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Planning

Overview: 

Master of Science in Planning (MS Planning) Program

The MS Planning Program at the University of Arizona is located in the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning within the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (CAPLA). Our program is fully accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) and offers a range of concentrations that prepare students for professional practice in a growing and important profession.

The MS Planning Program exemplifies the spirit of the land-grant mission imbedded in the missions set forth by the University of Arizona and the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture. This accredited professional degree program focuses on social, economic, and environmental areas of concern specific to the region and the State of Arizona with applications that extend globally.

Urban Planning is a systematic, creative way to influence and respond to a wide variety of changes occurring in a neighborhood, in a city, in an entire region, or around the world. Planners assist communities to formulate plans and policies to meet their social, economic, environmental, and cultural needs in the face of societal forces. Planners do so by identifying problems and opportunities, evaluating alternative solutions or plans, and communicating their findings in ways that allow citizens and public officials to make knowledgeable choices about the future.

As a Master’s level degree granting program, the primary curricular focus is to prepare students for professional careers in planning by providing the skills and knowledge necessary to enter the planning profession upon graduation. The curriculum also provides opportunities for students who desire to pursue a PhD in another UA college or university.

The MS Planning Program Vision: To be nationally recognized as a leading urban and regional physical planning program through exemplary teaching, research, and community engagement with meaningful contributions in sustainable urban and regional planning. To this end, the Program aligns itself with the College Mission centered on environmental sustainability for arid regions and beyond with focus areas in Water, Energy, Habitat, Heritage, Climate, Health, Transportation, and Investment. The Program recognizes its responsibility in educating and equipping the next generation of leaders in the planning profession with the most engaging and forward-thinking experience possible so they may pursue solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

MS Planning Program Mission: The Mission of the MS Planning Program is to provide diverse and interdisciplinary learning experiences aimed at preparing future leaders in urban and regional planning who can cultivate the development of sustainable cities and regions around the world. Through place-based learning and hands on engagement the program creates a culture of scholarship and professional practice aimed at advancing the profession through environmental and physical planning, geospatial technology, applied planning methods, experience in multidisciplinary teams, developing professional ethics, and understanding equity.

Areas of Specialization:  The Program shall have sufficient depth in its curriculum and faculty in the specialization areas it offers to assure a credible and high quality offering. The MSP degree offers four concentrations that reflect areas of emphasis within the profession and provide students with opportunities to customize their studies.

Land Use & Urban Development Concentration:

The Land Use and Urban Development Concentration prepares students for jobs in public and private sector agencies dealing with land use regulation, growth and land development, comprehensive planning, and other aspects of professional planning practice.  Students may focus on the physical, economic, environmental, or social dimensions of land use and community development.  The concentration emphasizes the connections among these land use dimensions and is designed to reflect the many ways in which land use and community development are linked to housing, infrastructure planning, public finance, social equity, and other planning issues.

Environmental and GeoDesign Concentration:

The Environmental and GeoDesign concentration focuses on the complex linkages between human and natural systems through carefully integrating components of sustainable development. Environmental planning methodologies are systematic, iterative, and transparent and they rely on integrating a wide spectrum of contemporary environmental issues in order to achieve more sustainable environmental and social outcomes. The concentration focuses in areas of landscape ecology, resource and natural systems management, environmental design, conservation planning, large-landscape evaluations, land use suitability, green infrastructure, and spatial modeling and Geographic Information Science (GIS). Student research is highly engaged within this concentration to seek solutions to environmental concerns.  Students are facilitated through coursework, mentorships, and independent study with faculty. Students may choose to pursue interdisciplinary doctoral work through affiliated faculty and the Arid Lands Ph.D. program, or choose from professional careers within city, county, or regional planning agencies, as well as with state and federal government, international development agencies, developments firms, utility companies, planning and design firms, property management firms, and industries.

