Design and Urban Ecologies (MS)

  • The 60-credit Master of Science in Design and Urban Ecologies program radically reframes the study of urban environments and design approaches to cities. By combining urban planning, policy, urban design, activism, and community practice, students gain the skills and expertise needed to address contemporary urban challenges. In line with The New School’s historic commitment to environmental and social justice, students design and implement strategic projects to bring about transformative change in urban environments on a global scale.

    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 the MS Design and Urban Ecologies community to see what students, faculty, and alumni are doing in NYC and around the world at

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    Making Change in Urban Communities

    The first graduate program of its kind in the United States, the MS in Design and Urban Ecologies applies design as a methodology to explore and counteract social, economic, political, and environmental injustices within urban ecosystems. Using New York and other world cities as living laboratories, students develop a deep understanding of the forces that influence urban decline, restructuring, and development processes. They work in teams — collaborating alongside and within the communities directly affected — to devise design strategies, spatial configurations, and infrastructures that lead to social and spatial transformation.

    Critical Approach to Cities

    This two-year program brings together students with diverse academic and professional backgrounds. Students prepare to become agents of change by drawing on the academic strengths of Parsons as well as other colleges of The New School, including The New School for Social Research and the Schools of Public Engagement. Using innovative methodologies and guided by internationally recognized urbanists, designers, and activists, students confront and engage with contested territories affected by globalization, deindustrialization, migration, climate change, uneven development, and shifts in urban policy and governance.


    Studio-Based Learning and Practice

    This program involves a sequence of design studios connected with other core courses in which students combine research, policy, planning, design, and activism working in partnership with civic, nonprofit, and public organizations. Sample focus areas include external and local forces transforming low-income districts and neighborhoods of color; privatization and commodification of housing, health, and public services; solidarity economies and cooperative practices; urban mobilities and their social, economic, and environmental impact; public spaces and infrastructures in light of shifts in development and management; and the role of women-led urban practices in advancing social and spatial justice.

    Future Opportunities

    Graduates are prepared for careers in urbanism; urban and regional planning; housing policy, development, and management; community organizing and development; public and urban policy; strategic design; development of social, cultural, and environmental enterprises; urban research and analysis; nonprofit management; neighborhood restructuring and planning; and government administration. The program also provides a research foundation that enables students to pursue advanced study at the doctoral level.

  • Student Work

    See More Student Work From the Program


    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.


    SDS Urban Council

    Full-Time Faculty

      See All Program Faculty


      Featured Video

      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.

      Who applies to this 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.

      What sets this program apart from other urban-focused programs?

      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 MA Theories of Urban Practice program and the MS Design and Urban Ecologies program share themes and curriculum elements. What are the differences?

      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.

      What kinds of projects will I work on in the studio courses?

      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.

      Will my research be focused in New York City?

      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.

      Will my work be individual or group oriented?

      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.

      What will my final year in the program look like?

      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.

      Are there any travel opportunities available through this program?

      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.

      Career Pathways

      Program graduates pursue advanced study and work in positions ranging from program managers to strategic and civic designers for leading organizations including the ones shown below.


      Joshua Barndt '14
      Development Coordinator at Parkdale Neighborhood Land Trust (PNLT)

      Alexandra Castillo-Kesper '14
      Union Organizer at American Federation of Teachers

      Troy Hallisey '14
      Visual Information Unit Information Management Officer (IMO) at United Nations' OCHA

      Luisa Munera '14
      Exhibition Manager at National Young Arts Foundation

      Charles Wirene '14
      Managing Director at The HUUB

      Rehanna Azimi '15
      Project Associate at Hester Street Collaborative

      Raquel De Anda '15
      Director of Public Engagement at No Longer Empty Organization

      Drew Vanderburg '16
      Project Manager at RiseBoro Community Partnership

      Max Freedman '16
      Design Researcher at Brooklyn Movement Center

      Nadine Rachid '16
      Senior Associate at Center for Active Design

      Kartik Amarnath '16
      Energy Planner at NYC Environmental Justice Alliance

      Maria Guadalupe Morales '16
      Urban Projects Leader at UN Habitat Mexico

      Lyric Kelkar '18
      Policy and Research Associate at Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN)


      Sabrina Dorsainvil '14
      Civic Designer at the City of Boston Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics

      Alexa Jensen '16
      Assistant Project Manager at Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles

      Darcy Bender '16
      Project Manager at San Francisco Office of Economic and Workplace Development/San Francisco Shines

      Mariana Roberti-Bomtempo '16
      Coordinator of Technical Assistance in Architecture and Urbanism at Companhia de Desenvolvimento Habitacional do Distrito Federal (CODHAB)


      Jessica Kisner '14
      Citizen Engagement Strategist at Bloomberg Philanthropies

