The 60-credit Master of Science in Design and Urban Ecologies program radically reframes the study of cities and urban design methodologies. By combining research, fieldwork, and participatory action, students gain a broad understanding of the complex forces that influence urban growth and development. In accordance with The New School’s historic commitment to social justice and design, students develop and implement innovative strategic projects that bring about real, transformative urban change.
This studio-driven program is part of Parsons' School of Design Strategies (SDS), and shares a 12-credit core curriculum with the 36-credit, research-based MA Theories of Urban Practice program. Explore our
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The first graduate program of its kind in the United States, the two-year Master of Science in Design and Urban Ecologies explores the urban complex and its interconnections with political, social, economic, and environmental systems. Using world cities like New York as a laboratory and working in transdisciplinary teams, students design processes for urban transformation alongside and with — not for — the communities most affected by these processes.
Bringing together the academic strengths of Parsons and other schools and colleges of The New School, this studio-based program trains graduates to become agents of change, working with the communities and institutions that shape urban ecosystems. Guided by internationally recognized urbanists, designers, and activists, students confront urgent problems facing cities and develop new research methodologies, design frameworks, and critical practices, using the city as an urban laboratory.
Focus areas include community organizing, the solidarity economy, food systems, public space, housing, infrastructure, public transportation, nonprofit management, cultural development, environmental equity, and socially engaged art and technology. Graduates are prepared for careers in urban design; urban and regional planning; public and urban policy; social, cultural, and environmental enterprises; community organizing; research; nonprofit management; teaching; government administration; municipal and regional development; and consulting. The program also provides a foundation for those who wish to pursue doctoral studies at top universities around the world.
Graduates are prepared for careers in urban design; urban and regional planning; public and urban policy; social, cultural, and environmental enterprises; community organizing; research; nonprofit management; teaching; government administration; municipal and regional development; and consulting. The program also provides a foundation for those who wish to pursue doctoral studies at top universities around the world.
The Master of Science degree is awarded for completion of 60 credits. A maximum of six credits can be transferred from another institution. Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and fulfill all requirements in a timely manner.
Silvia Xavier presents her innovative ideas on trash collection, supporting both urban dwellers and the city’s goal of achieving zero-waste status.
If you are thinking about pursuing an MS in Design and Urban Ecologies, please read below for answers to frequently asked questions about the program.
Since this program aims to break with the disciplinary silos that characterize traditional urban and design practices, students who participate in this program have diverse backgrounds, including history, philosophy, geography, anthropology, law, community development and organizing, social art, economics, film, architecture, communication design, and environmental studies. Students entering this program may have work experience in their respective fields, while others begin their graduate studies directly following completion of their undergraduate degree.
While this program does draw on both urban planning and design, it is not a traditional urban planning or urban design program. Instead, the program examines the larger ecology of the city by bringing together the different disciplines that interact in the production of cities, including urban policy, planning, design, activism, and community practice. The MS in Design and Urban Ecologies calls into question urban processes and practices related to housing, food systems, health, education, livelihoods, transportation, community development, urban governance, and the environment as well as to the ever-changing spatial, economic, and social infrastructures that make up our cities. Dialectical analysis and understandings are encouraged and central to the program.
Students identify issues within the built urban environment as well as the wider ecologies of the city in order to envision systematic change within different spatial, political, and institutional frameworks and at different scales. Students do not search for physical solutions to address systemic problems; instead, they conceptualize and use design as an instrument to catalyze change. In addition, using the notion of “urban ecologies,” students employ design to translate and communicate complex urban processes and transformations to those being directly affected and at the same time having the agency to shape the fate of their communities, neighborhoods, and cities. Rather than seeing New York City as an object of study, the MS in Design and Urban Ecologies interacts and collaborates with different neighborhoods, agencies, and communities throughout the city with the aim of immersing students in real-world urban questions, processes, and transformations.
