Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP)
Degrees offered in Blacksburg and the Washington, D.C., area (Ballston metro station)
VT MURP ranked #22 in the US by educators (Planetizen)
VT MURP ranked #3 small-city program in the US (Planetizen)
96% of MURPs have passed the AICP exam since 2009
The Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree has a dual objective of training gradautes for their first planning job, and more importantly instilling conceptual and critical thinking necessary for lifelong learning and career development. Graduates are able to assume professional responsibilities in a wide variety of positions in public service or in the private sector.
Core Requirements (18 credit hours)
Careers in planning in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Planning practice in different contexts and governance systems. Planning ethics, community and stakeholder engagement, social justice, and professional regulations. Social, physical, environmental, economic, and other dimensions of complex planning problems. Professional skill development, with a focus on written, oral, visual, and digital communication, including social media in planning.
Public participation in planning and decision-making. Deliberative democracy and citizen empowerment. Tools for and approaches to community involvement and alternative dispute resolution. Facilitation and engagement process design. Opportunities and challenges associated with engaging communities in planning and decision-making.
Key planning theories and the history of planning thought and planning practice. Critical perspectives on the challenges and issues facing contemporary planning practice. Milestone events, themes, and debates in the history of planning and their influence on current planning thought and practice. Subfields and specializations in urban planning. Ethical issues in planning. Effective communication tools and techniques.
Quantitative and qualitative methods pertaining to urban and regional planning and analysis; types of data, data sources and data preparation; survey research; technologies for urban planning and analysis; ethics in planning methods.
Urban and regional political economy and finance. Interactions and effects of economic forces and political institutions on urban policy and governance, as well as physical and social infrastructure and inequities. Urban growth and change, institutions of local and federal government and governance, real estate markets, equity, and institutional access. Urban finance, taxation policy and local revenue sources.
Fundamentals of law as it applies to the use of land, with a primary focus on its practice in the United States. Comparative land use law. Case law and statutory law briefing. Constitutional and statutory limitations on regulation; common law principles; traditional use-based zoning and zoning processes and documents; alternative approaches to planning and zoning such as smart growth techniques and form-based codes; and the relationship between land use regulation and urban/metropolitan issues, such as social segregation, sustainability, and environmental justice.
Capstone Project (6 credit hours)
Individual and collaborative group work on a community client-based project. Project management. Problem identification, data collection and analysis, community/stakeholder engagement. Professional norms and practices.
Data analysis and visualization. Proposal of potential solutions to client-based planning problem. Preparation of a written report. Oral presentation.
The thesis presents the results of a well-defined and original research effort that involves either:
- the analysis of primary or secondary data sources (an example of a primary source would be the statistical analysis of the results of a questionnaire you designed and mailed to a set of state economic development agencies, a secondary source would be a statistical analysis of HUD Housing Survey data in an innovative way)
- the analysis of primary or secondary document sources (an example of a primary document source would be a set of municipal ordinances relating to economic development which you collect and analyze, a secondary source would be a set of such sources collected by someone else but which you analyze in an innovative way)
- the analysis of primary or secondary ethnographic sources (an example of a primary ethnographic source is a set of interviews with city planning directors whom you interview personally, a secondary source would be a set of interviews someone else collected but which you interpret in your own original way)
- the use of another academically legitimate analytical technique (such as history, jurisprudence, philosophy) with approval and guidance of your thesis advisor and your committee.
Students selecting this option should enroll in UAP 5994 - Research & Thesis and consult with their advisor and/or Committee Chair at the beginning of the second year in the MURP program. Ideally, students planning on pursuing the thesis option will discuss with their (potential) chair within their first year in the program.