      Bonnie Netel '14
      Architectural Designer at Ballinger

      Santiago Giraldo Anduaga '15
      Director of Product Marketing at CARTO

      Monique Baena-Tan '15
      Lead Researcher and Service Designer at Lalo Consulting

      Marcea Decker '15
      Digital Designer at BerlinRosen

      Renata Benigno '16
      Operations Manager at Estrutural Empreendimentos

      Tamara Streefland '16
      Sustainability Consultant at Metabolic

      Isabel Saffon Sanin and Michaela Kramer '17
      Designers and Program Strategists at TYTHEdesign

      Jakob Winkler '17
      Program Strategist at 3x3 Design


      Charles Chawalko, Braden Crooks, and April de Simone '14
      Co-founders of and Project Managers at Designing the We

      Jonathan Lapalme '14
      Co-founder of and Director of Politics and Strategic Design at Les Interstices

      Aran Baker '15
      Founder of and Designer at Aran Baker Design

      Ron Morrison and Dagny Tucker '15
      Founders of and Project Directors at Thread Count

      Bernardo Loureiro '16
      Founder of and Strategist at Medida SP

      Mateo Fernandez '16
      Freelance Designer at Cycle Projects

      Gamar Markarian '16
      Co-founder of and Urban Strategist at Atelier Hamra

      Eduarda Aun '18
      Co-founder of and Urban Strategist at Movimente e Ocupe seu Bairro


      Cristina Handal Gonzalez '14
      PhD Candidate in Public and Urban Policy at the Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment at The New School

      Anze Zadel '14
      PhD Candidate in Public and Urban Policy at the Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment at The New School

      Ekaterina Levitskaya '14
      Graduate Research Assistant at NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress

      Travers Martin '14
      Part-Time Faculty at Rutgers University Department of Landscape Architecture

      Aubrey Murdock '14
      Head of School and Media Director at University of Orange

      Anne Duquennois '15
      Program Coordinator of Film, Graphic Design and Marketing at University of Colorado

      Tait Mandler '16
      PhD Candidate in Anthropology and Urban Planning at University of Amsterdam

      Priya Pinjani '17
      Adjunct Faculty at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture

      Admission Requirements

      Application and Financial Aid Deadlines

      Application Deadline

      The application deadline is January 2. To be most competitive for admission and merit scholarship consideration, please apply before the deadline. We will continue to review applications submitted after the 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

      Merit Scholarships:
      All admitted students are considered for merit scholarship awards determined by the strength of their applications. International students are eligible only for merit scholarships.

      Federal Student Aid:
      If you are a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen, we encourage you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be found at The FAFSA is available each year on October 1. The New School’s federal school code is 002780. You do not need to wait for an admission decision to apply for federal aid. Submit your FAFSA by our February 1 FAFSA Priority Deadline.

      Application Instructions

      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 application materials will be submitted through SlideRoom:

      1. Finalize your portfolio at the time you submit your application. Doing this will help prevent any delays in reviewing your application, as we need to receive all required materials before we can place your application under review.
      2. Once you have submitted the required SlideRoom materials, a confirmation number will be emailed to you. Save this for your records and enter it on the online application when requested.

      Required Application Materials

      1. Application Form: Complete the online application. All applicants are required to apply online.
      2. Application Fee: The application fee is $50. The fee is paid through the online application and is non-refundable. There is also a $10 SlideRoom fee.
      3. Transcripts:
        Unofficial Transcripts: Applicants must upload an unofficial transcript, mark sheet, or academic record for each institution (even if you didn’t receive a degree) in the Educational Background section of the online application.
        • All transcript uploads must be accompanied by a key, a legend, or the back copy of the transcript.
        • Non-English transcripts must be accompanied by an English translation. Records from non-U.S. institutions must have grades or marks and contain a copy of diploma if the degree has been conferred.
        • Make sure your name appears on the transcript/record. Scans must be clear and legible.
        • If you experience trouble uploading your transcript, email and give a detailed description of the issue and attach the document in question.
        The New School reserves the right to require official transcripts at any time during the admission process. Any fraudulent activity or discrepancies found between uploaded and official transcripts will result in the immediate revocation of admission and/or dismissal from The New School. Transcripts uploaded with the online application are considered unofficial.

        Official Transcripts: Applicants offered admission will be required to submit official transcripts with proof of their degree conferral prior to enrollment. Admitted applicants must submit all official transcripts pertaining to their entire academic career. Transcripts uploaded with the online application do not satisfy this requirement.

        Submitting Transcripts By Mail: Applicants should make arrangements to have their college/university send transcripts directly to The New School at the mailing address for Supplemental Materials. All transcripts must be received in a sealed envelope with the institutional seal and signature of the registrar. All documents not written in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation.

        Submitting Electronic Transcripts (U.S./Domestic Institutions Only): The New School accepts electronic transcripts only from our approved vendors:
        • National Student Clearinghouse
        • Parchment Exchange
        • SCRIP-SAFE International
        We do not accept electronic transcripts sent directly by a student or school offices. All international academic credentials must be submitted as indicated in the International Academic Credentials sections below.

