UAP: Urban Affairs & Planning2018-07-13T16:25:21+00:00


Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP)
  • Real-life experiences with community clients

  • Graduate program in Blacksburg & Alexandria

The United Nations reports that in 2050, another 2.5 billion people will be added to urban areas around the globe. Managing this growth and change requires an understanding of several inter-connected systems, to preserve and enhance community life, protect the environment, and promote equity. UAP’s degrees explore the intersections of planning, policy and practice at the metropolitan, community, and neighborhood scales and in the diverse contexts of rural and urban, poor and affluent, fast growing and declining communities. We engage issues affecting where people live, work and play; where they shop and receive medical attention; how they get from place to place; what communities look like; how communities work and how we use our resources. This is exciting and challenging work. Our core curriculum includes theory, law, economics, methods, and project-based studios along with such topics as sustainability, real estate development, urban design, community engagement, technology and planning.

The Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) program at Virginia Tech has a rich tradition of bachelors, masters, and doctoral level education. We emphasize a practical, hands-on approach that reaches across disciplinary and professional boundaries. Our students learn how to understand ‘places’ and policy at a range of scales – from neighborhoods to mega-regions, in the U.S. and around the world. Our program is well connected throughout the region with many of our alumni working for local governments–thus, giving students an extensive network for launching careers in local public service. UAP has an excellent faculty-student ratio at each location, which means most of the classes are relatively small with excellent opportunities to interact with the faculty. Each semester UAP offers studios, in which student teams working for public, private and nonprofit clients tackle real world planning, policy, development or design problems—several studios have won awards from the Virginia American Planning Association.

UAP faculty have earned national reputations as experts in sustainability, urban regeneration, international development, transportation, housing, disaster management, and community and economic development. Our faculty have degrees from the finest planning schools and conduct cutting-edge research. UAP faculty in Blacksburg and Alexandria often collaborate with colleagues in the School of Public and International Affairs, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and several Virginia Tech research centers.

U.A.P. Academic Programs

Undergraduate Degrees

The Bachelor of Arts in Public and Urban Affairs degree provides the planning and policy skills and insights in order to understand and affect the economic, environmental, social, and governmental consequences of urban growth and change. Graduates work in government agencies, nonprofits, and the private sector addressing complex problems in realms such as urban planning, environmental justice, economic development, food systems, and international development.
The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy and Planning degree provides students the opportunity to study environmental problems and their solutions from an interdisciplinary perspective involving humanities, natural and social sciences, planning, and public policy. Graduates work in government agencies, nonprofits and the private sector, focusing on planning issues and challenges that affect local, regional, national and international communities. Graduates of the Environmental Planning and Policy degree program work in government agencies, nonprofits and the private sector, focusing on planning issues and challenges that affect local, regional, national and international communities.

Undergraduate Minors

The Environmental Policy and Planning Minor provides a critical interdisciplinary insight into modern environmental concerns.
A minor in Public and Urban Affairs requires completion of 18 credit hours:
UAP 1024: Public Issues in Urban Society
UAP 3014: Urban Policy and Planning
12 hours from approved list of UAP courses
The Real Estate Minor is a vital aspect of educating students for careers in real estate and in the real estate aspects of many facets of modern life. The instructional material is relevant to professionals in a wide range of real estate organizations and program graduates work in public sector agencies and in the private sector in such areas as economic development, urban planning and commercial/residential development.
The Watershed Management Minor provides an interdisciplinary and substantive understanding of watershed science, policy and decision-making. Alumni are prepared for careers in government, nonprofits and private sector organizations that focus on water resources.

