G Urban Affairs


Required Courses (for students starting in Fall 2014)

History of Urbanism Seminar

This seminar explores the processes of industrialization and urbanization in the U.S. and abroad. This historical examination of economic, social, and demographic forces that have shaped urban spaces, emphasizes the physical environment of place and patterns, problems and opportunities associated with urban growth.

Issues in Urban Public Policy
This course is an intensive participatory seminar that introduces graduate students to key issues in urban public policy. The class is designed to familiarize students with the leading scholarly literature and practical debates about contemporary urban policy while providing students an opportunity to further develop the critical thinking, analytical, and communications skills necessary for effective policy advocacy. The course offers distinct frameworks for thinking about urban policy issues, surveys the socio-economic, political, and institutional context of American urbanism, and applies these concepts through studies of local policy issues.

Community-Based Research Methods in Urban Affairs
Students are introduced to a range of research methodologies drawn from both the qualitative and quantitative traditions. Students develop an understanding of the various decisions and steps involved in crafting applied social research and are trained to critically assess published research. This core course examines sound, ethical and rigorous methodologies to prepare students for projects driven by community-identified needs and priorities in order to address relevant questions, build programs and affect public policy. Community-based research is a partnership approach to research that equitably involves community members, organization representatives and academic researchers in all aspects of the research process. It integrates knowledge gained through research with interventions and policy changes that enhance the health and quality of life of community members.

Global Cities

As globalization accelerates, the world becomes smaller and is transformed to an extended urban network, generating a global hierarchy of place. This class critically investigates this single, interdependent urban world. To a large degree, the developed world is highly urbanized and is experiencing increased urbanization far differently from places in the rapidly urbanizing developing world where social and economic dislocations are more pronounced. Students are introduced to processes of urbanization that occur in places outside of the U.S., and compares the urban form, socio-economic and political realities in cities around the world. This course provides essential context, given that student internships are typically conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Prospectus and Community-Based Research Practicum

Students write their Master’s Capstone Project prospectus, establish the significance and scope of the project, frame research questions and expected research methods, and present a preliminary review of the relevant academic literatures. Students build a learning-community to support each other as they conduct research and complete internships.The course involves considerable peer review and feedback.

Urban Affairs Internship

This intensive internship is required for completion of the degree. Students are expected to successfully complete 400 hours working with a public affairs organization including political campaigns, advocacy organizations, governmental agencies, community or neighborhood associations, or other similar entity. This internship is arranged, facilitated and directed by faculty along with an on-site supervisor. Many internships will begin in the summer after the first year of coursework.

Master’s Capstone Project

Master’s degree candidates propose, design and implement a substantial and professional-caliber project intended to integrate concepts, skills and methods learned in their coursework into a written paper. Topics are designed in conjunction with the internship experience and provide evidence that the degree candidate has mastered the skills and knowledge learned in coursework and can apply them to the analysis of a practical urban affairs situation. The project is designed in the Prospectus class, and completed in the Capstone course in the final semester.

Elective Courses (select 4 courses)

Urban Field Methods
As urbanists, we cannot claim to know a city or a region unless we’ve studied the streets, watching for the signs of the past left in sidewalk imprints and abandoned infrastructures. In this class, we’ll walk the Bay Area, looking for evidence of the political geographies of the region, manifest in signage, architecture, and the vernacular landscapes of our neighborhoods. This course offers both an overview of local history, and lessons in the skill of seeing history and politics in everyday urban spaces. This course will take us over the hills and valleys of the Bay Area, with an emphasis on San Francisco.

Race, Organizing and Policy Advocacy: Community Strategies for Urban Power

Students examine historical and contemporary social movement organizations and strategies to demand social and political change. The course surveys both theory and research on social change and the role of identity politics on effective organizing and advocacy work. It includes a focus on labor, civil rights, feminism, gay/lesbian rights and environmental organizing and activism, among other topics.

Globalization, Social Justice & the City

This course explores the contemporary global city as a dynamic space of political, economic, social and cultural heterogeneity that presents a variety of possibilities and challenges for its citizens. It explores the origins of globalization and its contemporary manifestations, including trade and investment policies, growing multinational corporate power, decreased relevance of political and institutional borders, reduced government regulation and the impact on local communities. Social, environmental and economic impacts of globalization are considered, as well as the origin and development of the concept of sustainability, and movements for social justice. The course incorporates perspectives from multiple disciplines, including geography, economics, planning and sociology.

Critical Sustainabilities

Critically analyzes policy frameworks, political discourses, and development practices that seek to foster “urban sustainability.” Students will use theory and empirical research from urban planning, geography, and related fields to address questions of sustainability in the urban environment. The course looks at historical and contemporary initiatives that promote urban sustainability while critically assessing how these projects have emerged and who they serve. The course will consider a variety of logics of sustainability, critically assessing the role of key actors and impacts.