Electives (24 credit hours)
Together with their adviser, students select elective credit hours using coursework from across the university. Students and advisers also develop individualized areas of concentration that include courses relevant to their interests. Sample concentrations are provided below and in the MURP handbook, but students may also work with their advisors to design a custom concentration that fits their particular interests:
- Environmental Policy and Planning
- Land Use and Physical Development Planning
- Housing, Community, and Economic Development
- International Development Planning
- Transportation Planning and Policy
- Planning Analytics
- Urban Design
As part of their courses taken towards the MURP degree students can also obtain any of the following Graduate Certificates. Availability of certificates varies by campus. Some of these certificates are also open to non-degree seeking students enrolled as "Commonwealth Campus."
|MURP Alumni Survey||2017 Grads||2018 Grads||2019 Grads|
|Questions||Strongly Agree or Agree||N||Strongly Agree or Agree||N||Strongly Agree or Agree||N|
|1.||During the program, I developed skills in assembling and analyzing ideas and information from diverse sources.||100%||14||83%||12||100%||12|
|2.||During the program, I developed abilities to prepare clear, accurate and compelling text, graphics and maps.||93%||14||92%||12||75%||12|
|3.||During the program, I developed abilities in analyzing data, both quantitatively and qualitatively||93%||14||83%||12||67%||12|
|4.||The program helped me build skills in creating and implementing effective plans.||79%||14||67%||12||83%||12|
|5.||While in the program I obtained skills in involving stakeholders, engaging the community, and working with diverse communities.||93%||14||75%||12||75%||12|
|6.||The program gave me an appreciation of key ethical issues in planning and public decision-making.||71%||14||83%||12||100%||12|
|7.||The program prepared me to understand the economic, social and cultural factors in urban and regional growth and change.||93%||14||92%||12||92%||12|
|8.||My education prepared me for understanding issues of equity and social justice.||86%||14||92%||12||92%||12|
|N = number of responses.|
|2019-20 Tuition and Fees|
|In State Residents, per full-time academic year||$15,972|
|Out of State Residents, per full-time academic year||$30,489|
|Student Retention Rate||Percent|
|Percentage of students who began studies in Fall 2018 and continued into Fall 2019||80%|
|Student Graduation Rates||Percent|
|Percentage of students graduating within 5 years, entering calss of 2015||67%|
|Number of Degrees Awarded|
|Number of degrees awarded for the 2018-2019 Academic Year||22|
|Percentage of master's graduates taking the AICP exam within 5 years who pass, graduating class of 2014||96%|
|Percentage of fulltime graduates obtaining professional planning, planning-related or other positions within 12 months of graduation, graduating class of 2018||93%|
Several dual degree options are available with the following programs: Landscape Architecture's Master of Landscape Architecture, Center for Public Administration and Policy's Master of Public Administration, and Natural Resource's Master of Natural Resources . Details regarding program completion requirements can be found in the MURP Policy Guide below.
Spring 2019 E-Scooter Studio
SUBJECT: Shared Mobility Devices in Arlington
PROFESSOR: Ralph Buehler
Dockless e-scooters, e-bikes, and pedal bikes, also known has shared mobility devices (SMDs), have recently emerged as another mobility option available for rental in many major cities across the US. Our study surveyed 182 Rosslyn residents, workers, and visitors about their experience with and attitudes towards dockless e-bikes and e-scooters. In Addition, we counted over 600 parked e-scooters in three neighborhoods in Arlington County to evaluate how many were parked correctly.
Our study resulted in the following findings:
• E-scooter users are younger, more racially/ethnically diverse, and financially less well-off than non-users. User and non-user gender distributions are similar.
• Respondents choose e-scooters as the fastest option to make practical trips such as errands and work.
• Respondents would use e-scooters more frequently if they had safer places to ride, if prices were lower, and if accessing e-scooters were more convenient.
• E-scooters are more likely to replace car (mainly TNC and taxi) trips than public transit trips.
• Perceptions of e-scooter safety and parking impacts to sidewalks vary sharply between users and non-users—with more negative opinions for non-users.
• The most frequent causes of improper parking are that scooters were not upright, blocked the pedestrian right of way, or were on private property.
• Many respondents are unfamiliar with SMD rules in Arlington County.
We presented the results of this studio class at the TRB annual meeting and published a peer-reviewed paper:
James, O., Swiderski, JI, Hicks, J., Teoman, D., and Buehler, R. 2019. Pedestrians and E-Scooters: An Initial Look at E-Scooter Parking and Perceptions by Riders and Non-Riders. Sustainability, Vol 11, No. 20, 5591; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11205591.”
