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Global and Comparative Planning Focus Area

The Global and Comparative Planning focus area provides University of Michigan students with the opportunity to examine the interconnected social, cultural, and political-economic processes that frame patterns of urban development and planning in the United States and abroad. Students learn to think creatively and critically analyze the design and implementation of planning initiatives from a comparative and global perspective, which recognizes the importance of confronting unequal power relations and social injustices of various scales.

Many cities in low and middle-income countries face challenges of rapid population growth, resource scarcity, rural-urban migration, and severe poverty and socioeconomic inequality. Yet they also exhibit remarkable planning innovations, some of which are replicated in urban settings of high-income countries. Furthermore, many cities in the Global North – such as Detroit and other deindustrialized cities – are interconnected with cities in the Global South through global economic, environmental and migratory patterns. Planners focus on understanding these issues and opportunities and formulating appropriate interventions, working with communities on achieving social justice and redistribution of development benefits. They work in project management, administration, finance, urban policy, and sustainability efforts for non-governmental organizations, the United Nations and other international institutions, government offices, private urban design and planning firms, and more.

The curriculum in this focus area prepares planners to work in the environment of concomitant urban growth and decline, economic flexibilization, and transnational patterns of urban development from a comparative perspective. Students develop the tools and ideas to understand how globalization impacts the local space of cities and regions; work effectively in multicultural settings; empower marginalized populations; and facilitate collaborative practice. Students may choose to focus on specific themes and substantive areas such as community development and housing, transportation, environmental planning, land use and physical planning, or economic development. Students may also choose to pursue regional interests by taking courses listed by Area Studies Programs in the International Institute, which include regional seminars and courses in geographic areas of interest such as Africa, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, and Asia.

Not all of the foundational courses are offered regularly, so students should consult with the relevant faculty to find out when they are likely to be taught and plan accordingly. The list of courses below is not comprehensive; students are encouraged to seek additional coursework that might relate the focus area.


Focus Area Course List

Foundational Courses 

URP 552 Healthy Cities: Planning and Design
URP 570 Global and Comparative Planning (required)
URP 571 Comparative Urban Policy
URP 572 Comparative Housing and Property Policy
URP 573 Infrastructure Planning in the United States and Developing Countries
URP 580 Metropolitan Structure

Techniques / Methods 

URP 523 Participatory Planning and Community Development
URP 524 Program Evaluation for Urban Planning
URP 585 Economic Development Planning Methods

Other Related Courses 

URP 521 Intermediate Geographic Information Systems
URP 551 Planning Representation and Communication
ANTHRCUL 439 Economic Anthropology and Development
ANTHRCUL 625 Anthropological Approaches to Property & Property Rights
BA 519 Managing the Nonprofit Organization
ECON 461 The Economics of Development I
ECON 462 The Economics of Development II
ECON 561 Economic Development Policy
ECON 641 International Trade Theory
ECON 665 Economic Development of Underdeveloped Countries I
ECON 666 Economic Development of Underdeveloped Countries II
EAS 593 Environmental Justice: New Directions
PUBPOL 534 The Economics of Developing Countries
PUBPOL 541 International Trade Policy
PUBPOL 542 International Financial Policy
PUBPOL 573 Cost Benefit Analysis
PUBPOL 676 International Politics of Poverty and Development
PUBPOL 741 Principles of Finance and Global Financial Markets
PUBPOL 742 International Trade and Investments: Policies and Strategies
PUBPOL 780 Topics in Policymaking: Understanding the U.N.
SW 701 Practice in International Social Work

Courses with a Regional Focus

AAS 403 Education and Development in Africa
AAS 408 African Economics: Social and Political Settings
AAS 426 Urban Redevelopment and Social Justice
AAS 427 Women in Africa and the Diaspora
AAS 453 Culture, Class, and Conflict in Southern Africa
ECON 467 Economic Development in the Middle East
LAW 680 Constitutionalism in South Africa
POLISCI 649 Politics and Society in Latin America
POLISCI 653 Proseminar in Middle East Politics
POLISCI 656 Seminar in Chinese Government and Politics
POLISCI 657 Proseminar in Governments and Politics of South Asia
POLISCI 659 Proseminar in Government and Politics of Africa
POLISCI 660 Proseminar in World Politics
POLISCI 677 Proseminar in Southeast Asian Politics

Summer Internship

Students are encouraged to seek summer internships abroad at the end of their first year. Financial assistance for travel and research support is available on a competitive basis at the International Institute, Rackham Graduate School and at various area centers. Students are encouraged to expand on work initiated in a summer internship abroad through the thesis or professional project option for meeting the capstone requirement.  

Faculty associated with the focus area

Lesli Hoey (Focus Area Coordinator)
Martin Murrray
Scott Campbell
Lan Deng
Joe Grengs
Larissa Larsen
Ana Paula Pimentel Walker
Harley Etienne
Maria Arquero De Alarcon

Plan Your Future
Housing, Community, and Economic Development
Land Use and Environmental Planning
Physical Planning and Design
Transportation Planning
Global and Comparative Planning