GeoDesign is an emerging field in which the analytical rigor and methodological strategies of planning are being fused with the forward thinking, creativity, and graphic capabilities of landscape design. Through merging techniques, methodologies, and technology, GeoDesign aims to foster integrated and collaborative planning and design solutions for rapidly evolving landscapes in diverse contexts. This technology explores aspects of project conceptualization, analysis and inventory methodologies, stakeholder participation, and the use of technology in developing graphics, simulations, conducting evaluations, and iterative analysis and design solutions. Further, data and design are tightly coupled to generate informed context specific plans and designs. Students within this concentration will have broad exposure to methods, applications, technologies, and faculty within the fields of architecture, planning, and landscape architecture.

Heritage Conservation Concentration:

The Heritage Conservation concentration educates students in the preservation of the built environment as part of a comprehensive ethic of environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability. The learning outcomes of this interdisciplinary concentration are intended to balance theory and practice, as well as research and outreach, including: Awareness of geographic, cultural, technological, economic, and political factors that shape the built environment; of building traditions of cultural groups and historic periods that define the Greater Southwest; understanding of heritage conservation terms, concepts, and philosophical foundations; of legal, regulatory, and economic development tools; of treatment standards for historic properties;  of cultural resource management business and ethical principles; and the ability to conduct research using primary and secondary information resources; to survey, document, and communicate cultural artifacts, buildings, sites, districts, and cultural landscapes according to professional standards; to analyze building construction systems, components, and materials to make conservation treatment recommendations;  to interpret the meaning of built environments to a larger audience.

Independent Concentration:

Students in this concentration work with faculty mentors to select a set of courses that target individual focus areas.

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

The planning faculty have established the following learning outcomes for the MS Planning Program. These learning objectives capture the bedrock knowledge and skills to serve students for a diverse range of planning related employment opportunities.  

Learning Objectives

 Assessment Tools

Communication:

  • Written, Oral, and Graphic: Prepare clear, accurate, and compelling communication in speaking, text, and media including graphics and maps for use in documents and presentations.

Learning Outcomes Survey (2nd Year)

 

 Capstone Rubric (2nd Year)

 

Internship Evaluations

Planning Tools:

  • Analysis: Ability to synthesize and analyze complex information in a logistically sound and accurate manner.
  • Data Collection and Assessment: Demonstrate familiarity with standard planning related datasets, including how to acquire appropriate data, categorize and prioritize data and datasets, and employ these in appropriate planning decision making.
  • Digital Media/Software proficiency: Demonstrate proficiency in Geospatial technologies and software commonly used by planners and employ these tools in planning methods, plan making, and comprehensive plan making.

Learning Outcomes Survey (2nd Year)

 

Capstone Rubric (2nd Year)

 

Internship Evaluations

Planning elements:

  • Comprehensive Plan Making: Assemble and synthesize various planning elements into an integrated comprehensive planning framework that demonstrates an ability to make connections between planning decisions in one area and outcomes in another.
  • Environmental and Physical Planning: Demonstrate a sufficient understanding of how existing factors in the natural and built environments impact the planning process and planning outcomes.
  • Sustainability Strategies: Understand new technologies and approaches to sustainability challenges in management of natural resources, energy, materials, waste, transportation, urban and rural planning.
  • Field Area Proficiency: Demonstrate a sufficient understanding of their chosen field area through application of this field area knowledge and skills to the project at hand. This should be assessed in conjunction with field area appropriate faculty.
  • Equity: Ability to articulate implications of their planning decisions on social equity through examination of how decisions and related plans are crafted to recognize the plurality of interests in a community context.
  • Ethics: Student performs in a manner consistent with AICP code of ethics and proactively works to hold fellow students and the overall project to this standard.

Learning Outcomes Survey (2nd Year)

 

Capstone Rubric (2nd Year)

 

Internship Evaluations

 

Teamwork and Project Management:

  • Project Planning and Results: Demonstrates awareness of individual team members’ skills and expertise, clarity of team objectives, and is able to execute a clear plan for achieving them.
  • Team Management and Mechanics: Team members collectively establish clear expectations for each member. Team members collectively formulate methods for various functions toward the development of a final project.
  • Team Interaction: Team members recognize one another professionally and interact effectively. Criticism and feedback are provided in a constructive manner. Team dynamics are established so that leadership is shared among members.

