsourcing, public engagement/surveying.|
|Energy and Natural Resource Planning
||Energy policy; alternative energy development; water resources; extraction/mining; resource protection and regulation; technologies; allocations.|
||Natural hazards and disasters; ecosystems; air/water quality; natural area management; conservation; habitat protection; organizations and policies.|
|Environmental Policy and Regulation
||NEPA; environmental justice; environmental law; land use conflicts; contamination/remediation; environmental regulators and regulatory policies; enforcement.|
|Form and Formation of Cities
||History of cities and urbanization; origins of urban growth; urban morphology; urban form/urban form theory; types of urbanisms. |
|Green Real Estate Development
||Infill development; transit-oriented development; LEED-ND; green buildings; universal design; mixed-income; net-zero developments.|
|Health and the Built Environment
||Health/built environment relationships; fitness; food access; walkability; environmental quality; active transportation; public policies; partnerships.|
|Healthy Community Assessments
||Planning for Healthy Communities; Health Impact Assessments, other health measures; policy impacts, best practices.|
|Land Development Regulations
||Entitlements; plats; general/final development plans; zoning; PUDs; variances; site plan/development review; land use regulators; regulatory processes.|
|Parks and Public Spaces
||Park/plaza/open space design; activation/programming; security; diverse users; socio-economic significance; natural systems; recreation; urban place making.|
|Pedestrian and Bicycle Planning
||Active transportation; pedestrian/bicycle planning fundamentals; routes and systems; facilities and design requirements; policies; best practices.|
||Plan types and processes; comprehensive plans; rural/small town planning; corridor planning; small area planning; campus/ institutional planning; special plans.|
|Planning in the Developing World
||Challenges and solutions for complex development; health/community issues; social justice; environmental justice; funding; development organizations.|
|Planning Politics and Engagement
||Controversial planning topics; planning advocacy; public meetings; public engagement techniques; diverse publics; mediation; negotiation.|
|Planning Sustainable Suburbs
||Suburban patterns and forms; suburban land use and transportation issues; sustainable greenfield development; retrofitting suburbia. |
|Real Estate Development Process
||Real estate developer/planner interface; development types; developer’s pro-forma; project finance/funding; market supply/demand analysis; public policy impacts. |
|Regional Economic Systems
||Regional/metropolitan economies; regional economic development; regional market assessment; job generation; taxes/spending; fiscal/economic policies and impacts.|
|Regional Planning and Policy
||Regional planning fundamentals; land use/transportation; environmental constraints; regional cooperation; regional institutions/COGs/MPOs; demographics.|
|Small Town and Rural Planning
||Planning in small communities; rural/agriculture issues; growth management; conservation; rural economic development.|
|Social Justice in Planning
||Conflict resolution; environmental justice; social equity; culture; disadvantaged populations; public engagement; affordability; equal access; policies and impacts.|
|Sustainable Planning and Design
||Sustainability defined; measuring sustainability; sustainable planning/practices; sustainable design; LEED; environmental quality; sustainability advocacy.|
|Tourism and Resort Planning
||Eco-tourism; historic tourism; urban tourism; regional tourism planning; recreation planning; resort planning and development. |
||Transit planning fundamentals; routes and systems; modes and technologies; ridership; scheduling; operations; relationship to land use; facilities/design requirements.|
|Transportation and Land Use
||Transportation planning fundamentals; transportation and land use relationship; local and regional networks; traffic demand/modeling; accessibility/mobility.|
|Transportation Planning and Policy
||Transportation policies and impacts; funding; politics and institutions; role in economic development; planning processes; regulatory/environmental/NEPA.|
|Urban Economic Systems
||Urban economies; urban economic development; urban market assessment; job generation; taxes/spending, sustainability; fiscal/economic policies and impacts.|
||Housing types; affordability; housing policies; mixed-income housing; HUD/Fair Housing; housing sustainability; NIMBYism; homelessness; segregation.|
||Civil engineering basics for planners; infrastructure planning/funding; public rights-of-way; bridges/structures; storm water; water quality; wet/dry utilities; soils.|
We encourage students to view their planning education through a fresh perspective aimed at a planning goal or agenda, rather than a “job description.” Therefore, students are welcome to create their own, unique path through the MURP Program, which is organized around our three Program Initiatives. However, we also recognize that some students may want their MURP degree to focus along a traditional specialization, such as Transportation Planning or Economic Development. To ensure all our students have the educational experience they are seeking, we provide exceptional coverage across many traditional specialization topics. This table
lists our elective courses and suggests courses that could apply to several potential specializations.
As part of encouraging among planners an appreciation for and a knowledge of the perspectives and practices of the other disciplines that participate in planning and city-building, we offer several dual degree opportunities, both within the College of Architecture and Planning and with other units across the University of Colorado system. In every instance the total credit requirement of the Dual Degree is considerably less than would be needed if each degree were independently pursued. The degrees that may be combined with the Master of Urban and Regional Planning include:
- Master of Architecture (MURP+MARCH)
- Master of Landscape Architecture (MURP+MLA)
- Master of Public Administration (MURP+MPA)
- Juris Doctorate (Law Degree) (MURP+JD—in collaboration with the CU-Boulder Law School)