Graduate Certificate in Urban Informatics

Current U-M students:  Admissions are accepted on a rolling basis. For a decision by the Fall term, students must apply by March 1, and for admissions in Winter, by December 1. Note that admissions decisions will not be made until final grades are recorded from at least one term of study at UM.


Urban informatics is an interdisciplinary field of research and practice that uses information technology for the analysis, management, planning, inhabitation, and usability in cities. The Graduate Certificate in Urban Informatics introduces students to this field, and includes not only technical skills for technology development and data analysis, but also opportunities to explore the ethical, legal, and policy questions created by new urban technologies. The certificate program is centered on several interrelated areas of professional innovation:

  • Urban Analysis. In response to the proliferation of public and private data sources, urban stakeholders are hiring a growing number of analysts to conduct applied data analysis. A growing number of governments, nonprofit organizations, and consultants conduct a range of applied data analyses such as constructing neighborhood change indicators, analyzing the impact of revitalization policies, and expanding community organization access to urban data.
  • Civic Technology. In conjunction with the expansion of urban data analysis, many urban stakeholders are rethinking how they use information technology to foster improved governance outcomes. Cities have launched open data portals, which make information available to the public and to third-party software applications, often through application programming interfaces. Other efforts have focused on improving the design of public websites, fostering online participation, and streamlining online applications for public services.
  • Smart Cities. Digital technologies hold the potential to transform the analysis and management of urban infrastructure, and a growing number of cities and consultants have launched smart cities experiments to explore how. The Certificate program involves UM researchers are pursuing related projects such as the real-time monitoring and management of various infrastructure systems including stormwater and transportation networks. These projects also raise important questions of participation, privacy, and ethics.
  • Smart Citizens. Urban informatics innovations can increase the agency of individuals, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders. The accessibility, usability, and operation of many urban systems depend on the participation of these actors. Indeed their involvement is required to ensure new technologies are shaped to reflect social values. Thus social innovation in cities will increasingly require new forms of citizen interaction and technology design.
  • Existing Professions. In addition to preparing graduate students for these new areas of practice, the urban informatics certificate supports innovation within existing urban professional fields represented at Michigan such as urban planning, public policy, public health, information science, natural resources, civil and environmental engineering, architecture, and landscape architecture.

/ Extracurricular Activities

Annual Conference

Each year, a variety of related events are organized by students and faculty who participate in the certificate. These have included larger professional conferences, unconferences, and symposia.

Seminar Series

The Certificate hosts occasional brownbag lunches and other events. To learn about them, join the urbaninformatics-announce MCommunity group to receive notices.


Certificate students will be encouraged to form teams to enter relevant competitions. Although these are still emerging for this field, they include the Global City Teams Challenge, the Smart City App Hack, and more. These opportunities will be circulated by email.

Student Organizations

The U-M Smart Cities Club serves as the primary student organization for the certificate. In addition, Certificate students may be interested in the A2 Data Dive, which organizes an annual Data Dive event which brings together students to build data capacity among local nonprofit organizations.

/ People

The following faculty conduct teaching and research related to urban informatics and are participants in the Certificate Program.

Robert Goodspeed
Associate Professor, Taubman College
Director, Graduate Certificate in Urban Informatics

Scott Campbell
Associate Professor, Taubman College

Tawanna Dillahunt
Assistant Professor, School of Information

Seth Guikema
Associate Professor, Industrial and Operations Engineering

Branko Kerkez
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Clifford Lampe
Associate Professor, School of Information

Mark Lindquist
Assistant Professor, School for Environment and Sustainability

Malcolm McCullough
Professor, Taubman College

Joshua Newell
Assistant Professor, School for Environment and Sustainability

Joyojeet Pal
Assistant Professor, School of Information

Sarah Stoddard
Assistant Professor, School of Nursing

Tiffany Veinot
Associate Professor, School of Information; Health Behavior and Health Education

/ Requirements

This section describes the course requirements, which are also summarized on the Urban Informatics Certificate Requirement Checklist.

Core Course: Introduction to Urban Informatics (3 credits)

The core course, URP 535/SI 536, will provide students foundational technical and theoretical knowledge, as well as cultivate a student community. Course assignments include laboratory assignments and short essays on nontechnical topics. The course content includes analytical methods, and topics about the use of technology in urban and professional contexts. The course incorporates current trends in urban informatics.

