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Urban and Regional Planning

College of Social Sciences
Saunders Hall 107
2424 Maile Way
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-7381
Fax: (808) 956-6870
Email: idurp@hawaii.edu
Web: www.durp.hawaii.edu


*Graduate Faculty

*D. Foley, PhD (Chair)—strategies of citizen participation, collaboration, nonprofit planning and management, community building, and community-based planning
*M. Coffman, PhD—environmental economics and planning, energy and climate change policy, resource management, general equilibrium modeling
*A. Das, PhD—community participation and empowerment, slum upgrading, decentralization and local governance, role of civil society in development
*P. Das, PhD—urban development, basic environmental services and governance in South Asia, design and planning of the built environment
*P. Flachsbart, PhD—planning methods and models, environmental planning, energy, land use planning, and urban transportation planning
*K. E. Kim, PhD—planning theory, planning methods, infrastructure planning, and alternative tourism planning
*R. Kwok, PhD—urbanization in China, East Asian development, spatial planning and urban design, development and regional economics
*L. Minerbi, Dott Arch, MUP—comparative urbanism, settlement planning, environmental planning, urban design, community development, planning with indigenous people, and Pacific Island planning
*D. Spirandelli, MLA—patterns of urban development, interface between terrestrial and marine ecosystems; community planning for integrated water management and coastal ecosystem services
*K. Umemoto, PhD—community planning, planning theory, social theory, social policy, community economic development, and race in ethnic relations

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

D. L. Callies, JD—land use management and control, intergovern-mental relations
L. Cox, PhD—agricultural and resource economics
B. Hallet, PhD—congressional war powers, humanitarian intervention, terrorism
A. Kaufman, PhD—fundamentals of landscape design and planting design
M. McDonald, PhD—agricultural change, social theory, political geography, Japan
L. H. Nitz, PhD—public policy and political economics
D. Nixon, PhD—bureaucratic politics, statistical methodology, public policy
C. Papacostas, PhD—transportation engineering and design
K. Suryanata, PhD—political ecology, agriculture, rural development in Asia, environment and development, community-based resource management
B. Szuster, PhD—coastal land conservation, impact of human development activities
W. Wood, PhD—international public health planning
S. Yamada, PhD—disaster management and humanitarian assistance
W. H. R. Yeh, MArch—architectural and urban design

Affiliate Graduate Faculty

J. Fox, PhD—land use, forest resources and management, geographical information systems and spatial information technology, South and Southeast Asia
G. Marten, PhD—population dynamics, ecosystem ecology, animal behavior, statistics, mathematical modeling, population genetics, human ecology, environmental management
S. Saksena, PhD—human exposure assessment to air pollution, health impacts of energy use, air quality policy, public perceptions of environmental risks

Degree and Certificates Offered: MURP, PhD, Certificate in Planning Studies, Professional Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning and the Certificate in Planning Studies, Graduate Certificate in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance

The Academic Program

Urban and regional planning (PLAN) is a dynamic field, that is still evolving. It emerged out of the convergence of two concerns: (1) the provision of urban infrastructure and (2) the initiation of social reform. While the underlying focus on community well-being continues, urban and regional planning today has broadened to include the development, implementation, and evaluation of a wide range of policies. Specifically, urban and regional planners, in both developing and developed countries, are concerned with the following:

  1. The use of land in the city, in the suburbs, and in rural areas, particularly with the transition from one use to another;
  2. The adverse impacts of human activities on the environment and the possible mitigation of those impacts;
  3. The design of the city and the surrounding region so as to facilitate activities in which people need and want to engage;
  4. The organization of settlement systems and the location of human activities in urban and regional space;
  5. Identification of social needs and the design and provision of services and facilities to meet those needs;
  6. The distribution of resources and of benefits and costs among people;
  7. The anticipation of change and its impact on how people do and can live;
  8. Participation of citizens in planning processes that affect their future; and
  9. The way that choices are made, decisions implemented, and actions evaluated, and the means by which those processes can be improved in urban and regional areas.

The Department of Urban and Regional Planning takes a multidisciplinary approach to planning education, recognizing in particular the important contributions to planning that can be made by the social and natural sciences and by the architectural, public health, social work, and civil engineering professions; emphasizes extensive community involvement; engages in research that focuses on application of planning methodologies and implementation of planning endeavors; recognizes the close relationship between urban and regional planning and politics; acknowledges the difficulty of resolving the value differences that lie at the heart of most planning problems; and appreciates both the importance and the elusiveness of critical concepts, such as "the public interest," to urban and regional planning.

UH Manoa Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) graduates, of whom there are about 466, hold planning and related positions in a variety of public agencies, academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, and private firms in Hawai'i, on the continental U.S., and in the Asia Pacific region.