Fall 2019: Year Long
SUBJECT: Affordable Housing in Arlington and Alexandria
PROFESSOR: Shelley Mastran
The year-long capstone studio focused student research on projects related to affordable housing in Arlington and Alexandria. During the fall, all 12 students worked on a history of residential development in Arlington County as it relates to planning and zoning. Students traced the evolution of housing patterns from the late 19th century to today. One of the major findings of the study is that through its zoning ordinances and comprehensive plans, Arlington reinforced the dominance of single-family subdivisions across the landscape, which has contributed to today’s dearth of housing that is affordable to those of low and middle income.
During the spring semester the class divided into groups, working on projects related to affordable housing in the city of Alexandria. These projects include studying the results of a resident survey in Del Ray and Arlandria; identifying underutilized parcels of land that would be suitable for “missing middle” housing; identifying financial mechanisms for providing Accessory Dwelling Units; conducting case studies of “co-living,” such as rooming houses, that would be applicable to Alexandria; inventorying and analyzing the range of mixed-income assisted living facilities across the U.S.; and studying barriers to building affordable housing in northern Virginia and conducting a cross-jurisdictional analysis of the housing development process
FALL 2019 Year Long Studio
SUBJECT: Craft Beer and Urban and Regional Planning
PROFESSOR: Theodore Lim
Craft breweries are enjoying a surge of popularity, growing from an estimated eight craft brewery operations in 1981, to over 4,500 microbreweries and almost 2,600 brewpubs as of 2018 (Brewer’s Association, 2019). In 2018, small and independent brewers comprised 13.2% of market share by volume, and 24.1% market share by retail value (ibid). Craft breweries are not just significant symbol of the US’ changing taste in beer. Their presence in local communities are also creating interesting spaces where people can gather, revitalizing downtowns, adapting historic buildings, and creating linkages between outdoor recreation, and the local business and food movements. Regionally, some areas are promoting craft breweries as part of a regional economic development strategy related to tourism and food and beverage processing. The growth in popularity in craft breweries is not without its challenges however. Examples of concerns accompanying brewery establishment include: increased congestion, public drunkenness, cultural changes, resident quality of life vs tourism development, infrastructural constraints, and environmental impacts.
In this studio we will examine the role urban and regional planners play in balancing the goals of community and economic development, infrastructure capacity, quality of life, environmental amenity, historical preservation, and sustainability. We will conduct in-depth site research using interviews, surveys, and photography in the City of Asheville, NC, known for its craft beer culture and tourism industries, and apply lessons learned to deliverables we prepare for our clients: (1) the Town of Blacksburg, VA; (2) the Blacksburg Partnership; (3) Onward New River Valley; and (4) the Brewer’s Association.
SPRING 2019 Year Long Studio
SUBJECT: Preparing Communities for Automated Vehicles
PROFESSORS: Wenwen Zhang and Theodore Lim
Description: Automated vehicles (AVs) are vehicles that require no driver. These vehicles represent the culmination of several rapidly developing technologies, such as remote sensing, machine-learning, and computer vision, and are capable of transporting passengers with little to no human input. In this studio, students explore what local agencies, policy-makers, planners, and residents can do to prepare their communities for local changes associated with the coming of AVs. While no one can predict the timeline of AV implementation with complete certainty, we can expect that AVs will have a profound impact on many aspects of private and personal life over the next decades, including: 1) individual vehicle travel, 2) public transit, 3) parking, 4) the metropolitan footprint, 5) parks and open space, 6) affordable housing and 7) employment. The challenge to planners and policy- makers is that the future of AVs is both uncertain and highly impactful. We will work to identify case studies of what planners can do to plan in the face of such uncertain, impactful change, as well as survey planners’ own perceptions of their communities’ readiness.
SPRING 2017 Transportation Studio
SUBJECT: Capital Bikeshare station expansion, feasibility study in Merrifield, VA
PROFESSOR: Dr. Ralph Buehler
Bikeshare is a convenient mode of neighborhood circulation that can also improve first and last mile access to public transportation. In the Fall of 2016, Fairfax County launched bikeshare in Tysons as well as Reston. In an effort to further expand their bikeshare network, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation has reached out to Virginia Tech to develop a feasibility study for a bikeshare expansion to Merrifield, Virginia.
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