Urban Context Elective (3 credits)

All students are required to take 3 credits of urban context courses which provide a holistic introduction to an urban policy domain of their choosing. Courses that satisfy this requirement should contain the following characteristics for the particular domain: (1) leading theories and empirical research findings, (2) the role of professionals and other key stakeholders, and (3) an emphasis on urban contexts. Since many courses can satisfy this requirement, the course taken for this requirement will be approved by the student’s certificate advisor. Potential courses which satisfy this requirement include:

  EAS 537 Urban Sustainability (3)
  EAS 554 Urban Agriculture (3)
  EAS 578 Urban Stormwater (3)
  EAS 787 Metropolitan Dynamics Studio (module 1) (2)
  URP 580 Metropolitan Structure (3)
  URP 561 Transportation and Public Policy (3)
  URP 560 Transportation and Land Use Planning (3)
  URP 540 Land Use and Development Management Planning (3)
  URP 582/SSW 655 Neighborhood Revitalization Policy and Planning (3)

Analytical Methods Elective

The analytical method requirement builds on skills introduced in the core course, providing students with technical skills in one of three areas: spatial analysis, databases, and data analysis.

Spatial Analysis
URP 520 | Introduction to GIS (3)
EAS 531 | Principles of GIS (4)

Or, for students with previous GIS coursework:

  • URP 521 | Intermediate GIS (3)
  • EAS 534 | GIS and Landscape Modeling (even years) (3)
  • EAS 543 | Environmental Spatial Data Analysis (odd years) (3)
  • EAS 540 | GIS Applications (2)

Data Analysis
SI 618 | Data Manipulation and Analysis
SI 671 | Data Mining
EECS 453 | Applied Data Analysis
STATS 415 | Data Mining and Statistical Learning
PP 567 | Data Analysis
CEE 575 | Sensors and Data
CEE 573 | Data Analysis in CEE
IOE 691 | Data Analysis

SI 664 | Database Application Design
EECS 584 | Advanced Database Management Systems

Programming, Design or Entrepreneurship Elective (3 credits)

All urban informatics students must demonstrate basic proficiency in a computer programming language of their choosing. Students can satisfy this requirement through required coursework in their home discipline OR by taking one of the courses listed below. To satisfy the requirement with a course not listed here, students should submit a written request with the class syllabus, and a transcript showing a grade of B or higher to the program director. Students who have satisfied the programming requirement may take either a programming, design, or leadership and entrepreneurship course. Graduates of the Certificate in Urban Informatics will often find themselves leading this emerging field, so the purpose of this optional coursework is to equip students with the skills to lead as change agents within communities as designers or entrepreneurs.

Programming Courses (one required if not satisfied in home discipline)
SI 502 | Networked Computing (3)
SI 506 | Programming I (3)
SI 539 | Design of Complex Websites (web) (3)

Technology Design Courses
SI 622 | Needs Assessment and Usability Evaluation (4)
SI 582 | Intro. to Interaction Design (3)

Entrepreneurship and Leadership
URP 522 | Collaborative Planning (3)
MO 617 | Social Intrepreneurship
ES 325 | New Product and Innovation Management
SI 663 | Entrepreneurship in the Information Industry (3)
Any ENTR 500-level course offered by the Center for Entrepreneurship

Integrative Coursework Requirement (3 credits)

The integrative experience allows students to integrate the knowledge obtained from other coursework, and can be satisfied 1) by taking a course from a list of approved electives or 2) by completing a project-based course. Students choosing the project option will need to demonstrate that the project integrates appropriate analytical methods, a consideration of technology context, and an appropriate practice model. Projects completed to satisfy the requirements of the student’s primary degree program or another certificate will not be allowed. Students interested in completing this requirement through an independent project completed within a project course or independent study should submit a 2-page proposal to the program Director, who will approve the proposals after consulting with the Faculty Advisory Committee. Students will be strongly encouraged to present the results of their integrative experience at an annual conference.

SI 538 | Citizen Interaction Design (4)
URP 526 | Scenario Planning (3)
ARCH 531 | American Space

OR An applied project completed independently or within a project course
(such as CEE 679 (Infrastructure Systems Project), SI 612 (Pervasive Interaction Design), or URP 602 (Professional Project)

Counting Credits

The Certificate can be completed in coordination with many existing graduate programs at Michigan. According to the Graduate School rules, not more than one-half of the certificate credits (7.5) can be double-counted with the course required for the master’s degree. Therefore in most cases, students will be able to double-count two of the five required courses for the Certificate. In addition, students enrolled in graduate programs administered by Rackham may use Certificate coursework to satisfy the Cognate requirement for their primary degree. Students should consult with their program about the most recent requirements.

Completion Requirements

When ready to graduate, students should apply to graduate within Wolverine Access and meet with Taubman College Student Affairs to complete the Dual/Joint Election Form.

Course information websites

School of Information
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
School for Environment and Sustainability
College of Engineering – Civil and Environmental Engineering
College of Engineering – Industrial and Operations Engineering