Master of Urban Planning Strategic Plan


This document presents the Department of Urban & Regional Planning’s Strategic Plan for its graduate Master of Urban Planning (MUP) program.  This Plan is prepared in accordance with the 2017 Standards of the Planning Accreditation Board.[1] Though the Plan strictly follows the format required for accreditation, it also expresses our faculty’s intentions for the next accreditation period but subject to periodic review and revision.

Context of our Mission and Strategic Planning

This is the Plan only for our department’s Master of Urban Planning (MUP) program, which has its own distinct mission, to be described below.  Our department also offers a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Design, a Master of Science in Architecture (Historic Preservation), a Master of Science in Real Estate Development, and a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning, which have separate mission statements, available on request.

This is meant to be a flexible document, subject to evolving deliberation. The plan is designed to be responsive to considerations that include changing faculty composition (such as new hiring or temporary faculty leaves), school-wide strategic planning, and university plans and priorities.  Since our department is a constituent part of the School of Architecture and Planning, this Plan is consistent with, and reinforces, the School’s “Mission and Vision Statement.”

Consistency of mission with strategic goals: Urban planning as a professional field emerges from multiple disciplinary sources, has a potentially vast scope, includes a plethora of subfields, and contains divergent visions of the future.  While we provide below a general mission statement for professional education, we know that we cannot hope to convey our field’s direction in its entirety.  Therefore, in this Plan we endeavor to fashion a distinct identity: our strategic goals correspond to our faculty capabilities and interests, our urban and regional location, our academic location, our projected student needs, and our vision for urban planning education.

Stakeholder input:  This Plan emerges from consultations both formal and informal during the fall 2019 semester.  Our consultations included meetings with current faculty and outreach to school administration.  We held in-person stakeholder engagement meetings with current students, professional planners, and WNY APA Section members and leadership. We also hosted an online discussion with alumni, conducted via web conference. Departmental faculty moderated the stakeholder meetings, which included a discussion of goals drafted for the strategic plan as well as the opportunity for open-ended discussion and comments about the MUP program. Documented results of these meetings are included in Standard 1B.

Dissemination: We have distributed this Plan internally to our faculty and school administration. We have also shared the final version with students, alumni and professionals who participated in stakeholder meetings. The Plan is available to the public and is accessible via our departmental web page.

Evaluating Progress and Making Improvements: In the Self-Study Report in which this Strategic Plan is included, we lay out a plan for evaluating progress and making improvements. That plan provides program benchmarks and time frames for achieving the goals.

Mission Statement

Our MUP program has as its mission to prepare students for the professional practice of planning, for the applications of planning knowledge in allied careers, and for potential advanced study leading to the PhD.  We provide particular depth in a number of specializations, which may evolve over time. We pride ourselves on our teaching that brings to bear advances in planning research, scholarship, and technology—for which our faculty’s own involvement in research is essential.  We are also committed to teaching that involves students in service to our community and region.  In view of the many urgent challenges that cities and regions face, our aim is to educate planners recognized for their professional excellence, practical insight, ethical practice and commitment to social and racial justice.  We are dedicated to doing so through integrity in scholarship, academic freedom, and openness to debate. In keeping with the rest of our school, we are also committed to meaningful public engagement and to creating more equitable, just, sustainable, and well‐designed environments, and to inclusion, equity, and diversity in student body, faculty, and staff.

Master of Urban Planning Program-Wide Learning Objectives


Develop knowledge of planning theory, history and empirically-based concepts to inform futures and future planning interventions. Integrating perspectives from the social sciences and design fields, critically examine relationships between society and the built environment using lenses of equity and inclusion.


Develop practical knowledge about how social, economic, political and cultural institutions function in the context of planning and socially-inclusive outcomes with a view toward implementation of plans and policies.


Use analytic and inferential reasoning methods to understand complex social, economic and environmental and spatial community conditions. Cultivate ability to critically analyze data, employ culturally-appropriate and cutting-edge tools and methods that illustrate inequities across race, class, gender, ability, sexual orientation and other forms of social separateness.


Develop plan-making, policy-making and regulatory compliance and design skills in United States and international contexts. Critically interrogate how these practices intentionally and unintentionally exclude on the basis of race, class, gender, ability, sexual orientation and other forms of social separateness.


Gain professional planning and ethical practice experience, through engaged learning domestically and abroad. Cultivate ability to apply planning knowledge and tools in ways that are sensitive to culture and power dynamics, and enhance equity and inclusivity.

Program Goals

We have identified seven goals, a primary goal (Goal 1) and five additional goals (Goals 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6), which are not priority-ordered.

Primary Goal: Goal 1


The justifications for this goal include:

  • Compound problems.  Most planning problems are made up of complexly interacting factors, with many uncertainties, limited information, multiple interests, varying public perceptions, multiple scales, and ethical quandaries. Students will better learn to address with such problems through theoretical and direct engagement.
  •  The region as our primary lab.  Buffalo, Western New York, Upstate New York, and the bi-national region provide opportunities for involving students in a variety of local and regional planning issues.  Doing so helps fulfill part of our mission: to serve our communities and region.
  • In addition to the region, the department plans to expand the scope of opportunities for engaged learning in national and international contexts.
  • Track record.  Through client-focused studios (practicums), final projects, in-class case studies, and student involvement in applied research, we have a long record of teaching through engagement.  Our studios have a strong record of winning state and national awards.  We wish to build on that record.
  • Bringing a racial, social justice and equity planning perspective to the intersections of the disciplines of planning and architecture.  Our studios integrate theoretical, analytical and design thinking.  Our goal takes advantage of our being in a school together with architecture, and reflects the school wide strategy of having architecture and planning together, on purpose, while infusing racial and social justice, and equity planning principles into this modality
  • Value as educational modality.  Engaged learning is exciting and memorable; it is an important variation on the respected “case-study” learning method.  Whereas certain lecture courses may migrate to online instruction, our commitment to engaged learning will continue to require students to be present on site.
  • Improved professional capability.  This mode of instruction provides superior experiential grounding for professional practice; helps students assemble portfolios of work completed; and gives them confidence in professional settings.
  • Communication skills.  This type of instruction gives students all-important exercise in writing, graphic presentation, presentation of data, interaction with clients, public speaking, and project leadership.  These are essential for professional practice.

