Master of Urban Planning Capstone

The MUP capstone is a culminating project that provides MUP students with the opportunity to apply what they have learned through their courses and internships to a specific planning problem or issue, and therefore to demonstrate their professional competence to both the faculty and potential employers. Students work closely with their faculty Capstone Adviser in deciding on a capstone topic and approach. Take a look at recent MUP capstones.

Capstone Options

Students have two options for completing the capstone:

A Master's Project: A professional project or analysis focusing on a topic relevant to the student's selected concentration and career goals. The capstone deliverable may be a report, a plan or other professional quality work. In most cases, the project is conducted for an external client; however, this is not a project requirement. Students pursuing a Master's Project will sign up for UP 598.

A pair or small group of students may pursue a Master's Project jointly. In such instances, the project must be of sufficient scope to warrant a team approach and the independent contribution of each student must be clear. A single faculty member will normally serve as the Capstone Adviser for the group and a capstone proposal may be submitted jointly.

A Master's Thesis: A scholarly applied or basic research conducted under the formal thesis guidelines of the Department and Graduate College. The thesis option is most appropriate for MUP students with strong interest in pursuing the PhD degree or a research-oriented career. Students completing a Master's Thesis will sign up for UP 599. 

For further information on the differences: Thesis versus Project.

Capstone Development and Advising

It is the responsibility of the student, under guidance of their Capstone Adviser, to identify a topic and establish contact with an external client (if appropriate). The Capstone Adviser is the principal source for substantive faculty guidance on the project. The MUP Program Director is responsible for ensuring that all capstone requirements are met, collecting the Capstone Proposal and Capstone Exit forms, the capstone report, and poster, offering the Capstone Seminar, and organizaing the spring poster session.

Getting Started during the First Year

First year MUP students are exptected to prepare for the capstone in the following ways:

  • Look at previous MUP capstones;
  • Ask second year students about their capstone;
  • Meet with potential Capstone Advisers to discuss the possibilities;
  • Attend the Capstone Poster session in May of the first year;
  • Use the summer between the first and second MUP years to meet with potential clients;
  • Explore the possibility of expanding a summer internship project into a capstone.

The Department encourages first year students to select a Capstone Adviser and turn in a draft capstone proposal to that adviser by the end of the first year.


To complete the capstone, students must:

  1. Identify a faculty Capstone Adviser. The student's faculty academic adviser often continues to serve as the capstone adviser. But students can change their adviser to better correspond to their capstone topic. The Capstone Adviser must be a member of the DURP faculty.
  2. Complete a Capstone Proposal Form with the Capstone Adviser's signature indicating approval of the project, and submit to the MUP Program Director by the tenth day of class in the fall semester of the second year. The proposal includes a description of the project or thesis and discusses how the capstone relates to the student's area of professional interest. Groups only need to submit one proposal.
  3. Complete two Capstone Seminars (UP 591), typically in the fall and spring semesters of the second MUP year. UP 591 is a credit/no-credit general capstone seminar offered by the MUP Program Director. UP 591 provides students with general advising regarding capstone requirements and an opportunity for peer discussion of work in progress. The seminar will meet on a monthly basis.
  4. In both options (Project or Thesis), students register for 8 hours, typically earned over two semesters (for example, summer and fall or fall and spring).
    1. Students selecting the Project option complete UP 598 (Master's Project) for 8 hours under the name of the Capstone Adviser.
    2. Students selecting the Thesis option complete UP 599 (Master's Thesis) for 8 hours under the name of the Capstone Adviser.
  5. Participate in a Capstone Poster Session, held near the end of the spring semester in the second year. Note: Students completing their degree in December must submit a poster for the subsequent spring's poster session but they need not be physically present at the session if they have already graduated.
  6. Submit the capstone final products, including a hard copy of final product to the Capstone Adviser and electronic copy (PDF) of both final product (project or thesis) and poster to the MUP Program Director.
  7. Submit a completed Capstone Exit Form (signed by the Capstone Adviser) to the MUP Program Director.
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