Urban Studies


The Urban Studies program teaches students to analyze the city, urban life, and urbanization through a variety of disciplinary lenses. Students learn where cities come from, how they grow, thrive, and decline, how they are organized, and how to construct meaningful, inclusive, secure, and sustainable places. The curriculum examines how urban problems arise, how they have been previously addressed, and how to plan cities of the future.  Concentrators enjoy the breadth of courses in American Studies, economics, history, literature, history of art and architecture, political science, sociology, and planning as well as provide in-depth courses integrating those perspectives. We introduce the fundamentals of Urban Studies scholarship as well as intense examination of an urban problem in focused seminars. These advanced seminars offer opportunities to write extensive and synthetic interdisciplinary analyses that serve as capstones to the concentration.  The program’s 10-course curriculum provides sufficient flexibility to allow students to pursue specific urban interests or to take courses in urban focus areas of Built Environment; Humanities; Social Sciences; and Sustainable Urbanism. The Program insures that students master at least one basic research methodology and perform research or fieldwork projects, which may result in an honors thesis. Fieldwork training includes working with local agencies and nonprofit organizations on practical urban problems.  Capstone projects entail original research papers in Urban Studies seminars; academically supervised video, artistic, or community service projects; and Honors Theses for eligible concentrators.

Concentrators who are especially interested in making deeper connections between their curriculum and long-term engaged activities such as internships, public service, humanitarian and development work, and many other possible forms of community involvement might consider the Engaged Scholar Program in US. The program combines preparation, experience, and reflection to offer students opportunities to enhance the integration of academic learning and social engagement.

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Student Goals

Students in this concentration will:

  • Learn a comprehensive, interdisciplinary, evidence-based approach to solving complex urban problems
  • Become conversant in diverse and international perspectives on cities and urban life
  • Engage the local community through fieldwork, research, internships, and summer experiences
  • Master basic writing and statistics and develop critical thinking and collaborative skills
  • Conduct a research, fieldwork, or capstone project that integrates urban-related courses


Click here for a list of requirements.

Honors and Capstones

View Honors website

The Honors Program is available for students interested in conducting a substantial individualized independent research project in their senior year.  To earn Honors, the candidate's course record and thesis must be of outstanding quality. Urban Studies offers an Honors Thesis Workshop in which research and writing are peer reviewed and ultimately presented to the program as a whole.  Please visit the Urban Studies website for complete information on the eligibility requirements for Honors and other potential Capstone experiences.

Liberal Learning

This concentration allows you to address the following Liberal Learning goals:

  • Expand your reading skills
  • Collaborate fully
  • Understand differences among cultures
  • Embrace diversity
  • Engage with your community
  • Evaluate human behavior
  • Work on your speaking and writing

Download the full statement on Liberal Learning at Brown

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Affiliated Departments


Director of Undergraduate Studies

Graduating Class

Year Total Capstone Honors
201411 10 
201516 16 
201631 31 
201730 30 

Alumni Pathways

Urban Studies alumni work in education, engineering and design, communications, government and public interest law, computing and information technology, urban planning, and non-profit management. For more information, see the Urban Studies website.

See more details on the CareerLAB website.

Dept. Undergraduate Group

Student Leaders:

  • John Beck
  • Lydia Elias

If you are an advisor and would like to make changes to the information on this page, contact focal_point@brown.edu, or email Dean Besenia Rodriguez.