Learning Outcomes Survey (2nd Year)

 

Capstone Rubric (2nd Year)

 

Internship Evaluations

 

 

Assessment Activities: 

1.  Learning Outcomes Survey (2nd Year Assessment):

The MS Planning Program indirectly measures student proficiency in the core knowledge, skills, and values of the planning profession and the program by administering the MS Planning Learning Outcomes Survey to graduating students. The survey was first administered in 2013 and was collected again in 2014 and 2015.  Upon the hiring of an Assessment Coordinator, this survey was modified by adding questions about learning objectives specific to the program (for example environmental and physical planning, sustainability strategies, and Geospatial technologies), and adding questions about student satisfaction and suggestions for program improvements. This revised survey was administered starting with 2016 graduates. The Assessment Coordinator will report all findings and subsequent recommendations to Planning Faculty and the Planning Director.

2 Assessment of Learning Outcomes in PLG 611 Planning Projects (Capstone Rubric 2nd Year):

The program directly measures learning outcomes during the second year capstone studio-PLG 611 Planning Projects. The assessment rubric for measuring these outcomes was used to measure student work (2015-2016), and the results are being used to determine curricular modification that will advance the established learning outcomes.

3 Internship Evaluation:

Additional assessment activities of expected learning outcomes include outside assessment by planning professionals working in the profession through the internship requirement. MS Planning graduate students are required to complete a 180-hour internship, supervised by a planning professional, who completes and submits an Internship Evaluation form to the Internship Coordinator at the end of the internship (Part IVC. Other Evidence). The intern evaluation forms are used to ensure students have completed their internship as required, that the internship has furthered the expected learning outcomes of the program, and students demonstrate proficiency in the core knowledge, skills, and values which are needed to enter the profession.

4. Alumni Survey (2 Years Post Graduation):

The program also indirectly measures other indicators of student success through the MS Planning Alumni Survey, administered online to students two years post-graduation. This survey includes questions about employment outcomes and students’ contributions to the profession and community, among other items.  This survey was administered to 2012-2014 graduates. Upon the hiring of an Assessment Coordinator, this survey was modified by adding questions about learning outcomes, AICP exam results, and most importantly, how helpful different MS Planning Program elements were in preparing them for their current employment, and if there are professional skill sets that students wish had been offered by the Program. The Assessment Coordinator will report all findings and subsequent recommendations to Planning Faculty and the Planning Director.

Assessment Findings: 

Learning Outcomes Survey (2nd Year Assessment)

The revised 2016 Learning Outcomes survey incorporates items regarding the knowledge, skills, and values of the profession as well as learning objectives specific to the program. This survey was conducted in PLG 611 Projects in Urban Planning (capstone). The tables below report the findings related to learning outcomes:

STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES (MS Planning Graduates 2016)

How confident do you feel in your knowledge of the following planning topics?

 

Planning Topics

Confident to Extremely Confident

2016 Graduates (n=19)

Purpose and Meaning of Planning

95%

Planning Theory

89%

Planning Law

89%

Human Settlements and History of Planning

95%

The Future

84%

Global Dimensions of Planning

58%

          

Rate your skills in the following areas:

 

Planning Skills

Self-Rated “Good” or “Excellent”

2016 Graduates (n=19)

Written Communication

95%

Oral Communication

84%

Graphic Communication

74%

Data Collection & Analysis

84%

Geospatial Technology

79%

Comprehensive Plan Making

68%

Environmental Planning

74%

Physical Planning

53%

Working in Multi-disciplinary Teams

74%

Leadership Skills

74%

Values and Ethics

 

Professional Ethics and Responsibility

95%

Governance and Participation

89%

Planning in Arid Regions

84%

Planning with Diverse Communities

68%

Sustainability and Environmental Quality

89%

Growth and Development

100%

Social Justice/Equity

100%

Findings indicate that the majority of students feel confident in the knowledge, skills, and values of the profession. The program’s weakest result was in Global Dimensions of Planning where 21% felt “not confident.” Other areas of less confidence were in Planning with Diverse Communities, although all respondents felt at least somewhat confident in this area, and Physical Planning, where just 53% of students rated their skills as good or excellent (the rest rated their skills as “average”).

