Master of Science in Sustainable Urban Management


Welcome to the Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. We are excited that you are considering applying for admission to the Master of Science in Sustainable Urban Management (MSSUM) program.

Increasingly, cities are where humans live in the 21st century. Globally, urban population growth is booming, and the worldwide need for professionals who can understand and manage cities has never been so high. Cities are both beacons of opportunity and advancement for much of the world's population, and the drivers of unsustainable lifestyles and practices that are depleting resources and degrading natural systems. The land use and energy needs of cities can have negative impacts on the natural environment at the same time that their density and quality of life are potential solutions to a host of environmental problems. The key is how growth and change are planned for and accommodated by urban management professionals.

Professionals who work for government agencies, the growing number of urban-based nonprofits, and engineering firms responsible for urban infrastructure are at the forefront of manage existing settlements and determining how cities areas can continue to accommodate urban growth in a way that balances the needs of economic development, environment protection and social inclusion. Through the MSSUM, students will learn about the analytical and strategic skills essential for mid-career professionals who manage change in urban areas. This program provides urban professionals working in a variety of fields with the necessary knowledge and skills for understanding the multiplicity of inter-related urban systems and crafting the necessary policy interventions that facilitate the creation of sustainable, healthy, safe, and resilient communities. The degree is a one-year (nine month), full-time, in-residency degree for professionals who want to build their analytical skills as well as reflect on practice.


Program Components

The Master of Science in Sustainable Urban Management curriculum is organized into three major components:

  • A core of four required courses covering fundamental knowledge and skills needed to understand and address the key challenges facing urban areas
  • Courses in a primary area of study such as regional systems and informatics, energy and environment, and governance and community, that provide students with a deeper look at the range of subject-specific policy interventions and the technical tools needed to critically evaluate these programs
  • Electives, from among the rich offerings of the entire campus that allow students to explore additional topics and acquire new skills of their choosing


Curriculum and Basic Requirements

To qualify for the MSSUM degree, each student must complete all required core courses, primary area of study courses, and electives for a total of 32 earned hours.


The MSSUM Core (16 Hours)

The MSSUM core is intended to convey the common base of knowledge required of mid-career professionals working on urban issues in a variety of career fields. The core introduces students to: theoretical and interpretive views of human settlement from several disciplinary perspectives; an overview of key current urban issues and challenges; tools and practical skills that urban managers need to understand urban and regional trends and analyze the challenges facing urban areas. Most primary  area of study courses in the department build on the base of knowledge provided in the core. Core courses must be taken in the sequence listed below:

Fall Semester

  • UP 504: Urban History and Theory (4 hours). The purpose of this course is to provide students with a historical and international comparison of the origins and evolution of cities, the process of urbanization, and the human endeavor to effect urban growth and change. Topics covered include history of urban physical form and of planning efforts, equity issues of urban spatial arrangement, and elements of urban physical form. Students will have the opportunity to critically reflect on the historical evolution of cities and how this relates to current issues in a series of assignments.
  • UP 512: Urban Skills and Applications I - Colloquium (4 hours). The purpose of this course is to provide students with up-to-date knowledge of recent changes, emerging trends, and new challenges in environmental sustainability, housing, economic development, and other core fields of urban management. Students will develop a research proposal that will become the basis for their research practicum in UP 513.

Spring Semester

  • UP 505: Urban and Regional Analysis (4 hours). The purpose of this course is to familiarize students with the techniques, data sources, and skills for analyzing regions as economic, social, and spatial systems. The first half of the course focuses on understanding current conditions and trends, and the second half on forecasting most likely and alternative futures. Students will apply these skills to the characterization and analysis of a chosen region and issue.
  • UP 513: Urban Skills and Applications II – Chicago Practicum (4 hours). The purpose of this course is to help students apply quantitative and qualitative reasoning and analysis techniques to problem identification, researching and detailing alternatives, and selecting policy and intervention approaches within real world constraints. Throughout the course, students will workshop research projects culminating in a final report and presentation.


