As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, societies face new and complex challenges arising from intense economic pressure, increased inequality, and environmental degradation. Beyond a traditional role of guiding land use and development projects, contemporary urban planners are responsible for promoting more competitive, inclusive, and ecological cities. Moreover, they are increasingly responsible for addressing the dominant challenge of the 21st Century: anthropogenic climate change.
In our master’s degree in Sustainable Urban Planning, you will study cities through the lens of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. The program’s world-class faculty delivers state of the art courses, personalized mentoring, and firsthand insight on projects they have conducted in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. By working with them and your peers – inside of the classroom, and out – you’ll learn how to leverage knowledge of cities into forward-looking policy and action for advancing the goals of societies across the globe.
The Sustainable Urban Planning Master’s Degree is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). This is a high academic standard that recognizes professional planning programs in North America on the basis of performance, integrity, and quality. Successful completion of this program may reduce the time required to become certified through the American Institute of Certified Planners.
Program at a Glance
The 48-credit program can be completed in as little as two years.
We offer a cross-disciplinary curriculum in urban planning with an emphasis on sustainability and combating climate change.
An 18-credit graduate certificate in Sustainable Urban Planning is also available.
Where You'll Study
You’ll take your classes on weekday evenings at the Graduate Education Center in Arlington, Virginia.
What You'll Study
Our 48 credit master’s program consists of a core curriculum of ten courses and a capstone, plus your choice of five electives. In the program, you will study cities through the lens of economic, social, and environmental sustainability – thereby gaining a skill set for promoting more competitive, inclusive, and ecological cities. The program has a unique focus on anthropogenic climate change, which is addressed throughout the entire curriculum.
If you are interested in a graduate certificate, consider our Sustainable Urban Planning certificate program.
Required Courses (33 credits, all courses are 3 credits)
PSUS 6201: Principles of Sustainable Urban and Regional Planning is an introductory planning history and theory course that examines the “triple bottom line” of economic, environmental, and social sustainability. It is a reading- and discussion-intensive seminar wherein students actively debate the concept of sustainability with the goal of forming their own ideas about its meaning and implications.
Instructor: Andrew Bernish, AICP.
PSUS 6202: Urban and Environmental Economics is concerned with the application of neoclassical economics to problems faced by practitioners of the field of sustainable urban and regional planning. It develops a set of analytical methods for understanding urban and environmental challenges and their solutions; urban growth; environmental quality; public policy; and more.
Instructor: Elizabeth Gearin, Ph.D.
PSUS 6203: Research Methods: Geospatial and Econometric Analysis is focused on developing proficiency in geographic information systems (GIS) and econometric analysis, a method of statistical analysis for measuring the relationships at work in socioeconomic phenomena. The course teaches how to build an analyze spatial datasets, specifically using ArcGIS and Stata.
Instructor: Mesbah Motamed, Ph.D.
PSUS 6204: Land Use Law is about understanding the legal context of land use planning as it applies to contemporary issues. The role of land use law in shaping the urban context and its implications for policy and practice.
Instructor: Sandra Whitehead, Ph.D.
PSUS 6210: Transportation Planning in City Systems is about transportation planning with long-run goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in mind. It delineates the role of planning - at local and regional scales - within the broader frame of transportation engineering and provides a basis for engaging in this increasingly complex and interdisciplinary dimension of urbanization.
Instructor: John Thomas, Ph.D.
PSUS 6211: Regional Development and Agricultural Economics explores the economics of land use patterns and land development processes in the United States and elsewhere in the world. It also provides an introduction to the field of agricultural economics and examines food deserts and other food-related problems relevant to the field of sustainable urban planning.
Instructor: Mesbah Motamed, Ph.D.
PSUS 6212: Sustainable Communities I: Housing and Design addresses community development with special attention given to the policy arena and the various sectors of interest that impact contemporary urbanization. Along the way, a number of special topics - including water supply, food deserts, public health, urban resilience, and more - are introduced. Instructor: John Thomas, Ph.D.
PSUS 6220: Planning Resilient and Low-Carbon Cities is a course with an international perspective on urban planning for - and in - a warmer future, brought about by climate change induced by greenhouse gas emissions. It is taught with reference to the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and considers how urbanization around the world must adapt to the reality of global warming and its consequences. Instructor: Anthony Bigio.
PSUS 6221: The Scientific Basis of Climate Change introduces the science that underlies climate change policy and decision making. It is a course designed for non-scientists that provides a rigorous treatment of earth systems, climate change projections, the need for mitigation, and impact assessment. Instructor: Rachael Jonassen, Ph.D.
