MA in Urban Sustainability
Location: AU Los Angeles
Credits for Degree: 48 quarter credits
Standard Mode of Instruction: Low-residency
Standard time to completion: 25 months
AULA has a long-standing, deeply-rooted commitment to educating students by building their capacity to create a more just world. Consistent with this tradition, and in response to the challenges of global environmental change as well as social and economic inequality, Antioch’s Master of Arts in Urban Sustainability (USMA) trains the next generation of urban problem-solvers. The program prepares students for leadership positions in multiple sectors, including public policy, community-based urban planning, social justice organizing, and urban design.
The USMA program integrates theoretical learning with field-based practice in a two-year/four-semester, full-time, graduate-level curriculum. This 32- semester-credit degree program uses a low-residency format; instructors teach in virtual classrooms except for during on-campus residencies held at the beginning of each semester. Semesters are 16 weeks long and start at the end of August (Fall) and the end of January (Spring). During their first year, students engage in one 4-credit science-oriented course as well as three 3-credit content courses and a 2-unit research course. They also attend two residencies and begin their fieldwork during this first year. In their second year of the program, students complete their core coursework, continue their fieldwork, and launch a capstone project while taking practice-based workshops. Students participate in four residencies over the course of their time in the program, and are invited to present their capstone projects at the residency following their graduation.
In order to meet the program learning outcomes described above, students studying Urban Sustainability at AULA will acquire the following competencies:
Because today’s cities exist in a world that is more crowded, complex, interconnected, interdependent, and rapidly changing than ever before, we need to develop holistic ways of seeing and mapping key relationships and processes. Our students are taught to become adept systems thinkers who can:
- address a problem at multiple scales
- analyze social, scientific, and economic implications
- transfer knowledge across disciplines
- engage in creative problem-solving
Building from a foundation of environmental science, students gain a strong understanding of cities as ecosystems. From this perspective, students explore diverse urban sectors such as food, land, transportation, energy, waste, and water within their cultural, political, and economic contexts, and configure ways and means for human settlements to become more compatible with nature.
Through workshops, courses, and fieldwork, our students learn and practice technical skills including facilitation, policy analysis, mapping, research, graphic presentation, and evaluation as well as the habits of a reflective practitioner. Students review their progress in developing these skills with their faculty mentors and demonstrate their learning through a 2-unit career skills portfolio project during their final semester.
Social Justice Perspective
Reducing inequality at the local, regional, and global level is a prerequisite of urban sustainability. Students learn to apply a human rights lens to their ecosystems analysis and practice, in order to become global citizens who can help shape a more equitable world.
Current Tuition and Fees
University Tuition and Fees
Students in the USMA program must earn a total of 32 semester credits to complete the degree.
Degree requirements include the following:
- 20 credits required core curriculum coursework
- 2 credits career skills portfolio
- 5 credits fieldwork
- 5 credit capstone project
- 4 semesters of full-time enrollment (or the equivalent)
- Attendance at 4 residencies plus presentation at a 5th residency
Over each semester’s 16 weeks of coursework, students are expected to spend 10 hours of face-to-face instruction during the residency and 75-100 hours online. Students are also required to attend 15-30 hours of additional lectures, special events, and site visits during the residency.
Students may withdraw or take a Leave of Absence but are required to complete the degree within five calendar years of initially entering the Master’s degree program.
Each USMA student takes the following seven courses as part of their required core curriculum:
- Science for Urban Sustainability (4 semester units)
- Eco Systems Thinking (3 semester units)
- Urban Infrastructure (3 semester units)
- Research & Writing for Practitioners (2 semester units)
- Capstone Proposal (2 semester units)
- Democratizing Community Planning (3 semester units)
- Sustainable Urban Economies (3 semester units)
Full-time students enroll in 5 to 8 units of core coursework each semester, completing these required 20 units by the end of their third semester. Note that students also enroll in fieldwork courses while completing their core curriculum.
Independent Learning Activities
Over the course of their first three semesters, students will participate in skill-building workshops that hone their competencies in key urban sustainability practices. In their fourth semester, students complete a career skills portfolio project that demonstrates their learning. The faculty adviser (mentor) evaluates this project.
Students can potentially enroll for elective units as independent learning activities, working under the mentorship of a faculty expert. These independent studies are learning activities conceived and crafted by students in collaboration with their evaluators (faculty at AULA or other accredited graduate programs) and approved by their USMA faculty mentors. Independent studies may be focused on content related aspects of a student’s field work, specific areas of interest arising from one or more of the required core courses, or an emerging topic of urban sustainability not covered in any of the required courses or electives.