Urban Studies

http://urban.barnard.edu/

503 Milbank Hall  
212-854-4073
Department Assistant: Coretta Grant

Mission

The Barnard–Columbia Urban Studies program enables students to explore and understand the urban experience in all of its richness and complexity. It recognizes the city as an amalgam of diverse peoples and their social, political, economic, and cultural interactions within a distinctive built environment. Students study the evolution and variety of urban forms and governance structures, which create opportunities for, as well as constrain, the exercise of human agency, individual and collective. They explore the place of the city in different historical and comparative contexts, as well as in the human imagination.

Majors build an intellectual foundation that combines interdisciplinary coursework and a concentration of study within a single field. Through the two-semester junior colloquium, students study urban history and contemporary issues, and at the same time hone their interdisciplinary, analytical and research skills. This shared experience prepares them for their independent research project in their senior year. We encourage our majors to use New York City as a laboratory, and many courses draw on the vast resources of the city and include an off-campus experience.

Student Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed the major in Urban Studies, the student will be able to:

  • Apply concepts or methods from more than one social science or adjacent discipline to analyze an urban issue or problem.
  • Describe the distinctive social, cultural, and spatial features of cities and illustrate their impacts on the urban experience.
  • Apply basic skills of empirical reasoning to an urban problem.
  • Explain how the idea of the city varies in different historical and comparative contexts.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with a particular disciplinary approach to the city as an object of study.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the history and variety of urban forms and governance structures.
  • Articulate a well-defined research question, conduct independent research using primary sources and a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches, and write a substantive research paper.
  • Communicate ideas effectively in written or oral form.
  • Organize and present group research projects.

Director: Kimberley S. Johnson (Associate Professor, Political Science and Urban Studies)

Columbia College Advisor: Kathryn Yatrakis (Dean of Academic Affairs, Columbia College)

Professors: Liz Abzug (Adjunct)
Assistant Professors: Gergely Baics (History and Urban Studies), Deborah Becher (Sociology), Susan Fine (Adjunct), Cindy Gorn (Adjunct), Thomas Kamber (Adjunct), Meredith Linn (Term, Urban Studies), Aaron Passell (Term, Urban Studies), Tom Waters (Adjunct), Şevin Yildiz (Term, Urban Studies)

This program is supervised by the Committee on Urban Studies:

Director: Kimberley S. Johnson (Associate Professor, Political Science)
Professor of Professional Practice: Karen Fairbanks (Chair, Architecture)
Columbia College Advisor: Kathryn Yatrakis (Dean of Academic Affairs, Columbia College)
Professors: Ester Fuchs (International and Public Affairs, CU), Kenneth T. Jackson (History), Jose Moya (History), Elliot Sclar (Urban Planning and Public Policy), Sudhir Venkatesh (Sociology), David Weiman (Economics)
Associate Professor: Randall Reback (Economics), Samuel Roberts (History and Sociomedical Sciences).
Assistant Professors: Gergely Baics (History), Deborah Becher (Sociology), Catherine Fennell (Anthropology), Meredith Linn (Term, Urban Studies), Maria Rivera Maulucci (Education)

Major in Urban Studies

The major in urban studies is comprised of six curricular requirements:

Requirement A: Urban-Related Social Sciences (3 courses)

One course dealing primarily with urban subject matter from each of three of the following disciplines: Anthropology, Economics, History, Political Science, Sociology.

Many courses offered through Urban Studies may count towards Requirement A. For example, URBS V3420 Introduction to Urban Sociology counts as a Sociology course, URBS UN3550 counts as a Political Science course, etc. Students must complete at least two of the Requirement A courses before taking the Junior Colloquia (see Requirement E, below). It is recommended that majors fulfill this requirement before their junior year.

Requirement B: Urban-Related Non-Social Science (1 course)

One course dealing primarily with urban subject matter from a discipline not listed above (such as Architecture, Art History, English, Environmental Science, etc.)

Requirement C: Methods of Analysis (1 course)

One course in methods of analysis, such as URBS UN3200 .

Requirement D: Specialization (5 courses)

Five or more courses in a specialization from one of the participating departments. Barnard College students can double-count one A, B, or C course toward this requirement (only one of five), with the approval of the Director; Columbia College and General Studies students cannot double-count courses. Barnard majors also have specific requirements for each specialization, which are outlined in detail on the program's website, urban.barnard.edu.