PSUS 6230: Studio in Sustainable Urban Planning is an applied course, trained on the nexus of urban design and neighborhood health impact assessment. It addresses both new and existing urban environments and is grounded in pragmatic approaches to real-world problem solving. Instructor: Sandra Whitehead, Ph.D
PSUS 6233: Capstone. The Capstone forms a final project completed by each student taking the MPS in Sustainable Urban Planning. It is individualized in nature and is intended to demonstrate a rounded mastery of knowledge and skills gained in the program. The capstone is conducted under the supervision of a selected faculty mentor.
Elective Courses (choose 15 credits, all courses are 3 credits)
Frequency and schedule of elective offerings varies. Please consult with your advisor when planning your schedule.
PSUS 6205: Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Current patterns of urban development, including segregation, concentrated poverty, suburban sprawl, and gentrification. Instructor: Sandra Whitehead, Ph.D.
PSUS 6213: Advanced Research Methods: Individual Mentoring enables students in to work one-on-one, with a faculty mentor of their choice, on a project of joint design. Individual work plans will vary from project-to-project because they are intended to be student-specific. Instructor: SUP Faculty
PSUS 6214: Food and Cities examines agricultural systems, food production, consumption, and trade, and their links to urbanization, city growth, and public health, through lenses of history, technology, economic theory, geography, and public policy. The course explores the roles that food plays in the lives of urban inhabitants, and in shaping the urban landscape, and the role of cities in determining the geography, sustainability, and business of agriculture. Instructor: Mesbah Motamed, Ph.D.
PSUS 6215: Urban Health Impact Assessment focuses on the connection between public health and place, with an eye toward planning history and current theories on the relationship between the built environment and quality of life. It addresses the key health issues in planning and related fields and how to incorporate them into the planning and design processes. Instructor: Sandra Whitehead, Ph.D.
PSUS 6216: Megacities in a Globalized World is concerned with the rise of megacities and their role in an increasingly globalized world. It is an advanced, research-oriented seminar requiring that students identify, analyze, and recommend ways of addressing region-specific vulnerabilities stemming from human ecology. Instructor: SUP Faculty
PSUS 6218: Urban Growth and Affordability addresses real estate economics, with a particular emphasis on land markets and affordable housing. It focuses specifically on the spatial outcome of economic development and the relationship between growth and sustainable urban planning. Instructor: Elizabeth Gearin, Ph.D.
PSUS 6222: Climate Change Economics is concerned with the application of neoclassical economics, primarily microeconomics, to the problem of anthropogenic climate change. Case studies are used to identify vulnerabilities to climate change and/or other stresses - plus prospective solutions - within a particular region. Instructor: SUP Faculty
PSUS 6223: Sustainable Communities II: Tools for Assessment and Transformation builds on PSUS 6212 by further detailing the theory and tools relevant to the assessment and transformation of neighborhood and communities. Emphasis is placed on understanding the context of planning, including: the fundamental drivers of urban and regional form and the formation of placed-based policy. Instructor: Matthew Dalbey, Ph.D.
PSUS 6224: Sustainable Energy for Cities and the Environment addresses resource management, renewable energy technologies, and vulnerabilities of existing urban structures, particularly the energy grid. It presents the implications of - and solutions to - energy-related problems faced by cities in an era of anthropogenic climate change. Instructor: Scott Sklar
PSUS 6227: Critical Infrastructure for Cities and Regions focuses on the existing risk profile of energy, water, telecom/internet, and other critical infrastructure. It identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that these systems pose for urbanization in the United States and worldwide. Instructor: Scott Sklar
PSUS 6228: Parks and Public Facilities Planning teaches students relevant, applicable skills in urban park planning. The course consists of readings and analysis, guest lectures and case study evaluation with student presentations. In addition, students will produce a park assessment and concept plan for a local park and present findings to invited professionals. Instructor: Eliza Voigt, AICP
PSUS 6231: Practicum is a vehicle for students to gain internship experience and is used, primarily under three circumstances: (i) when a student wants to receive course credit for an internship, especially if that internship is unpaid; (ii) when the host agency requires that the student be enrolled for course credit; and (iii) in cases where students (especially foreign students) can only work under the auspices of a practicum course. Instructor: SUP Faculty
PSUS 6235: Advanced Topics in Urban Sustainability
PSUS 6236: International Studio in Sustainable Urban Planning
International immersion designed to promote an international exchange of research and scholarship on sustainable urban development and provide instruction on operating in a foreign setting.
Who You'll Study With
- The Sustainable Urban Planning Program is distinguished by the fact that nearly all of its faculty are based external to the George Washington University, in governmental, nongovernmental, and private sector agencies. This unique aspect of the program means that students learn from practitioners working at the leading edge of their respective fields - and have access to extensive professional networks within the Washington, D.C. region and beyond.