Master’s Degrees

The Masters in Urban and Regional Planning degree has a dual objective of training graduates 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.
MURP’s Dual Masters degrees, also known as simultaneous degrees, exist between the Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) and Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA), Master of Public Administration (MPA), and Master of Natural Resources degrees (MNR). Dual degrees provide students with the opportunity to master core material in more than one field, allowing them to acquire the flexibility to engage in a wide range of activities within multiple fields and become bridge-builders between them; in fact, many rise to leadership positions because of their multi-disciplinary perspective. If you are interested in this program in Blacksburg, please contact If you are interested in this program in Alexandria, please contact

Doctoral Degree

The PhD in Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG) draws insights from the social sciences and humanities into the multidimensional study of governance processes in all levels of society and international affairs. The faculty and students work jointly to cultivate their experience, knowledge, and skill with regard to the governance practices, political institutions, social dynamics, cultural values, workplace conditions, spatial formations, historical trends, and ethical conflicts that intersect in the workings of government, business, and not-for-profit organizations. Program graduates work in a range of nonprofit/NGO, public and private organizations at national and international levels.


Urban and regional planners need to know how they can develop their economies. The challenge for policymakers, economic developers and urban planners nowadays is to design appropriate local and regional economic development policies and programs to respond to challenges resulting from globalization, technological development, demographic changes, urban decline, sprawl, and social inequities. Virginia Tech’s Graduate Certificate in Economic Development is designed for those who are interested in acquiring a basic understanding of urban and regional economic development dynamics and the role of policy in influencing them.
Geospatial Information Technology (GIT) includes collection and analysis of remotely sensed data, digital spatial and attribute data used by geographic information systems (GIS), and the application of related technologies such as the Global Positioning System (GPS). Geographic Information Science is one of the leading careers in the United States today. As depth of knowledge is important to careers in the industry, this certificate requires 12 hours of geospatial coursework. Coursework is taken from three categories, beginning with introductory topics, and continuing through more advanced and specialized topics as best fits the student’s background and future goals.
The Graduate Certificate in Global Planning and International Development Studies builds on Virginia Tech’s internationally recognized, 30-year specialization in international development planning and an innovative partnership between faculty in programs such as Urban Affairs and Planning, Public Health, Geography, and Building Construction. The certificate seeks to prepare graduate students in multiple disciplines to engage in meaningful global professional leadership and academic positions to systematically tackle and resolve these global planning and development issues.
The Graduate Certificate in Metropolitan Studies is designed for those who are interested in acquiring a basic understanding of metropolitan development dynamics and the role of policy in influencing them. The certificate is part of the Urban Affairs and Planning program’s overall mission to teach students how to understand, analyze, and influence the forces that shape the metropolitan built environment.
Virginia Tech’s School certificate in Nonprofit and NGO Management focuses on the most vital and urgent management challenges for nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations. The certificate is ideal for rising professionals across the globe navigating the complex fiscal, managerial and networked environments of nonprofits and NGOs during a time of significant change. Courses in the certificate also include a focus on leadership, complex management, program evaluation with an emphasis on accountability. All courses seamlessly integrate the domestic and international context.
The management of water resources is a critical issue facing governmental agencies, as well as the private/industrial sector and citizens. The Watershed Management Certificate provides an excellent opportunity for future water and land managers to develop the interdisciplinary skills necessary for meeting these challenges in the field of water resources. This certificate integrates existing programs and courses from five colleges and ten departments at Virginia Tech to provide an interdisciplinary and substantive understanding of watershed science, policy, and decision-making.

Special Programs

The Combined B.A. Architecture/Masters in Urban and Regional Planning degree provides students with the option of earning a professionally-accredited Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree along with the professionally accredited Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) degree. Graduates of the combined degree program are at the nexus of planning and architectural design, crafting solutions to community issues that respond to social, political, economic and spatial challenges.
Located in Old Town Alexandria, the Washington Semester is an eleven-week summer program that provides students the opportunity to acquire professional experience in a governmental agency or other relevant enterprise in the private or nonprofit sector.
UAP Faculty
Meet our Students