Requirement E: Junior Colloquia (2 courses)

URBS UN3545Junior Colloquium: The Shaping of the Modern City4
URBS UN3546Junior Colloquium: Contemporary Urban Issues4

Requirement F: Senior Seminar (2 courses)

A senior thesis written in conjunction with a two-semester research seminar, chosen from the following four options:

URBS UN3992
 - URBS V3993
Senior Seminar: The Built Environment
and Senior Seminar: The Built Environment
8
URBS UN3994
 - URBS V3995
Senior Seminar: New York Field Research
and Senior Seminar: New York Field Research
8
URBS UN3996
 - URBS V3997
Senior Seminar: International Topics in Urban Studies
and Senior Seminar: International Topics in Urban Studies
8
A research seminar in the department of specialization. This option must be approved by the Program Director.

A complete list and courses that fulfill requirements A–E can be found on the program's website, urban.barnard.edu.

Appropriate substitutions may be made for courses listed above with the approval of the Program Director.

There is no minor in urban studies.

There is no concentration in urban studies.

URBS V1515 Introduction to Urban Studies. 3 points.

This course is intended to be both an interdisciplinary introduction to the city and to the field of Urban Studies. As an introduction to the city, the course will address a variety of questions: What is a city? How did cities develop? How do cities function socially, politically, and economically? Why do people live in cities? What are some of the major issues facing cities in the early twenty-first century, and how can cities address these issues? As an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of Urban Studies, the course will present models of how scholars approach cities from a variety of disciplinary viewpoints, including architecture, planning, law, sociology, history, archaeology, anthropology, political science, public policy, and geography. Students will learn some of the major concepts in the field of Urban Studies, and will study the works of leading scholars in the field. Students in the course will approach cities from a number of disciplines, not only through the reading, but also through assignments that take place in different locations throughout New York City.

URBS V3200 Spatial Analysis: GIS Methods and Urban Case Studies. 4 points.

Prerequisites: Must attend first class for instructor permission. Preference to Urban Studies majors. Only 24 admitted.

Introduction to spatial analysis using state of-the-art GIS (Geographic Information Systems) mapping and analysis software to apply quantitative analytical methods to real-world urban issues. Will include basic coverage of applied statistics. Case studies will focus on subjects like environmental justice, voting patterns, transportation systems, segregation, public health, redevelopment trends, and socio-economic geography.

URBS V3308 Introduction to Urban Ethnographies. 3 points.

Prerequisites: Students must attend first class.

This course explores how scholars from different social science disciplines have used ethnography to understand how immigrants and rural migrants experience as well as affect cities. Community, work, and health, in cities within and outside the US, are used as lenses. Students will also perform their own ethnographic research.

URBS V3315 Metropolitics of Race and Place. 3 points.

Prerequisites: Students must attend first class.

Course explores how the central cities and suburbs that make up American metropolitan areas are increasingly shaped by race/ethnicity. Class discussion and readings will trace the role of social scientists, foundations, urban planners, government actors, and private economic interests in this transformation of metropolitan American. The current consequences of the conflation of race/ethnicity and space on the regional landscape, such as gentrification, suburban sprawl, the mortgage foreclosure crisis, etc. will be the focus of student research and class projects.

URBS V3420 Introduction to Urban Sociology. 3 points.

Prerequisites: Students must attend first class.

Examines the diverse ways in which sociology has defined and studied cities, focusing on the people who live and work in the city, and the transformations U.S. cities are undergoing today. Sociological methods, including ethnography, survey research, quantitative studies, and participant observation will provide perspectives on key urban questions such as street life, race, immigration, globalization, conflict, and redevelopment.

URBS V3427 Imagining and Narrating the Urban. 3 points.

This course will explore the experience of urban space by examining how it is described in fine- grained, ethnographic accounts and in the thought experiments undertaken by science fiction writers. The purpose of the course is to focus on the evocation of the urban experience - how do we record or preserve what the city feels like as a physical place. Privileging the experience of space in this context is an attempt to complement conventional urban research that examines the dynamics of urban social life often without locating it in relation to the built environment of the city. Incorporating speculative or science fiction adds an experimental dimension (what would the city be like if...?) and emphasizes narrative, arguing that how exactly we describe and reproduce our experience is significant. Further, it raises an epistemological question about how we come to know what we know: can fiction "teach" us about the empirical world? How?