Primary Area of Study (12 Hours)

Students are required to develop a depth of specialized expertise in one or more subfields of urban management. The primary areas of study course sets are designed to provide such expertise.

Students will select their courses from one of three areas of study:

  • Regional systems and informatics
  • Energy and environment
  • Governance and community


Electives (4 hours)

Students fill out the remainder of their units, after the core courses, one or more concentrations, from among other offerings in DURP and elsewhere on campus. Students should select their electives carefully in consultation with their faculty adviser.



This one-year program is intended for mid-career professionals. Students are expected to have the ability to pay the full tuition costs. No tuition waivers are available for this program. Estimated costs for the program are as follows.

  • Tuition: $29,110 (resident and non-resident)
  • Fees*: $4,478
  • Room & board: $13,710
  • Books & supplies: $1,800
  • Other**: $3,090

 * Includes approximately $1,180 for student health insurance which can be waived at student request and upon University approval.
** Includes allowances for transportation, clothing, recreation, and other living or miscellaneous expenses. These expenses vary greatly based on the individual student's lifestyle, and the allowance is based on what are considered reasonable but modest costs after surveying segments of our student population.


Admissions Requirements

We welcome applications from professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds involved in the management of urban systems. Students seeking a masters of science in sustainable urban management typically come from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds. While common professions and career fields include architecture, engineering, sociology, economics, geography, political science, environmental sciences, public administration, urban planning, and public policy, many other fields also serve as excellent foundations for an MSSUM degree. Before you begin the application process, be sure you meet the following requirements:

  • The Graduate College considers for admission only those applicants graduated from an accredited college or university who hold a baccalaureate degree (or its equivalent) comparable in content and in number of credit hours with that granted by the University of Illinois.
  • Work experience is weighted heavily in admissions decisions because it provides a framework for students to participate in class. At least two years of full-time, post-undergraduate experience are strongly recommended.
  • Non-native speakers of English applicants must meet additional minimum requirements based on their country of origin, including the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). English proficiency scores should qualify for full status admissions to the Graduate College, and the test date must be less than two years prior to the date of program entry.


How to Apply to the MSSUM Program

Online Application: Applicants to the MSSUM program should submit an application through the Graduate College. Your resume and statement of purpose should be uploaded to the system.

Statement of Purpose: DURP's admissions committee places particular emphasis on each applicant's statement of purpose. Applicants should use the statement to convey information about their backgrounds, work experiences, and professional goals, in the context of articulating why a master of science in sustainable urban management from the University of Illinois will benefit them.

Recommendations: Please use the online system to request recommendation letters from your references. They will be able to enter recommendations online. If there are any difficulties with the system, please ask your reference to email his or her letter directly to Jennifer Kowalski at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

International Applicants: TOEFL or IELTS scores must be submitted into the online application system. Please request official scores be sent to institutional code 1836 (department codes are not used). International applicants will find additional resources for navigating the admissions and enrollment process through the International Student and Scholar Services office. Applicants should be prepared to submit proof of financial resources into the online application system.

Transcripts: Transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions should be uploaded directly to the online application system. English translations should also be uploaded if the credentials are not in English.

If you are missing any information or documentation after submitting the application, we will notify you as soon as possible.


Important Admissions Dates

  • Applications for fall 2020 now being accepted through July 1, 2020.
  • September 15: Graduate College application system opens for fall 2020.
  • March 15: Apply by this date for full consideration for admission. Applications for domestic students will be accepted through June 15, 2020.
  • Early April: DURP begins notifying applicants of acceptance. These offers are made on an ongoing basis through July.


Additional questions and inquiries should be directed to:

Dr. Dustin Allred
MSSUM Coordinator
Department of Urban and Regional Planning
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
111 Temple Buell Hall, 611 Taft Drive, Champaign, IL 61820
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Voice: 217-333-6531

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