UAP Undergraduate Students

I’m a senior double majoring in Public and Urban Affairs and Applied Economics and Management, and I’m passionate about rural community development. I’m from Glade Spring, a very small community in Virginia. I came to Virginia Tech having interned with Abingdon Main Street, an organization that helps downtown Abingdon, Virgina thrive. This experience introduced me to the opportunities I had to contribute to the future of communities like mine, and gave me additional context from which to consider what I was learning in class. I hope to continue at Virginia Tech in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program, and then work to help communities similar to my hometown.
My name is Hunter Wyatt, I am a senior double majoring in Environmental Policy and Planning and Agricultural Sciences. I grew up on a small horse farm in Sugar Grove, a small community in southwest Virginia. I am an avid hunter and fisherman, and enjoy hiking the Appalachian Trail. My primary interest in the program is in bridging the gap between agriculture and sustainability in a manner that is ecologically beneficial and promotes financial resilience and social welfare. I hope to help small agricultural communities understand how to sustainably capitalize on their resources, enabling them to serve as a model to promote sustainability in our capitalistic market.
My name is Maria Elisa Vollmer, and I’m from Venezuela. Growing up in a developing country, I noticed how our many resources were often mismanaged due to lack of technical knowledge, poor policymaking, or not being a priority. This motivated me to study Environmental Policy and Planning at Virginia Tech. Here I learned about important tools to solve human-environment problems, with which I hope to mitigate environmental impacts due to development.

UAP Graduate Students (MURP)

Hi, my name is Beth Olberding! I am from Richmond, Virginia and applied to the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program because of the opportunities it has afforded me to study and serve in the Peace Corps as part of the Master’s International program. I am serving in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica as a Community Economic Development volunteer (2015-2017). I was drawn to the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program because of my interests in both international development and environmental planning. I have been able to pursue both of my interests as a dual Master’s candidate in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program and the Master of Natural Resources program. I aspire to work at the nexus of international development and environmental issues focusing specifically on climate change policy.
My name is Henry Ayakwah. I am a Ghanaian born US naturalized citizen. I received my undergraduate degree in Philosophy from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. I started my graduate studies in the spring of 2016 in Urban and Regional Planning with international development planning as my concentration. I am interested in studying how rural small-scale farming can improve national economy and sustain the rural domestic economy in third world countries. I aspire to work with international organizations and third world countries in development planning and rural economic sustainability. I hope to connect well developed agricultural practices like those in China and the US with third world countries.
My name is Nicole Boling and I am originally from a small town in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I received my undergraduate degree in Geography from Shippensburg University. After two years as a County Planning Director in Pennsylvania, I relocated to Northern Virginia to continue my career as an urban planner. I am in my first year of the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program at Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region campus in Alexandria. I am interested in many aspects of the planning profession; however, I look forward to learning more about community development, sustainability, and urban design. I aspire to be a leader in the field of urban and regional planning and would like to learn how to better connect local communities to the planning process.

UAP Ph.D. Students (PGG-UEDP)

I am Huyen Le from Vinh City, Vietnam. As a doctoral student in the Planning, Governance, and Globalization program (Urban and Environmental Design and Planning track), I am pursuing transportation planning research with a focus on travel behavior and choice modeling. My research explores the mechanisms behind individual and household’s decision to bike, walk, or ride public transit, as well as how to translate them into policies that promote sustainable transportation. In this program I can work with experts in many fields, such as planning, engineering, behavioral science, and geography, among others. Not only can this bring diverse views to my research, it also reinforces collaboration with other departments and universities. Our Mood State in Transport Environments project in collaboration with Virginia Tech’s Department of Psychology and the University of Minnesota is a case in point.
What I like most about the program is the great flexibility in designing my own curriculum that directly serves my dissertation. I have been encouraged to take courses outside the program to expand my view. As such, I have developed my skill set towards experimental and quasi-experimental design, discrete choice modeling, and other econometric methods. This is also a great opportunity to combine my leisure-time interests in behavioral science and decision science into something tangible and helpful for transportation policy analysis.Upon completion of my doctoral study, I plan to continue my transportation research in an academic setting. Besides deepening my current direction in choice modeling, I look to explore other areas of transportation and connect them to the planning practice, as well as translate these studies to a developing world context where travel behavior could be very different from that in the developed world.
Hi, I’m Tianjun (Luke) Lu from China and I’m a PhD student in the Planning, Governance and Globalization program at Virginia Tech’s main campus in Blacksburg, VA. My interests are bicycle and pedestrian planning and air quality monitoring. I’m a graduate of the Master’s program in Urban and Regional Planning here at Virginia Tech, and as a PhD student, I’m on a journey to explore the beauty of planning education. I hope to strengthen and improve the intersection between transportation planning and environmental planning, and to become a qualified and capable scholar in the planning field.
Student Organizations
The Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) program has active student body groups including four student-run organizations from the undergraduate to the doctoral level.
UAPSA // Urban Affairs and Planning Student Association