Assessment of Learning Outcomes in PLG 611 Planning Projects (Capstone Rubric 2nd Year)

Scores in the table below are based on a three-point scale: 3= Exceeds requirements; 2= Meets requirements; and 1= Unsatisfactory. Average scores for the 2016 class are significantly higher in all areas, most notably in ethics, data, and software.

      STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES RUBRIC

Learning Outcomes

2015 Average Score

2016 Average Score

Communication

 

 

          Written

2.18

2.59

          Oral

2.36

2.82

          Graphic

2.45

2.94

Planning Tools

 

          Analysis

2.45

2.94

          Data

2.09

2.94

          Software

2.64

3.00

Key Planning Elements

 

          Comprehensive plan making

2.64

2.94

          Field area proficiency

2.27

2.88

          Equity

2.64

2.82

          Ethics

2.64

3.00

Teamwork and Project Management

 

 

          Project planning and results

2.45

2.65

          Team management and      

          mechanics

2.27

2.65

          Team interaction

2.45

2.59

          Leadership

n/a

2.59

 

Internship Evaluation

Beginning in 2014, the Internship Director started collecting feedback from professional planning supervisors on some of the program’s desired learning outcomes. Supervisors ranked their students on various planning knowledge, skills, and values on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), with “not applicable” as an option (often the items were not applicable to the particular duties of the internship). The figures below exclude all “not applicable” and missing data, therefore the total number of students evaluated ranges from 13 to 19 in each category.

STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES – SUPERVISOR EVALUATIONS

Evaluation of performance and/or knowledge:

 

 Rated “Good” or “Excellent”

Purpose and Meaning of Planning

92%

Planning Theory

83%

Planning Law

80%

The Future

100%

Research

100%

Written, Oral, and Graphic Communication

90%

Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

92%

Professional Ethics and Responsibility

100%

Sustainability and Environmental Quality

100%

Growth and Development

100%

Social Justice

92%

Overall, students received high rankings from their supervisors and positive comments regarding their work ethic and attitudes. Students also had the opportunity to give feedback on their internship experience. 100% (15/15) students stated that they achieved their learning goals through the internship, and 87% rated their internship experience as “superior” or “excellent.”

Change in Response to Findings: 

The MS Planning Program assesses Learning Outcomes annually and makes adjustments to curriculum as needed.

Curriculum assessment indicates that all core courses cover some aspect of the PAB-required knowledge, skills, and values, and the program has added curricular content in the program specific priorities of geospatial technology, sustainability strategies, and environmental and physical planning.

PLG 501A Design Studio I became a core course in order to emphasize site analysis, site planning and digital media. Planning students elect to take the course for 4 or 6 credits. PLG 622 Introduction to GIS was developed to facilitate student-selected final projects that support individualized student professional interests. PLG 514 Methods in Planning strengthened ways for students to engage in scenarios for applied practice. PLG 660 Land Use Planning Law adopted a new textbook, Juergensmeyer, Julian C. and Roberts, Thomas E., Land Use Planning and Development Regulation Law (Thomson/West, 2nd Ed. 2007) to increase content on contemporary planning case law. PLG 512 Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Controls was developed as a planning specific studio to reinforce creative plan making while also serving as a platform for knowledge, skills, values, and ethics needed to successfully complete PLG 611 Projects in Urban Planning.

In order to address the item Planning with Diverse Communities, the program introduced a speaker series in Spring 2016 to strengthen this area. For the 2016-2017 academic year, the program faculty will discuss possible curricular and course adjustments in the areas of Global Dimensions of Planning and Physical Planning. The program objective is for every student to graduate feeling confident in these topic areas.

Updated date: Wed, 05/25/2016 - 11:34