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 sds.parsons.edu/urban.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 admitted students are considered for merit scholarship awards determined by the strength of their applications. Scholarship awards are included in applicants’ admission decision letters. 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
www.fafsa.gov. 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.
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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