        International Academic Credentials: All transcripts not written in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation.

        International Academic Credentials with Transfer Credits: Applicants who attended postsecondary institutions outside of the United States are required to have their transcript(s) evaluated by World Education Services (WES), Education Credential Evaluators (ECE), or by another member of the National Association of Credit Evaluation Services (NACES). A course-by-course evaluation must be prepared for each transcript.

        Follow all document requirements as outlined on the evaluation service providers’ websites. Evaluations completed by WES or ECE will be sent directly to us electronically by the vendor.

        All other NACES provider evaluation should be mailed directly by the vendor to the address for Supplemental Materials. A copy of the transcript which was evaluated should accompany the evaluation in the same sealed envelope or the official transcript should be sent directly to The New School by the issuing college/university.
      4. Résumé: Submit a brief résumé/curriculum vitae summarizing your academic qualifications, relevant work experience, volunteer/community work, travel, exhibitions, public speaking, or any other relevant experiences as they may relate to your field of study, including dates and positions held. Please also note any special language or computer skills that you have.
      5. Statement of Purpose: Please outline your reasons for applying to this program. In what ways will you contribute to the subject matter of the program? You should include a thoughtful description of your background, tentative plan of study or area of inquiry in the field as you now envision it, your professional goals, and an explanation of how this graduate program will help you realize those goals. If you have not been enrolled as a student in the past five years, please address anticipated opportunities and challenges in pursuing the degree and future career expectations upon completion of the program. (500–750 word limit)
      6. Recommendation Letters: Two letters of recommendation are required. Recommenders may submit recommendations online. Instructions are included in the online application. If preferred, the recommendation forms may be sent by mail in signed, sealed envelopes. To send by mail, download the PDF recommendation form found in the online application, complete the Applicant Information section, and save the form. Forward the saved form to the recommenders to complete the remaining sections and submit. Applicants may also send signed and sealed recommendations to the Office of Admission using an Application Materials Cover Sheet.
      7. Portfolio: The portfolio must be completed in SlideRoom only. The Design and Urban Ecologies program welcomes applications from designers, researchers, professionals, and academics. Submit up to 20 items that you believe best represent your background, interests in urbanization, activism, work process, and writings. These may include research outcomes, design strategies, articles, publications, photography, interviews, presentations, video clips, websites, blog URLs, essays, or other media. Where appropriate, include descriptions of the projects, explanations of your role (if the project involved a team), and/or a thoughtful description of the context of the project. If you have dynamic media or other time-based work, you can upload it using SlideRoom.
      8. Test Scores:
        TOEFL, IELTS, PTE, and DET: All applicants whose first language is not English must submit valid TOEFL, IELTS, PTE, or DET scores. The minimum score required for TOEFL (IB) is 92, for IELTS is 7.0, for PTE is 63, and for DET is 115. Our TOEFL institution code is 2638.

        The New School does not require TOEFL, IELTS, PTE, or DET scores for applicants who have earned a four-year degree from a U.S. college/university or from a university where English is the primary language of instruction (minimum of three years attendance). After reviewing your application, the Office of Admission may require you to submit an English Language Proficiency test score to evaluate your candidacy.

        We accept test scores taken within the past two years. If your scores are older, you must retake the test.

        Applicants also have the option of enrolling in The New School English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Students must pass Level 6 to waive the TOEFL/IELTS/PTE/DET requirement. Visit the ESL website for more information.
      9. Interview: In some cases, the Admission Committee may contact you to arrange an in-person or telephone interview. This will be determined after review of your application.

      Additional Information and Instructions

      1. Applying to More Than One Program: In any given term, a student can apply to only one department or program within The New School. Applicants who file more than one application in a given semester will be required to withdraw one of the applications, and application fees will not be refunded.
      2. Application Materials: All materials submitted in association with The New School application become the property of The New School and cannot be returned to you or transmitted to a third party.
      3. Application Status: Applications become complete and ready for review once all required items have been received by the Office of Admission. You can check your application status online at the Admission Hub.

        Allow at least 14 days from the date you submitted your application for items to be matched and shown as received on the Hub. Applicants are responsible for following up with schools and recommenders to confirm that items have been sent.

        The Office of Admission will periodically notify applicants by email if their file is missing any documents and again when their file is complete for review. These notifications are sent to the email address provided in the online application.
      4. Readmission:
        The Application for Readmission should be completed by students who wish to return after an absence of four semesters (fall and spring). If you would like to apply for readmission, review the readmission deadlines and requirements in the Readmission section of our How to Apply information.
      5. Mailing Address for Supplemental Materials:
        Parsons School of Design
        Office of Admission (PS 300)
        79 Fifth Avenue, 5th floor
        New York, NY 10003

      Program News

      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