The University Record, September 8, 1992

Efficiency prompts merger, forms Urban and Regional Planning Program

By Terry Gallagher
News and Information Services

“Less is more,” the credo adopted by modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, might describe plans to consolidate campus programs that focus on urban and regional planning.

In July, the University’s doctoral program in Urban, Technological and Environmental Planning (UTEP) merged with the urban planning program in the College of Architecture and Urban Planning to form the new Urban and Regional Planning Program. The new program will offer the professional master’s degree in urban planning and a doctoral degree in urban, technological and environmental planning.

Greater efficiency is the primary reason for the merger, but it also reflects a growing interest in urban issues and in planning education and research, according to Dean Robert M. Beckley. “Cities all over the world are facing greater problems with fewer resources than they had in the past,” Beckley notes, “and modern urban issues need to be approached in interdisciplinary ways.”

The merger also will allow master’s degree students preparing for professional careers to collaborate with faculty members and doctoral students conducting original research, according to Prof. Robert W. Marans, chair of the combined program.

The master’s program in urban planning is “a hands-on professional program” in which students develop skills in physical planning, urban design, quantitative and fiscal analysis and planning theory, Marans says. Most graduates work in the public sector on housing, transportation, industrial and residential development, and other issues.

The doctoral program in urban, technological and environmental planning prepares students for academic and scholarly positions, as well as for leadership positions in government agencies and international programs.

“UTEP is a truly interdisciplinary program in urban and regional planning that takes advantage of the full range of resources of the University,” Marans says. More than 25 faculty members are affiliated with the program, including scholars in engineering, social work, law, natural resources, public health, and faculty affiliated with the Institute for Social Research, the Institute for Public Policy Studies, LS&A, and the Transportation Research Institute, as well as the College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

“This is a highly individualized program for mature students from a broad range of backgrounds, involving faculty from a wide variety of disciplines,” Marans says.

Students can specialize in urban and regional planning, sociotechnological planning or environmental planning. In order to graduate, all of the students are expected to gather relevant work experience “in any combination of teaching, non-dissertation research, or professional work in planning,” he adds.

UTEP was established in response to growing interest in urban and environmental issues in the late 1960s, according to Marans. Technology planning has emerged as an important issue in the years since, and is reflected in the program’s courses on “intelligent vehicle-highway systems” and other technological developments that will affect urban planning.

“Historically, one of the strengths of the UTEP program is its outreach, offering a quasi-professional service to community groups and planning agencies as part of the academic exercise,” Marans says. Students and faculty members in the program have worked with citizen’s district councils in several areas of Detroit, examining land use, traffic, housing, river-front development, recreation and youth development programs.

Marans says that “building better bridges to Detroit” will remain one of the primary objectives of the unified program.