The department is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board.

Graduate Study

The department offers a multidisciplinary approach to planning education. Students are provided with an opportunity to develop an individualized but integrated course of study drawing on this department and other departments and professional schools in UH Manoa. Faculty and students engage in both funded and non-funded research and community service. The graduate curriculum focuses on theory, methodology, and practice in the following areas: community planning and social policy, environmental planning, urban and regional planning in Asia and the Pacific, and land use and infrastructure planning. Planning in the developing countries of Asia is emphasized.

For further information regarding the master's degree or certificate programs, students should write to the department.

Master’s Degree

Students enter the MURP program from a variety of fields, usually the social sciences, architecture, engineering, public health, social work, and, increasingly, the natural sciences, but also from such diverse fields as philosophy, human development, and history. Students coming into the program are required to have an adequate background in descriptive and inferential statistics or to acquire this background prior to enrollment in PLAN 601.

Native speakers of English are required to take the GRE General Test. Others will be expected to have achieved adequate preparation in English as evaluated by the TOEFL. Each applicant should provide two letters of reference, preferably from individuals acquainted with the applicant academically or professionally. In addition, applicants must complete a self-assessment form and an Express information form (available from the department). An interview with a member of the faculty, if feasible, is highly recommended. The deadline for application for admission is March 1 for the fall semester and September 1 for the spring semester.

Standards for a graduate with a MURP degree include the following:

  1. Knowledge of the structure and the growth and transformation processes of human settlements;
  2. Knowledge of planning theory, history, and ethics, including an understanding of the social and political nature of planning;
  3. Knowledge of general methods and models appropriate to urban and regional planning, including methods appropriate to a chosen area of concentration;
  4. Knowledge of planning information systems and computer applications in planning;
  5. Ability to structure and evaluate alternative plans and strategies for resolving or mitigating planning problems;
  6. Ability to communicate, especially in written and oral form; and
  7. Ability to plan with, rather than for, clients.

MURP graduates hold a variety of planning and related positions in public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private firms. In Hawai'i, these include the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; Department of Health; Land Use Commission; Legislative auditor; Department of Hawaiian Home Lands; House Majority Research Office; Hawai'i Community Development Authority; Housing Finance and Development Corporation; Department of Public Safety; Department of Land and Natural Resources; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Honolulu City and County Departments of Planning and Permitting, Land Utilization, Housing and Community Development, and Parks and Recreation, Office of the Managing Director, Office of Council Services; Planning Departments of the counties of Hawai'i, Kaua'i, and Maui; Mediation Center of the Pacific; banks and trust companies; consulting firms; development corporations; real estate firms; university research and extension organizations; and community colleges.

On the continental U.S., graduates are city and county planners, program analysts in federal agencies (e.g., Office of Ocean and Coastal Management and Office of Management and Budget), and planning consultants. Other graduates include a planner for a nonprofit housing corporation, a lawyer-planner, and a law professor. Overseas positions include planners with regional planning, housing redevelopment and environmental agencies, the United Nations, private development and consulting firms, as well as faculty in university programs. Several MURP graduates are pursuing doctoral degrees in planning, geography, political science, and economics, while others are seeking law degrees.


The MURP degree is a two-year professional program that requires a minimum of 42 credit hours. It is designed to equip students to fill professional planning and policy analysis roles in public agencies, private firms, and community groups, particularly in Hawai'i, Asia, and the Pacific Basin. All students complete the core sequence (planning theory, planning methods, economic analysis for urban and regional planning, a 6-credit-hour practicum, and two of the following courses: PLAN 610, 620, 630, and 640). The remainder of the academic program, including a second methodology course, is individually designed with concentration in a specialized area of the student's own choosing (with the consent of his or her advisor), provided adequate academic resources are available in the department and at UH Manoa. Grades of B or better are required in PLAN 600, 601, 603, and 605, and an average of B or better must be earned in all courses counted toward the MURP degree. MURP students receiving a grade lower than a B will be allowed one additional opportunity to achieve a B or better in each core course.

Both Plan A (thesis) and Plan B (non-thesis) programs are available. All students are required to pass a final, which includes a successful defense of the thesis on the selected area of concentration, and to meet the program standards for graduation.

Doctoral Degree

The doctoral program provides training in advanced research in urban and regional planning. Graduates are expected to pursue academic appointments at institutions of higher education and to achieve higher levels of professional practice in the public and private sectors.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the PhD program requires a master's degree in planning. In exceptional circumstances candidates with either an advanced research background or exceptional professional experience, but who do not have an MA degree may be admitted. Admission may be granted with the understanding that some background courses or examinations may be required. Consideration for admission requires a GPA of at least a 3.5 in previous graduate work. Applicants are also required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for verbal, math, and analytic sections. Non-native speakers of English are also required to submit the TOEFL; a score of 600 is required. Applicants are also expected to submit evidence of advanced work such as a research report or sole-authored plan.