URBS V3464 Urban Ecologies and Grand Infrastructure: Metropolitan Planning Issues. 3 points.

This lecture course is designed around different issues of metropolitan regions around the worlds that govern and plan urbanized, risky and vulnerable ecological systems and consequently large-scale urban interventions that change the landscapes of the regions. The reality of an age of drastic climate change and increasing number of natural disasters in urbanized regions raises issues of resilience and ecological governance. Metropolitan regions and the planning politics that lie beneath the regional plans and strategic initiatives are critical in the mitigation of some of these risks and in the understanding of regional politics. Historical and contemporary case studies will prepare the students to conduct their own critical analysis and reading of a case where several themes discussed in class will be further explored.

URBS V3530 Urban Development: A Rubik's Cube of Policy Choices. 4 points.

Prerequisites: Must attend first class for instructor permission. Preference to Urban Studies majors. Only 16 admitted.

Using case studies, examines the rationale for urban development, the players involved and how decisions are made about the distribution of public and private resources. Studies the specific components of the development process and the myriad policy questions that large-scale development is meant to address. Examines the disconnect among stakeholders' objectives - the developer, the financial institution that pays for the project, the government and the community.

URBS V3545 Junior Colloquium: The Shaping of the Modern City. 4 points.

Prerequisites: Non-majors admitted by permission of instructor. Students must attend first class. Enrollment limited to 16 students per section. General Education Requirement: Historical Studies.

Introduction to the historical process and social consequences of urban growth, from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present.

URBS V3550 Community Building and Economic Development. 4 points.

Prerequisites: Must attend first class for instructor permission. Preference to Urban Studies majors.

Community building has emerged as an important approach to creating an economic base, reducing poverty and improving the quality of life in urban neighborhoods. In this course, students examine the methods, strategies, and impact of community building on the economic, social, and political development of urban neighborhoods.

URBS V3562 The City in Beta: Public Participation in the Design Process. 4 points.

Not offered during 2017-18 academic year.

Prerequisites: Must attend first class for instructor permission. Preference is given to Urban Studies majors. Only 20 admitted.

Examines local urban planning issues through the use of new technologies to facilitate multi-user, participatory planning and design. Examines the history and theory of the planning process and uses learned techniques to evaluate a live case scenario for which the students prepare recommendations using the Betaville software package.

URBS V3565 Cities in Developing Countries: Problems and Prospects. 3 points.

Prerequisites: Must attend first class for instructor permission. Preference to Urban Studies majors.

Examination of cities in developing countries, with a focus on environment, employment, and housing. Four cases will be studied: Sao Paulo, Brazil; Johannesburg, South Africa; Bombay, India; and Shanghai, China. We will consider urbanization patterns and the attendant issues, the impact of global economic trends, and governmental and non-governmental responses.

URBS V3725 New York City's Gilded Ages: Coming of Age, Past and Present. 4 points.

A lecture class + digital laboratory on New York City's two Gilded Ages. Student learn basics of digital photography and web design to develop a virtual exhibit on seminar's theme of "Coming of Age." In addition to class sessions held at Barnard, students will have at least 3 class sessions at NYHS with curators; and at least 3 class sessions at ICP. Digital fellows will augment instruction in digital tools necessary to complete the project. In addition to training in digital techniques studenst will also analyze and discuss selected readings on the history, politics and economics of the NYC's two Gilded Ages; urban space, culture and consumption; the ethcs of ethnographic field research; and virtual exhibition and design.

URBS V3830 Eminent Domain and Neighborhood Change. 4 points.

Not offered during 2017-18 academic year.

Prerequisites: Intro to Urban Sociology or equivalent or permission of the instructor. Students must attend first class for instructor permission.

An examination of how the politics of eminent domain, as a government strategy for neighborhood change, plays out in the courts, city councils, administrative agencies, media, and the street. Readings drawn from law, history, planning, politics, economics, sociology, and primary sources. Emphasis on the U.S., with some international comparisons. This course will count toward Requirement A of the Urban Studies curriculum as a Sociology course.

URBS V3833 New York City: Politics and Governing. 4 points.