The two programs are run by the same faculty, use the same space for courses, and share an educational philosophy that fosters social justice and community engagement. In addition, the faculty encourage cooperation between the two programs in the form of events and activities, both formal and informal. The MS in Design and Urban Ecologies offers a six-hour studio in addition to a methods course every semester; the MA in Theories of Urban Practice does not. The methodological coursework equips students to analyze, visualize, and transform cities, with the studio component of the program serving as a platform for employing and testing various methods in projects addressing real-world urban issues and transformations. Students often work in ongoing projects with local residents, community-based organizations, and city agencies. In other words, the MS in Design and Urban Ecologies offers hands-on design instruction, while the MA in Theories of Urban Practice provides a more theoretical and research-driven course of study.
Studio courses provide hands-on and collaborative research and design experience throughout the program. The first studio course offers an introduction to New York City by engaging students in long-term projects with local community partners in a specific neighborhood. Through a number of urban investigations focused on different aspects of the selected neighborhood, this studio provides a comprehensive understanding of agents acting at both the macro and micro levels and affecting the area in question. Students in turn propose design strategies to address pressing issues affecting the neighborhood’s communities.
The second studio course addresses larger issues affecting areas such as a city borough or a waterfront and offers more flexibility to students in deciding which topic to address and which community partners to work with. While Studio 1 provides a structured research and design framework, Studio 2 is more open in terms of direction. During the second year, Studio 3 offers students a platform to start their own research and design project. Students are guided by faculty during this process and have the freedom to decide on the place, topic, theoretical framework, methodology, partners, and design approach of their project. The final studio, Thesis, is the continuation of Studio 3. During the last semester, students are guided by faculty in developing their thesis project, which should include detailed research and actionable design strategies for urban interventions involving local communities and institutions. Students are required to design ways to test and implement these strategies.
During the first year, many projects are based in New York City and the surrounding areas. In the second year of study, students' research and design projects may go outside of New York, depending on the interest of the students. For instance, international students may choose to work on a project related to their home countries or towns. In addition, the program sponsors a course, Global Urban Studio, in which students travel abroad and gain experience in particular urban conditions, topics, and practices in other cities.
During the first year, group work is encouraged, particularly in the studio courses. In other courses, students may be organized into teams to take advantage of the wide range of experience and skills offered by each student. Individual work is more common in lecture courses and during the second year of the program, although some thesis projects have been developed by two or more students.
The second and final year of the program consists of the thesis, in which all students complete a six-hour studio class alongside a methods course. Students also have the ability to choose their electives, which support their individual research and thesis projects. Each student chooses the format and organization of their thesis work. The fall semester consists of rigorous research, while the spring semester is dedicated to the use of individual research findings and development of design propositions.
Travel opportunities within the program are available in the form of individual exchange agreements, graduate student travel funds, and other possibilities through centers within The New School. Students interested in traveling for their research may also work with the Tishman Environment and Design Center and the India China Institute at The New School. Both of these groups offer fellowships, travel grants, and scholarships ito contribute to students' scholarly work. The urban programs at The New School also offer a 3-credit global intensive elective each semester (locations vary) that provides students with a two-week international travel component to their coursework.
The application deadline is January 1. To be most competitive for admission and merit scholarship consideration, please apply before the deadline. We will continue to review applications submitted after the January 1 priority deadline pending space availability in the program. The Admission Committee will make a decision on your application only after all the required materials have been received. Spring term admission is not offered for this program.
Financial Aid Deadline
All applicants selected for admission into our program are considered for a merit scholarship award that is determined by the strength of their application. Scholarship award notification is communicated at the same time as the admission decision. International students are eligible only for merit scholarships. If you are a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, we encourage you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be found on the Web at
www.fafsa.gov. The FAFSA is available each year on October 1. You do not need to wait for an admission decision to apply for federal aid; we recommend submitting by our FAFSA priority deadline of February 1 for fall applicants. (The New School’s federal school code is 002780.)
All applicants are required to apply online. Save your work frequently and print a copy for your records. You must complete all required fields and uploads prior to submission.
Any additional supporting documents that need to be sent by mail must include an
Application Materials Cover Sheet. All supporting materials must be received before your application can be reviewed.
See below for additional information regarding submission of transcripts and recommendations.
Some of your required materials will be submitted through
Learn more about what Parsons students, faculty, and alumni are doing throughout the city and around the world.
Explore the Design and Urban Ecologies Community
SDS Urban Council
Gabriela Rendon, Co-Chair Miguel Robles-Duran
Evren Uzer, Co-Chair
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