This fall, the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning (LAUP) at Texas A&M University is launching a new undergraduate degree program, the Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Science (BS-URS).
Approved last May by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the program will be the department’s sixth degree offering and its second undergraduate degree option.
According to LAUP department head Forster Ndubisi, the BS-URS “rounds out the department’s academic degree programs, taking advantage of the skills and expertise of its faculty while providing a broad-based, multidisciplinary education from which students can acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to create livable, sustainable and safe communities.”
The BS-URS program will prepare graduates for entry-level positions in a variety of fields — especially those requiring analytical skills and critical thinking. It will also offer a well-rounded education for advanced studies involving the analysis of economic, environmental, political, and social forces and the development of solutions that shape neighborhoods, communities, cities and entire regions.
The BS-URS is the first undergraduate program of its kind in Texas. Its broad-based, multidisciplinary curriculum differs it, Ndubisi said, from Texas’ only undergraduate program in urban planning, which is currently offered through the geography department at Texas State University.
“While the Texas State urban planning program focuses on professional skills and knowledge, our program emphasizes multidisciplinary theory, analytical methods and applied, real world problem solving,” explained Ndubisi.
Also, while broad in scope, Texas A&M’s BS-URS program allows students to specialize in one of six areas of study: hazard and emergency planning; housing, economic and urban development; health and human services planning and policy; land development; landscape and sustainable urbanism; and spatial analysis and planning.
These areas of specialization are very important, said Ndubisi, as they “build on the strengths of our faculty members while enhancing the overall complement of our department. They also provide a venue for our master and doctorate students to become more involved in our undergraduate programs.”
LAUP’s other undergraduate program, the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, is a highly specialized studio-based program, which is rightly taught, Ndubisi noted, almost exclusively by landscape architects.
“The BLA program, like many of the degree offerings in the College of Architecture, focuses on design,” explained Ndubisi. “However, there are a number of students with an interest in the built environment and in building and planning sustainable communities, who are not particularly interested a design-oriented program. Our new MS-URS program should appeal to those students.”
The department is planning to further develop the BS-URS offering, he added, by seeking approval for a streamlined four-plus-one degree offering. If approved, this will allow motivated BS-URS students to continue directly to the Master of Urban Planning or Master of Science in Land Development professional degree programs, and complete their graduate studies a shortened amount of time.