This course will examine through readings, class discussions, and in class debate, the complex politics and governing of New York City- the key political institutions, and who holds urban political power, voting and elections, and the changing roles of the electorate will be covered.  We will examine the structure or New York City government and how the New York City Budget is developed and adopted; the interplay between Mayoral and City council powers, the city charter, the process of governing and the role of political parties, special interest groups, lobbyists and labor unions. We will look back in the City’s political history and consider that time in the mid 1970’s when New York City suffered a major fiscal crisis and was close to financial bankruptcy.  In this context, New York City’s relationships with the state and federal governments will also be covered.          

URBS V3920 Social Entrepreneurship. 4 points.

Prerequisites: Must attend first class for instructor permission. Preference to Urban Studies majors. General Education Requirement: Social Analysis (SOC). Only 16 admitted.

Introduction to the main concepts and processes associated with the creation of new social enterprises, policies, programs, and organizations; criteria for assessing business ventures sponsored by non-profits and socially responsible initiatives undertaken by corporations; specific case studies using New York City as a laboratory. To be offered Fall 2011.

URBS V3992 Senior Seminar: The Built Environment. 4 points.

(year-long course, 4 points per term)

Prerequisites: Senior standing. Admission by application only (available at http://urban.barnard.edu/forms-and-resources). Year-long course; participation is for two consecutive terms. No new students admitted for spring.

Emphasizes the study of the built environment of cities and suburbs, and the related debates. Readings, class presentations, and written work culminate in major individual projects, under the supervision of faculty trained in architecture, urban design, or urban planning.

URBS V3993 Senior Seminar: The Built Environment. 4 points.

(year-long course, 4 points per term)

Prerequisites: Senior standing. Admission by application only (available at http://urban.barnard.edu/forms-and-resources). Year-long course; participation is for two consecutive terms. No new students admitted for spring.

Emphasizes the study of the built environment of cities and suburbs, and the related debates. Readings, class presentations, and written work culminate in major individual projects, under the supervision of faculty trained in architecture, urban design, or urban planning.

URBS V3994 Senior Seminar: New York Field Research. 4 points.

(year-long course, 4 points per term)

Prerequisites: Senior standing. Admission by application only (available at http://urban.barnard.edu/forms-and-resources). Year-long course; participation is for two consecutive terms. No new students admitted for spring.

Using New York City as a research laboratory, under the guidance of the faculty coordinator, students clarify basic theoretical issues related to their chosen research problem; find ways of making a series of empirical questions operational; collect evidence to test hypotheses; analyze the data using a variety of social science techniques; and produce reports of basic findings.

URBS V3995 Senior Seminar: New York Field Research. 4 points.

(year-long course, 4 points per term)

Prerequisites: Senior standing. Admission by application only (available at http://urban.barnard.edu/forms-and-resources). Year-long course; participation is for two consecutive terms. No new students admitted for spring.

Using New York City as a research laboratory, under the guidance of the faculty coordinator, students clarify basic theoretical issues related to their chosen research problem; find ways of making a series of empirical questions operational; collect evidence to test hypotheses; analyze the data using a variety of social science techniques; and produce reports of basic findings.

URBS V3996 Senior Seminar: International Topics in Urban Studies. 4 points.

(year-long course, 4 points per term)

Prerequisites: Senior standing. Admission by application only (available at http://urban.barnard.edu/forms-and-resources). Year-long course; participation is for two consecutive terms. No new students admitted for spring.

A year-long research seminar for students who wish to conduct a senior thesis project that focuses on cities outside of the United States. Topics relating to the rapid urbanization of Latin America, Africa, and Asia are particularly welcome. Seminar meetings will include discussion of relevant readings, as well as occasional class presentations and peer-editing assignments.

URBS V3997 Senior Seminar: International Topics in Urban Studies. 4 points.

(year-long course, 4 points per term)

Prerequisites: Senior standing. Admission by application only (available at http://urban.barnard.edu/forms-and-resources). Year-long course; participation is for two consecutive terms. No new students admitted for spring.

A year-long research seminar for students who wish to conduct a senior thesis project that focuses on cities outside of the United States. Topics relating to the rapid urbanization of Latin America, Africa, and Asia are particularly welcome. Seminar meetings will include discussion of relevant readings, as well as occasional class presentations and peer-editing assignments.

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