Cutting-Edge Sustainable Urban Planning Program Begins Accreditation Process

Sustainable Urban Planning
February 11, 2017

Students in GW’s Sustainable Urban Planning (SUP) Program help shape the cities of tomorrow. The long-established fields of urban and regional planning focus on topics like best practices for land use, transportation, and population growth in urban environments, but this program takes the vision for cities a step further by incorporating sustainability practices.

The program, housed in the College of Professional Studies, recently reached a milestone in its process to receive accreditation from the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB).

“This is a major landmark in the progression of the program,” said Professor John Carruthers, program director.

The program’s master of professional studies degree received the PAB’s “candidacy status,” a required first step that indicates the program meets various criteria required to be considered for full accreditation.

For example, the program must have conferred at least 25 master’s degrees and have submitted various materials to the PAB, including a strategic plan, self-study report and various data about the program and its successes. Having fulfilled the requirements, PAB informed the university it received “candidacy status” as of January 1. This status is a formally-recognized two-year term that precedes an initial granting of accreditation. The program aims to be fully accredited beginning in 2019.

“Our mission is to ensure high-quality education for future urban planners,” said Jesmarie Johnson, PAB associate director.

While PAB accredits 72 master’s and 16 bachelor’s degrees in North America, if accredited, the Sustainable Urban Planning program would be the only PAB-accredited program in the District.

Accreditation recognizes a program’s quality and indicates it meet standards developed by PAB with input from experts in the field.

“We are proud that our relatively new program in Sustainable Urban Planning has reached such an important milestone,” said Ali Eskandarian, CPS dean. “We will make sure the program is provided with the necessary resources to achieve full accreditation.”

The program, which was launched in 2011, is unique for incorporating sustainability throughout the curriculum, in addition to everything that more conventional urban planning programs cover. Specifically, the program makes the triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental sustainability the focus of urban planning in order to achieve competitive, inclusive, and ecological cities. It views the practice of planning as both a humanitarian and scientific enterprise and, for that reason, draws heavily on the disciplinary traditions from analytical human geography, neoclassical economics, and regional science.

Coursework includes sustainable urban planning, urban and environmental economics, transportation planning, land use, housing and design, climate change management, sustainable landscaping and more.

Planning programs differ in their focus areas, Dr. Carruthers said, and GW’s program is particularly globally oriented—offering students a study abroad opportunity in Seoul, South Korea and soon one in Dhaka, Bangladesh, as well—and emphasizes planning for climate change adaption and mitigation. The program is also distinctive in that it offers students direct access to many accomplished planning experts currently working in the field, both in private and public sectors.

Read GW Today story, "Sustainable Urban Planning Program Begins Accreditation Process," Jan. 12, 2017.