The Urban Curriculum

The University of Chicago offers a wide array of urban-focused coursework at the undergraduate and graduate levels across the social, natural, and computational sciences, as well as the humanities—building upon UChicago’s rich history of urban scholarship.

Undergraduate Programs

Program in Environmental and Urban Studies


The Environmental and Urban Studies program encourages interdisciplinary approaches to the complex interactions and intersections of urbanism, environment, and society by incorporating frameworks, theories, models, and methods from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, urban planning and design, and urban science. Students can choose to focus on either the Environmental Track or the Urban Track. A student interested in urban environmental topics can design a program of study through either track.

Photo: UChicago Program on the Global Environment

  • The Environmental Track of the major emphasizes critical thinking and rigorous applications to the study of the environment through the social sciences and humanities. Central concepts to this track include human behavior and its relationship to the environment, moral and ethical dimensions of environmental preservation and conservation, the evolution of environmental discourse, communications, and media, and cultural and historical constructions of nature and the human. The track provides emphases in environmental economics and policy, law and politics, sustainable development, human ecology, environmental ethics and justice, and the social and humanistic study of climate change.
  • The Urban Track of the major emphasizes perspectives on human interaction with the urban, built environment. The track encourages a spatial and place-based urban perspective, meaning that built form and environmental context provide the conceptual core through which the social, economic, and political understanding of urbanism is pursued. The track approaches the nature, dynamics, and human experience of cities by capitalizing on the growth of interest in urban design, urban planning, and emerging urban science.

Students in other fields of study may also complete a minor in Environmental and Urban Studies with an emphasis on one of these tracks.

Learn more here: Course Catalog Description

Minor Program in Architectural Studies


The minor in architectural studies combines course work in art history, which equips students to analyze the form and changing history of the built environment in diverse cultures, places, and times, with up to four courses on architectural or urban topics offered in any department. Thus the minor enables students to enrich art historical analysis with methods from other disciplines.

Photo: Tom Rossiter

A student might choose to minor in architectural studies because the student is interested in the built environment—the inescapable setting of our lives—from a liberal arts perspective or because the student is considering applying to architecture school. The minor could represent an interest distinct from the student’s major or it could complement a major in the social sciences or humanities by exploring the material setting of history and social life or the context for works of literature, film, music, or drama. It could equally complement a major in the sciences, such as medical fields, ecology, geology, physics, or mathematics.

See the list of Autumn 2020 course offerings that relate to urban architecture, design, and the built environment.

Learn more here: Course Catalog Description

Graduate Programs

Certificate Program in Urban Science and Sustainable Development


The Mansueto Institute’s Certificate in Urban Science and Sustainable Development trains students for careers that address the most challenging and important systemic issue of our time – sustainable urban development. The certificate, which University of Chicago students take in conjunction with existing UChicago degree programs, establishes the scientific and intellectual underpinnings for continued work in this emerging field. It is a response to the challenges of our times, as well as the growing demand for an urban-focused curricular pathway for UChicago scholars.

Photo: Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation

Learn more here: Certificate Program Page