Yale College will officially offer a major in urban studies to members of the class of 2021 and onward.
On March 7, the Yale College faculty meeting voted to promote urban studies to a major within the Yale School of Architecture. Previously, urban studies was restricted to an area of concentration for majors like architecture, American studies and Ethics, Politics and Economics or an interdisciplinary concentration for political science majors.
According to Assistant Dean of the Yale School of Architecture Bimal Mendis, urban studies will introduce students to urban planning and design, analysis of urban spaces and political economies, and understanding of urban environments in terms of physical space.
“We believe that a study of urbanism is a vital part of a liberal arts education,” Mendis said. “In the context of the growing opportunities and challenges of urbanization that confront us today, the new major positions urban studies as an inherently spatial discipline with the capacity to transform the world around us.”
Students choosing to major in urban studies will complete 13 courses, including the senior requirement. In addition to the senior component, the major, which will officially launch next academic year, consists of a broad set of survey courses to introduce students from a variety of backgrounds to the major, methods courses and elective options from different programs across the University. The major will not have specific concentrations, but each student will develop a specific focus within the major in consultation with Assistant Dean of the Yale School of Architecture Joyce Hsiang — the director of undergraduate studies for the major.
The curriculum for the major will incorporate pre-existing courses in the architecture major as well as in departments and programs such as American studies, political science, environmental studies and anthropology for credits toward the major. As examples, Mendis cited ARCH 341, “Globalization Space,” and ARCH 280, “American Architecture and Urbanism,” alongside courses from other disciplines such as AMST 196, “Race, Class, and Gender in American Cities,” and ANTH 414, “Hubs, Mobilities, and World Cities.” Additionally, students will have the option to take courses focused on urban analysis and research such as ARCH 360, “Urban Labs,” and AMST 348, “Space, Place & Landscape.”
Under the direction of Dean of the School of Architecture Deborah Berke, Mendis led the committee to develop a proposal for a new major in urban studies. Mendis said Berke has been interested in expanding the role of urban studies at Yale since she assumed her role as dean in 2016. Initially, this desire led to the restructuring of the architecture major to strengthen its three concentrations, one of which was urban studies. The changes, which included new courses in urban studies, partially looked to situate urban studies as a more independent track for students interested in the discipline.
Mendis’ committee first submitted a detailed proposal for the new major to the Committee on Majors in December, which approved the major on March 1.
Hsiang said the major would be of interest to a variety of students, including those looking to study urban planning, policy, data, development, infrastructure or the environment. According to associate professor of urbanism at the School of Architecture Elihu Rubin, the major could prove useful for students seeking careers in areas such as urban development, design, policy or journalism.
“Students that are socially-engaged, civic-minded, spatial thinkers, interested in interdisciplinary or collective issues, that believe in the value of design and shaping the built environment might be particularly interested in majoring in urban studies,” said Hsiang.
The current urban studies program incorporates courses from disciplines such as American studies, anthropology, architecture, environmental studies, history, humanities, political science and sociology.
This story was updated to reflect the one that ran in print on March 25.
Carly Wanna | firstname.lastname@example.org