Urban Planning + Design addresses how we collectively improve cities and the built environment.

This requires analysis of the natural, visual, and physical form of cities as well as assessment of the political, social, and economic character of community life. Planners work on the leading issues facing cities and regions today including:

    • How can we improve the places in which we live?
    • Why are well-designed public spaces critical to urban life?
    • How should we rebuild after a disaster?
    • How can we improve bicycling and walking options?
    • How can we revitalize older neighborhoods?
    • Where should we build new development?
    • Is sprawl sustainable?
    • How can we get the public to participate in decisions about a neighborhood?
    • How should we decide what structures and landmarks are worth preserving?
    • How do we resolve disputes between conflicting land uses?

Students learn about cities and design from a hands-on perspective as part of this studio-based program. By their junior year, students will work with community stakeholders to develop and present their plans and designs. Our coursework actively engages the community in the planning process by modeling the cutting-edge of professional practice. Our emphasis on physical planning gives students the tools necessary to rebuild neighborhoods, to apply innovations in community design and to reform planning practice to meet the dynamic new urban problems of the 21st century.  Our graduates leave UMKC with a skill set in demand in the planning and design professions. Graduates report a high degree of satisfaction, and in 2014, a majority of graduates had planning-related jobs within a few months of graduation.

Career Development

We work with students to prepare them for the job market in urban planning. Students are required to complete a 240-hour internship as part of their studies. Students practice interviewing and resume-writing, and they are required to produce a writing sample and portfolio of their work. We also work with the local KC Metro Section of the American Planning Association to provide internship opportunities for planning students. Our location in the center of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area makes it convenient for students to contact and to get to know local employers.


The program puts an emphasis on physical planning and urban design with community-based projects assigned over the course of the six-semester studio sequence. In the first year, students learn introductory design process, planning analysis, and graphic communication. In the second year, planning exercises in studio include an analysis of the parcel and the grid, an international comparison of urbanisms, site planning, elements of the public realm, and planning program design and development. The last year of studio is spent on planning projects for actual clients addressing comprehensive planning and implementation. The full range of planning knowledge, skills and values are taught in the variety of studio and lecture classes.

Interested in pursuing one of our design degrees, but not sure which one or what they entail? Check out our Design Discovery workshop, offered every summer!