Additional Goals - Not in Priority Order

Goal 2

TO FOSTER TRANSDISCIPLINARY EDUCATION—centered on issues of racial, social, and environmental justice—through collaborative teaching models.  

The justifications for this goal include:

  • Since planning engages “compound problems,” we should through our teaching modality demonstrate to students how multiple perspectives and areas of expertise can be brought to bear in the search for solutions.
  • Students should have an understanding of all types of injustices (sex and gender, class, climate, legal status, economic, sustainability, etc.) to assist them in working across boundaries (personal backgrounds, personal ideologies, etc.).
  • As part of the School of Architecture and Planning, we have the special opportunity to explore modes of education that integrate policy-analytic and design thinking and infuse equity planning principles, and temper design determinism.
  • Since planners must routinely work with other disciplines, we should build our educational and research relationships, not just with architecture, but also other disciplines, including but not limited to Geography, Economics, Engineering, Historic Preservation, Law, Public Health, and Real Estate Development.
  • Such teaching increases flexibility for students and decreases “silo effects” between specializations.
  • Racial, social, and environmental justice are core issues, as is professional ethics. Metropolitan regions throughout the United States are undergoing changes that have undesirable outcomes on people of color.  The way in which we build cities deeply impact these populations and planners must be sensitized to this reality.

Goal 3


To build the international character of our program, through more international (and global) content in our curriculum, more mentoring directed at international students, and sustained study abroad, including international studios.  In addition to our own bi-national New York State – Province of Ontario region, particular emphasis will be on selected global areas, such as (1) Caribbean and Latin America, (2) Asia, from South Asia through East Asia, and (3) Sub-Saharan Africa. We will also connect our education programs to key global organizations—including the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations—as well as local grassroots organizations with global focuses. The justifications for this goal include:

  • The reality of planning practice: that economic and environmental changes, population movements, and cultural and media influences occur across national boundaries, challenging cities and regions. Students can benefit from the value of knowledge that can be transferred across geographic boundaries.
  • Our faculty’s strong record of international experience and research, especially in the global areas identified above, but also in other areas.  In Asia in particular, we have seen increased faculty capability—regarding parts of Southeast Asia, the Koreas, and China—as well as Jamaica, Ghana, and Eastern Europe.
  • International students may wish to learn about the regions in which they will practice.
  • Enhance preparation for international students to succeed in the MUP program.
  • Our domestic students should acquire global and comparative perspectives, both to better understand U.S. localities in a global context, and for potential international careers.
  • Our school and university commitment to global education.

Goal 4


To inform MUP education and future practice with research, including published scholarship and theoretical advances.  The justifications for this goal include:

  • Students should be able to identify and use high quality data and research to enhance their planning practice. Students should understand not only how to use existing data sources, but how to produce high-quality data.
  • Professional planning is rapidly evolving in response to urban and regional changes; future professionals should be taught in part by those directly involved in advancing knowledge through research (basic and applied).
  • Whether they undertake the MUP to pursue professional careers or advanced education toward the PhD, students benefit from a spectrum of research experiences (both academic and practical).
  • Synergies result when faculty infuse their research into teaching and studio-workshop instruction, fostering a teaching and learning environment focused on the most recent advances in urban planning.

Goal 5


The justifications for this goal include:

  • An inclusive, equitable, and diverse environment for teaching and learning reflects our vision for our students’ futures.
  • We pursue the inclusion, equity, and diversity (EID) objectives set out in the UB School of Architecture and Planning Strategic Plan.
    • The plan lays out objectives for increasing inclusion, equity, and diversity with respect to race/ethnicity (with revision being considered with regard to historically underserved populations: African-Americans, Latinos, and American Indians), socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation/gender identity, and disability.
  • It is especially important for urban planning students to not only learn about inclusion and equity in urban planning, but also to practice inclusion and equity in the studio-workshop courses and projects. Students should understand how to conduct community engagement and reach diverse/representative populations during community engagement exercises.

Goal 6


The justifications for this goal include:

  • Graduates of our MUP program should be leading voices (not following voices) in urban planning and other fields they pursue in professional careers.
  • Through excellence in mentoring and career preparation (including internships) we can prepare students for leadership excellence.
  • The acquisition of professional experience for students in our professional education program is a priority, and we will develop/encourage internship opportunities with local and regional partners.
  • Introducing students to national and global professional networks can lay the foundation for their leadership futures.
  • We can enhance professional engagement through existing networks and support our students’ careers as future leaders by encouraging them to participate in professional and scholarly conferences, apply for competitive awards, and pursue scholarships.
  • We will ensure that our courses address contemporary problems and challenges, such as the effects of climate change.
  • We will collect data to track internship participants and performance in the MUP program and careers beyond graduate school.
  • We aim to ensure that students are equipped with information about potential career directions. This includes expanding the definition of planning and exposing students to alternative career pathways.


[1]  The guidelines are found in Part III, Standard 1, of the Planning Accreditation Board’s “Self-Study Report Manual & Template,” 2019 Edition.


This Strategic Plan of the Master of Urban Planning Program was adopted in March 2020.