Our setting in Downtown Denver is a big part of who we are. We thrive on our location in the heart of an intensive urban environment, and we embrace the Mile High City’s energy and creativity in all that we do. Our College is situated between the historic shops, restaurants and lofts of Denver’s hip Lower Downtown (“LoDo”) district and the soaring towers and bustle of Denver’s Central Business District. Our location makes it easy for students to use alternative modes of transportation, as we’re just a few blocks from Denver’s Union Station transit hub, the Downtown light rail loop, the free 16th Street Mall Shuttle, several bus routes, and numerous bike lanes and trails. Your CU Denver student ID card doubles as a transit pass for all of Denver’s RTD (Regional Transportation District) buses and trains.
Our program capitalizes on our location in Denver, a city that:
- Is the largest urban center in a 500-mile radius and serves as the cultural, intellectual, and economic capital of the expansive Rocky Mountain region
- Is surrounded by tremendous scenic beauty, valuable natural and strategic resources, and abundant recreational amenities
- Is steadily growing, densifying, and revitalizing, and offers an exceptional quality of life
- Has a thriving downtown and a vibrant core of over 50 square miles of late 19th Century and early 20th Century traditional urban neighborhoods
- Has a rich urban heritage and a legacy of civic investment and progressive planning
- Has a young, diverse, healthy, physically active, highly educated population
- Has a strong culture of entrepreneurship, collaboration, and partnerships
- Has an engaged citizenry and civic leaders passionate about urbanism and sustainability
- Has a broad and diverse community of professional planners and designers
- Serves as a national model for innovation and experimentation in planning and design
- Serves as a microcosm of the myriad issues that planners face throughout the country
- Has notable examples of virtually every urban form, design, philosophy, practice, or trend—both good and bad—that’s existed in the United States in the last 150 years
- Is a fantastic place to study urban and regional planning!
Integrated throughout our program are four distinguishing features:
Self-Directed Curriculum: In our program, students have the unique ability to craft an education suited to their career goals and personal interests. Beyond the core requirements, students may choose any combination of elective courses, whether oriented towards one of our three Program Initiatives, a traditional specialization, or a generalist survey of the planning field.
Experiential Learning: Throughout our program, students have significant opportunities to gain hands-on planning experience and have direct interaction with Colorado’s planning professionals. We use Denver’s diverse urban landscape as a real-world classroom for students to experience and analyze the built environment.
Physical Planning and Design: We emphasize physical planning and design throughout our curriculum. Housed within the College of Architecture and Planning, we work closely with the College’s Architecture, Urban Design, Landscape Architecture, and Historic Preservation programs.
Innovative Planning Technologies: We integrate innovative planning technologies into many of our program’s courses and activities. We capitalize on the Denver region’s entrepreneurial spirit and tech-focused economy by providing access to state-of-the-art planning technologies and teaching students how these tools can support the planning process.
Our focus is on teaching students how to address critical issues and to solve the complex problems facing cities and regions today. In order for planners to take the lead in the city-building process, they need to understand the breadth of their field and know how to work in cross-disciplinary teams. Therefore we have structured our whole program—research, curriculum, faculty and student efforts, etc.—around three issue areas, which we call Initiatives.
These Initiatives represent issues at the forefront of the planning profession today, and are also topics that are particularly prominent in Denver and Colorado.
Healthy Communities: The link between human health and the built environment has become a key factor in planning cities and regions. Colorado is known for its physically fit and active adult population, but our vulnerable populations face significant challenges such as childhood obesity, disconnected neighborhoods, and lack of access to healthy food. Colorado has become a national leader in finding ways to plan and design healthier environments, and the MURP Program’s Healthy Communities Initiative is part of that effort. We work with partners at the local, state and federal levels, as well as the non-profit, educational and private sectors, to provide students comprehensive and interdisciplinary training in the tools, innovations and policies necessary for creating physically, socially and economically healthy communities.
Urban Revitalization: After decades of suburbanization, segregated land uses, and automobile-dependent development, the US is now experiencing a resurgence of traditional urbanism and a reorientation toward central cities. Nowhere else is that phenomenon more evident than in Denver, where infill and transit-oriented development, historic preservation, adaptive reuse, and multi-modal transport are transforming the urban landscape. The MURP Program’s Urban Revitalization Initiative gives students opportunities to engage with local developers, planners, designers and policymakers to help revive and enhance established cities, retrofit the suburbs, and plan sustainable new developments.
Regional Sustainability: Climate change, environmental degradation, resource scarcity, and sprawling development present critical challenges to planners worldwide. In the Rocky Mountain West, the impacts are evident in habitat loss, wildfire risk, and conflicts over water and energy resources, among others. The MURP Program’s Regional Sustainability Initiative explores ways that Colorado and its neighbors can tackle these issues together. At the metropolitan level, Denver and its adjacent communities already serve as a model for regional planning and cooperation, exemplified by the visionary FasTracks transit program. Our Initiative draws on Denver’s success in regional land use, transportation, economic development and resource planning to help students understand how built and natural environments can co-exist more sustainably at various regional scales.
Legacy of Success
As the only accredited graduate planning program in Colorado and as the preeminent program in the Rocky Mountain West, we have a proud history of graduating exceptionally qualified individuals that achieve success in a variety of positions and careers. Since our founding in 1971, we have produced over 1,200 MURP graduates that today are working throughout the United States and around the world.
On the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) licensing exam for professional planners, our program:
- Has a pass rate that is 8% higher than the national average
- Ranks 3rd out of 96 accredited programs in total number of alumni who have passed the exam
- Had many students pass the exam within three years of graduation: 27% in 2006, 11% in 2007, 29% in 2008 and 12% in 2009.
Internships and Mentorships
Internships are key elements in the MURP Program’s approach to providing students with hands-on, experiential learning. Internships provide the opportunity to see planning professionals in action, which helps students develop a clearer understanding of their own career goals, educational needs, and personal passions. Mentorships provide an opportunity for students to connect personally with a practicing professional for guidance, advice and inspiration.
We strongly encourage students to experience a professional internship and/or mentorship during the course of the MURP Program. Students can receive individualized advising, resume writing and job search skills, as well as help securing internship positions. While the professional experience of an internship is in itself valuable, to receive academic credit for MURP internships, students will participate in regular colloquia, complete writing assignments in which they draw reflectively on their workplace experiences and connect them to their classroom work, and document their contributions to their employer. Three credits of the 54-credit MURP Program may be undertaken through internship work.