The Urban Affairs and Planning Student Association (UAPSA) serves as the organization for students majoring in Public and Urban Affairs (PUA) or Environmental Planning and Policy (EPP). UAPSA provides a forum for discussion on issues related to planning, policy, and administration; sponsors, coordinates, or participates in community service projects; and develops and disseminates information on employment and career opportunities in planning, policy, and administration. All students interested PUA, EPP, Geography, International Studies, Architecture, etc. are welcome to join Urban Affairs and Planning Student Association’s Facebook page.

CASPA // Capital Area Student Planning Association 

The Capital Area Student Planning Association (CASPA) serves as the student organization for the Urban Affairs and Planning program at Virginia Tech’s Alexandria campus. CASPA aims to provide a creative and professional forum for the program’s graduate students to facilitate dialogue and friendship, while also providing resources and support from the university, faculty, and the public and private sectors to help students reach their academic and professional goals. Social and professional activities are held on campus or in the D.C. Metropolitan area. More information about the Capital Area Student Planning Association and upcoming events can be found on Facebook.

GUAPA // Graduate Urban Affairs and Planning Association

The Graduate Urban Affairs and Planning Association (GUAPA) serves as the student organization for the Urban Affairs and Planning program at Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus. GUAPA provides a creative and professional environment for graduate students to collaborate with peers, faculty, other departments, and the public and private sectors throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. GUAPA provides the resources and support necessary for members to achieve their academic and professional goals while at Virginia Tech. The organization harnesses student engagement at the Graduate level through regional and national conference participation (such as the APA Conference and City Works Expo), guest speaker lectures, academic research development, as well as social and professional networking opportunities. More info on the Graduate Urban Affairs and Planning Association can be found on Facebook.

The Planning, Governance, and Globalization Student Association (PGGSA) serves as the organization for students in the Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG) doctoral degree program. PGGSA serves students in both tracks of PGG: Urban and Environmental Design and Planning, and Governance and Globalization. PGGSA seeks to provide resources and support necessary for students across these two tracks to achieve their academic and professional goals while at Virginia Tech. PGGSA regularly hosts a PGG Seminar that provides doctoral students with advice and guidance relating to their professional development as future scholars and enables students to engage in a dialogue on some of the most critical contemporary issues facing society.
This is the LinkedIn Group for alumni from Virginia Tech’s Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) Program in Blacksburg and Alexandria, Virginia. The purpose is to create connections between and among UAP alumni and students.

Membership is open to UAP students, alumni, faculty and staff. If you would like to join please submit a request and have your UAP experience somewhere in your profile.

This group serves to promote connections and facilitate discussion between Virginia Tech’s current and former students and faculty within the Urban Affairs and Planning program.
The VA Urban Planning Virtual Career Fair provides a space for recent urban planning graduates and employers to connect to each other. Employers, post job announcements here. Graduates, under “Discussions,” post links to your resumes, and/or information about your interests, skills, and the types of jobs you seek. Please invite your VA Urban Planning connections! This page is managed by members of the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association Student Representatives Committee.
Recent Placements from the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning and Ph.D. Programs
MARK FIALKOFFVisiting Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning Department, Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA
Ph.D. in Planning, Governance, and Globalization (UEDP track)

DISSERTATION: “Assessment of the Jones Act Waiver Process on Freight Transportation Networks Experiencing Disruption”

ANDREW McCRAYHousing Specialist, Planning Department City of Pittsburgh, PA
Master of Urban and Regional Planning (M.U.R.P.)