Urban Public Finance and Fiscal Management

This course examines the various public financial management techniques used by all levels of government, with an emphasis on understanding local governmental budgets and budgeting; capital budgeting; cash and debt management; accounting; and auditing. Taught by practitioners with experience in local government, the course connects theories of urban fiscal management with the political and policy questions that shape and impact everyday budgeting and financial decisions.

Urban and Regional Planning

This seminar provides a framework for understanding urban and regional planning in the U.S., as well as prominent theories of urban planning and current practice. The course is intended for those students considering a career in urban and regional planning, or who anticipate working with planning policies and institutions in pursuit of other policy objectives. The course covers a range of planning challenges, with a focus on issues facing local planners in the current moment; these may include transportation, regional growth, urban density and other concerns.

GIS and Data Visualization

This seminar offers a practical hands-on introduction to GIS and data visualization tools and technologies. Students will come out of the course with the ability to transform data into maps and images that help us better understand urban policy questions. The course also trains students in critical analysis of data sources and types, and teaches students to critically assess both maps and the map-making process.

Sustainable Design

This course provides an interdisciplinary overview of Sustainable Design by presenting an historical & contemporary overview of ecological living practices. Cross-listed with USF’s MA program in Environmental Management, the course looks at the importance of global climate change and other macro-factors, while considering ways in which localities can offer policy choices that can shape urban futures. Themes of the course may include regional transportation, city planning, environmental justice, environmental preservation & restoration, energy & water-efficient design, green materials, and economic development.

Urban Politics in San Francisco

San Francisco’s political history has been shaped by economic boom and decline. This seminar examines the politics of economic development in San Francisco, with a focus on housing and the social consequences of economic growth. This focus requires an examination of the broader dynamics of political conflict in the city, including the history of political organizing around neighborhood and district issues, and the difficult choices faced by those in public agencies and elected office.

Non-Profits and Public Policy

This class explores the role of nonprofit organizations in the formation and implementation of public policy in the U.S. Topics include an introductory review of public policy process, lobbying and advocacy, building organizational capacity to participate in public policy, government regulation of nonprofit organizations, developing advocacy campaigns, public policy analysis, ballot initiatives, ethics in public interest lobbying, grant-making for public policy and challenges to nonprofit advocacy.

Urban Political Economy

Urban political economy focuses specifically on the relationship between the local, state and global capital. It considers classical questions of urban political theory to provide an overarching framework for this course: who governs and in whose interests? This longstanding debate questions whether capital dominates the local state and wields undue influence in agenda setting and policy making or whether local governments have the institutional capacity to negotiate with business and regulate the local economy. Classics of urban political economy are studied - ones that raise both empirical and normative concerns about urban political economy.

Urban Politics and Sociology Seminar
This course investigates the social, economic and political processes that inform the contemporary American city. It explores the foundations of urban sociology and analyzes the current theoretical trajectories used to understand the urban world. It also examines the processes by which urban areas are governed – with an emphasis on political institutions, as well as conflicts over ideology, interests and identities.

Public Policy Process
Analysis of the politics, institutions, norms and actors involved in the agenda-setting, legitimation, decision-making and implementation of public policy. Students learn leading theoretical models for understanding the policy process, and assess how to use analytical and conceptual frameworks in applying policy to real-
world issues.

Non-Profits and Philanthropy

The elective course focuses on the voluntary action, service and philanthropy as mechanisms for social change and provides an overview of the nonprofit sector and the role of philanthropy in the U.S. Particular attention is paid to the historical and theoretical foundations of philanthropy, its various components and relation to public policy, and emerging trends within the field including social entrepreneurship and the role of social media in philanthropy.

Policy Theme Classes

Each iteration of this seminar focuses on a distinct and timely urban policy issue including: transportation, housing, economic development and environmental sustainability. The course provides an introduction to the field, with a focus on central, public-policy challenges, as well as consideration of best practices and emerging trends in the field. Students produce a significant research brief or white paper designed for public consumption.

Examples include:

Urban Food Policy
This course encourages students to critically analyze the politics of food provisioning, as well as efforts to promote “food justice” and sustainability. Examining the role of policy and planning in shaping uneven landscapes of contemporary consumption and production, where widespread obesity exists alongside pervasive hunger, “gourmet ghettos” can be found next door to “food deserts,” and where agricultural and food service workers are among the most likely to go hungry. Rather than simply focusing on problems in the conventional food system, we will extend our analysis to a wide variety of actors, institutions, and policy strategies – from urban gardens, community-supported agriculture, and food labeling, to food sovereignty and food-chain worker organizing campaigns.

Housing, Community, and Public Policy
Focusing on the role of housing in shaping urban life, this course focuses on the legacy and impact of housing policy interventions. Using the San Francisco Bay Area’s persistent housing challenges as case study, this course focuses on strategies that community-based organizations and social movements have used to bring about change. The course trains students to critically challenge existing policies and solutions, and to look at political, economic and cultural dynamics of the urban housing challenge.


Directed Study

Approval of Program Director and Dean is required. Offered each semester.