Degree Requirements

Each PhD degree student is required to complete at least fifteen credits in advanced courses (in addition to any remedial courses designated at the time of admission):

  • Advanced Methods (3 credits)
  • Advanced Seminar in Planning (3 credits)

In addition to these two courses, PhD candidates are required to take six credits in an allied field (to be selected in consultation with the student's advisor). Students are also required to take one three-credit course in research design/proposal writing.

Prior to starting the dissertation, PhD candidates will sit for a comprehensive examination in planning theory and planning methods. Students will be required to form a PhD committee drawn primarily, although not exclusively from the department, to guide the student through the qualifying examination and the dissertation research. Under the direction of its chair, the committee will devise a qualifying examination covering both core topics in urban and regional planning and the student's substantive area of research. Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination, students will be required to present their dissertation proposal, to a department colloquium. When the student has successfully completed the examinations and presented the dissertation proposal the student will advance to candidacy. Each student is required to conduct original research and write and present a defense of a doctoral dissertation based on the dissertation proposal. The dissertation research will be guided by the student's committee. Upon completion, the student will defend the dissertation before the committee. If successful, the candidate will be recommended for award of the PhD in Urban and Regional Planning by UH Manoa.

Professional Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning

The Professional Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning is designed for practicing planners eligible for graduate admission who are not able to attend school for the two years required to earn a MURP degree.

Professional certificate candidates specialize in one of the following four fields: community planning and social policy, environmental planning, land use and infrastructure planning, or urban and regional planning in Asia and the Pacific.

Professional certificate candidates are required to earn 18 credit hours including PLAN 600, 601, and 603, or 605. Each candidate selects a field of interest in which he or she takes two courses including PLAN 610, 620, 630, or 640. The specific courses are selected in consultation with the candidate's faculty advisor.

Applicants for the professional certificate program should apply to the Graduate Division as special non-degree students. Two letters of reference should be sent to the department from people who are familiar with the applicant's academic or professional record. Applicants must have earned a BA, BS, or a professional degree; have maintained a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the four semesters prior to admission; and have had at least three years of professional practice prior to admission.

Certificate in Planning Studies

The Certificate in Planning Studies allows students pursuing a master's or doctoral degree in another area to become acquainted with planning skills and activities. Students enrolled in graduate programs in architecture, economics, engineering, geography, political science, public health, social work, and sociology are among those eligible. Students are encouraged to use the certificate program to increase their competence in planning as it relates to their major area of study.

Certificate students are required to take five courses offered by the department and complete the requirements for a master's degree in their area of study. The required courses are PLAN 600, 601 or 605, and 751. The remaining two courses are to be selected from among the following courses by the certificate student in consultation with the faculty member responsible for directing the planning studies certificate program: PLAN 601 or 605 (whichever was not taken as a required method course); 602 or 603; and one of 610, 620, 630, or 640, or one elective course.

Successful completion of the program leads to a graduate degree in the student's chosen field and a Certificate in Planning Studies. Consideration for admission to the certificate program requires filing of an application form available from the department.

Graduate Certificate in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (DMHA)

UH Manoa provides a logical location for an Asia Pacific disaster risk reduction research and institutional capacity-building program. The program responds to the compelling need to improve hazard and disaster mitigation and response in the face of increasingly frequent and severe disaster events. The Asia Pacific region suffers the greatest impact of disaster events worldwide, and Hawai'i shares many of these same vulnerabilities. By interacting with hazard and disaster researchers at UH Manoa and Hawai'i's existing dynamic community of disaster management organizations, students learn how to help build disaster resilient communities.

The Graduate Certificate Program in DMHA is housed in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and is open to all graduate students. Our interdisciplinary students come from the physical and natural sciences, engineering, geography, public administration, social work, political science, and other disciplines. Some are pursuing professional degrees in law, medicine, architecture, or public health. Our students tend to be highly motivated to apply their respective disciplinary backgrounds to the problems of reducing the impacts of disaster on people and communities.

Graduate students are required to take at least three of the DMHA core courses for a base of nine units. Additional six units are selected with advisement from courses related to hazards and disaster management and response. A one unit capstone completes the requirement. Many departments offer courses which can complement the core course sequence in a coherent, rigorous, and pedagogically valid way. Contact the program director or program coordinator for more information.

PLAN Courses