- Most faculty teach at least two classes, meaning that students have the opportunity to work with them repeatedly, and all serve as individual mentors for capstone projects and professional development. Our faculty model - coupled with our emphasis on the triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental sustainability - forms a rarefied educational environment engineered to place our students and graduates at the forefront of the planning profession.
- In the Sustainable Urban Planning Program, you'll work with the following faculty - any of whom may serve as your primary academic advisor(s) and professional mentor(s).
Negin Askarzadeh (M.P.S., George Washington University, AICP/LEED GA) is a Transportation Planner at Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT). As a team member of the Capital Projects Section at FCDOT, she is responsible for coordinating and managing complex multi-modal transportation projects. She is a George Washington University alumna and holds a master’s degree in Sustainable Urban Planning. Negin teaches PSUS 6235 Planning Technology and co-teached PSUS 6220 Resilient Low-Carbon Cities. Email: [email protected]
Andrew Bernish (M.C.P., University of Maryland, AICP/GISP) is a Planner & GIS Analyst for the Maryland State Department of Transportation (MDOT). Prior to joining MDOT, he worked in the private sector as an Associate Planner at Ayers Saint Gross. He also worked on the Planning Secretary's Executive Response team at the Maryland Department of Planning during the O'Malley administration. He served in the US Peace Corps as a Community Resource and Education Volunteer in South Africa. Andrew teaches PSUS 6201, Principles of Sustainable Urban and Regional Planning and co-teaches PSUS 6236 - the International Planning Studio. He also represents the Sustainable Urban Planning program on the National Capital Chapter of the American Planning Association Executive Board as the faculty appointment. Email: [email protected]
Anthony G. Bigio (M.Sc., University of Rome) is an Urban Advisor with over thirty years of experience of urban development projects across the world. Tony has visited Antarctica and, prior to joining the George Washington University, he served for 20 years at the World Bank Group, where he worked on projects in more than 25 nations. He is a Lead Author on 5th Assessment Report (2014) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with a focus on urban planning and policies for low-carbon cities - including urban density and form, urban metabolism, governance, institutions, and finance. Tony teaches PSUS 6220, Planning Resilient and Low-carbon Cities.
Email: [email protected]
Matthew Dalbey (Ph.D., Columbia University) is the director of the US EPA’s Office of Community Revitalization. During his 14 years at EPA he has been recognized as a thought leader on more sustainable, resilient and innovative approaches to the growth and development of communities. Email: [email protected]
Elizabeth Gearin (Ph.D., University of Southern California, AICP) is a planning and public policy consultant and a member of the Arlington County Planning Commission. She has worked as housing and community development planner in the San Francisco Bay Area, and as a community organizer in Chicago. Elizabeth teaches PSUS 6235: Biophilia and Urban Planning.
Email: [email protected]
Rachael Jonassen (Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University) is an Independent Expert in climate, energy, and water issues - and has served government and corporate clients on multiple strategic challenges in these fields for more than two decades. She has completed assignments in 20 countries around the globe and supports several NGOs by helping to develop policies related to climate change-related issues. Her many professional accomplishments have been recognized through her election as a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. Rachael teaches PSUS 6221, The Scientific Basis of Climate Change.
Email: [email protected]
Mesbah Motamed (Ph.D., Purdue University) is an economist at the Millennium Challenge Corporation. His work has focused on agricultural land use, risk management, trade and economic development. His previous work includes being a research economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and working on agricultural development projects in Central Asia and Latin America and as a trade analyst for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Mesbah teaches PSUS 6203, 6211, and 6214. Email: [email protected]
Scott Sklar runs a global renewable energy technology optimization firm, The Stella Group, Ltd., for the last 20 years. He also chairs or sits on the boards of several national clean energy organizations. He has written and co-authored a wide range of books and articles over his 40 year career, and has two buildings off-the-grid in Arlington, Virginia, which he has students tour for his classes. Scott teaches two courses in the program - PSUS 6224: Sustainable Energy Production & Climate Issues, and a summer course PSUS 6235: Renewable Energy and Critical Infrastructure (the first such course in the USA). Email: [email protected]
John Thomas (Ph.D., UC Berkeley) is the Director of the Community Assistance and Research Division in the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities - where he works to advance smart growth strategies in communities throughout the country. Prior to joining the EPA, John taught in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University. John teaches PSUS 6210, Transportation Planning in City Systems, and PSUS 6212, Sustainable Communities I: Housing and Design. Email: [email protected]
Eliza Voigt (MCRP, University of North Carolina, AICP) has more than 25 years of experience as an urban planner. She is currently Acting Chief of Partnerships and Community Assistance at the National Park Service (NPS) and has been with them for 10 years. Prior to joining NPS, Eliza worked as urban/historic preservation planner for local governments in Montgomery County, Maryland, and for the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation in Washington D.C., an early leader in public/private downtown revitalization efforts.