PRACTICUM: “Assessment of the Jones Act Waiver Process on Freight Transportation Networks Experiencing Disruption”

KELLEY DAVISSenior Planner, Planning Department City of Manassas, VA
Master of Urban and Regional Planning (M.U.R.P.)

PRACTICUM: “Commercial Revitalization: Implementing the Mathis Avenue Sector Plan”

CECILE NEWCOMBPlanning Department City of Roanoke, VA
Master of Urban and Regional Planning (M.U.R.P.)

PRACTICUM: “Imagine Blacksburg: Using Immersive 3D Models to Explore Density”

MICHAEL STAPORPlanning Department Loudoun County, VA
Master of Urban and Regional Planning (M.U.R.P.)

PRACTICUM: “Campus Planning for the Human Scale”

ALEXANDER BERRYMANPlanner and Zoning Administrator New Market, VA
Master of Urban and Regional Planning (M.U.R.P.)

MAJOR PAPER: “Making Ends Meet: Payday Lending Differences Between Rural and Urban Communities”

NATALIE PATTERSONLoan Analyst, National Housing Trust Washington D.C.
Master of Urban and Regional Planning (M.U.R.P.)

THESIS: “Creating Participatory Space through Partnership: Exploring the Relationship between a Faith-Based Day Programming Organization and a Cohousing Community for Individuals with and without Disabilities”

MELIHA ALJABARProgram Manager, Climate-Smart Cities, The Trust for Public Land Boston, MA
Master of Urban and Regional Planning (M.U.R.P.)

MAJOR PAPER: “Seeing Green: Urban Climate Resiliency Planning in an Era of Ecological Urbanism”

CARLIN TRACEYDesigner, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. New York City, NY
Master of Urban and Regional Planning (M.U.R.P.)

PRACTICUM: “Planning for a Future Historic Garden: The Haupt Garden.” A Recommendation Memorandum to the Smithsonian Institution.

SARAH STELLERResearch Policy Fellow, Economic Innovation Group Washington D.C.
Master of Urban and Regional Planning (M.U.R.P.)

MAJOR PAPER: “Understanding Impact of Creative Placemaking in Rural Communities”

What’s UP?
What’s UP? Great question!

“What’s UP?” is our new campaign to get the word out about Urban Planning. Through a video series of brief interviews, we hope to delineate what Urban Planning as a field of study is all about. We will be talking to students, alumni, faculty, and planning professionals to ask them “What’s UP?”

Connect with us on our social media platforms and stay tuned for the next episode on What’s UP?

MURP Studio Projects

SPRING 2017 Design Studio

SUBJECT: Legacy Businesses located on Lee Highway and Nauck/Green Valley Neighborhood
PROFESSOR: Dr. Elizabeth Morton
In Spring 2017, Masters students in Urban and Regional Planning explored the history of longstanding, or “legacy,” businesses in Arlington County, VA. Our study focused on two areas: the neighborhoods along the Lee Highway corridor and the historically African-American Nauck/Green Valley neighborhood. This page includes a comprehensive interactive map of longstanding businesses along Lee Highway and a collection of oral histories of business owners in both areas. Businesses featured in the oral history collection are a sample of those operating for 25 years or longer. Read more…

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. Read more…

SPRING 2016 Transportation Studio

SUBJECT: Foggy Bottom-Farragut Area Bicycle Facilities Assessment: Current Conditions and Perceptions of Bike Infrastructure
PROFESSOR: Dr. Ralph Buehler
The purpose of this project was to evaluate and recommend bicycle infrastructure within the Foggy Bottom Metro Area on the basis of existing field conditions, crash analyses, and survey results. Although the Foggy Bottom Metro Area currently serves residential, commercial and institutional land uses, it has typically received significant criticism in regards to its existing bicycle infrastructure. In order to evaluate these conditions, a field review was conducted within the area… Read more.

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