Email: [email protected]; [email protected]
Sandra Whitehead (Ph.D., Florida State University) is the Program Director of the Sustainable Urban Planning Program at GW. She previously worked as the Director of Program and Partnership Development at the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) where she created tools and trainings for environmental health professionals. Dr. Whitehead also worked at the National Association of County and City Health Officials and the Florida Department of Health. She teaches PSUS 6204: Land Use Law and PSUS 6230: Studio in Sustainable Urban Planning. Email: [email protected]
Where Our Alumni Work
Our alumni serve in positions that lead change like sustainability officer, director of equity, community engagement manager and long range planner. Here are just some of the field’s top organizations where SUP graduates are advancing their exciting careers:
- Urban Land Institute
- Trust for Public Land
- Nature Conservancy
- UN Habitat - UNHCR
- China Fortune Land Development
- The World Bank
- Asian Development Bank
- DC DOT
- DC Southwest Business Improvement District
- Fairfax County
- Top of Alabama Regional Planning Council
- U.S. Air Force
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- U.S. Department of State
- US AID
- US EPA Sustainable Communities Program
- ICF, International
- Michael Baker International
- Gannett Fleming, Inc.
- Ian Thomas Group
- Island Press
- HKF Group
To apply to this program you must have:
- A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education
- A GPA of 3.0 or higher
You can apply for admission for both the fall and spring semesters.
Students are admitted for the fall and spring semesters. Applicants that have complete applications are eligible to request an application fee waiver by 11:59 p.m. on the Priority Deadline.* To request an application fee waiver, contact your program representative before submitting your application. Fee waiver details. Applications received after the Final Deadline will continue to be processed, space permitting.
- Fall Priority Deadline: February 1*
- Fall Final Deadline: May 1
- Spring Priority Deadline: August 1*
- Spring Final Deadline: October 1**
- Not offered
Note for International Students: Applicants must submit their complete applications by the deadlines listed on the International Student Admissions page. These deadlines are at least two months before the deadline for admitted students to submit visa request paperwork.
Costs & Aid
GW tuition and fees are comparable to the national average for private universities. These costs are set by the GW Board of Trustees and generally increase year to year, variable by program and location. Please use this information as an estimate based on current tuition rates and fee structures. Total tuition and fees will vary according to the courses taken and the timeframe in which you complete your coursework.
Costs & Dean's Merit Scholarship
|Rates Effective Summer 2021-Spring 2022 Terms|
|Dean’s Merit Scholarship||
Students who enter the program with a 3.0 GPA and taking at least 5 credits will qualify for the scholarship. This scholarship will be in the form of tuition remission of approximately 25%. To maintain eligibility, students must be continuously enrolled, taking at least 5 credits per semester, and maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA. Failure to enroll in a semester will result in a discontinuation of the scholarship. Students can petition the Program Director for consideration of reinstatement.
(5 registration sessions @ $35 each - assuming 5 semesters with at least 9 credits/semester)
Tuition + fees
|$87,775 (not including scholarship tuition remission)
Other Costs to Consider:
|Matriculation fee: (one time)||$200|
Dean's Merit Scholarship:
Students who enter the program with a 3.0 GPA and who are taking at least 5 credits hours will qualify for the scholarship. This scholarship will be in the form of tuition remission of approximately 25%. To maintain eligibility, students must be continuously enrolled, taking at least 5 credit hours per semester, and maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA. Failure to enroll in a semester will result in a discontinuation of the scholarship. Students can petition the Program Director for consideration of reinstatement.
APA Foundation Scholarship:
One facet of the American Planning Association Foundation's (APAF) mission is advancing social equity in the profession and in our communities. This scholarship is awarded annually to students intending to pursue careers as practicing planners who will diversify the profession and who are able to demonstrate a genuine financial need.
Eligibility: Women, people of color and indigenous descent, veterans, disabled persons, and members of the LGBTQ community who are currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate Planning Accreditation Board (PAB)-approved programs. Applicants must be APA members; membership for students is free. More information on application requirements and annual deadlines can be found through the APA's website.
GW's Military & Veteran Services provides wide-ranging resources and support to the military community, including GW scholarships and assistance with benefits:
Since Military and Veterans Services was created in 2008, GW has been an annual recipient of the Military Friendly Award and is also annually recognized as a Military Times “Best for Vets” higher education institution.
The SUP program is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB),
which requires GW to post this information.
We periodically offer online and in-person information sessions about the Sustainable Urban Planning Program. Contact the program representative to learn more about upcoming events.