PhD in Geography, Planning, and Design

The College of Architecture and Planning offers one doctoral program: PhD in Geography, Planning, and Design. This research-oriented degree is also the only doctoral program in planning, architecture, or landscape architecture in the state of Colorado. Since 1997, the program has trained students to become high-impact faculty members, professionals, and intellectual leaders in fields that address urgent social and environmental issues.

Program Information

Our unique, interdisciplinary degree prepares students to be critical thinkers, engaged scholars, and innovative researchers capable of addressing complex and emergent issues. Our students explore interactions between society and the built and natural environment and engage in research aimed at promoting sustainable, healthy, and socially just communities at local, regional, and global scales. (See below our four Areas of Emphasis.)

Students can take advantage of resources in all departments and fields in the university system, with more than 35 acclaimed faculty members from 11 departments able to supervise and advise dissertation research. Interdisciplinary study and cross-disciplinary inquiry occur in a congenial work environment in one of the most dynamic and fast-growing urban regions in the United States. Students also have the benefit of pursuing their studies only minutes from the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

Students and faculty also have extensive access to cutting-edge resources including the Geospatial and Mapping Laboratory (GAMLab), The Facility for Advanced Spatial Technologies (FASTLab), The 13 Acre GES Urban Farm Field Research Station (Five Fridges Farm), Numerous Environmental Sciences Faculty Labs and Centers, CityCenter, the Colorado Center for Sustainable Urbanism, and many more.

The region is also home to a broad and diverse community of professional planners and designers, hundreds of public, private, and non-profit planning and design organizations and firms, and national and regional labs and headquarters including the  National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the National Parks Service (NPS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

By integrating the fields of Geography, Planning, and Design, our doctoral students receive an innovative educational experience that enables cutting-edge research and professional contributions. Solving critical urban and environmental problems in the 21st century requires that we move beyond traditional academic silos and modes of knowledge production.

PhD Program Contacts

Profile Picture Name Contact Information
Jeremy Nemeth

Jeremy Németh PhD

Professor and Director of the PhD in Geography, Planning, and Design

Jodi Stock

Manager of Graduate Admissions and Recruitment
for Graduate Programs

Areas of Emphasis

The PhD program provides four interdisciplinary areas of emphasis that leverage diverse yet complementary faculty strengths. Collectively, they encompass the social, environmental, and spatial sciences and reflect our commitment to collaboration and integration across traditional academic disciplines.

To foster livable and resilient communities, cities, and regions, our students and faculty closely examine interactions between governing bodies, members of civil society, and the places they live, while also developing tools and approaches that enable more sustainable futures. Courses and research projects in this area draw from fields related to land use planning, housing, and transportation policy, human geography, and community planning.

Affiliated PhD Faculty Members 
Christopher AgeeJeremy Németh
Jody BeckBrian Page
Louise BordelonShawhin Roudbari
Edelina BurciagaChristy L Rogers
Deserai CrowManish Shirgaokar
Nan EllinGregory Simon
Bruce GoldsteinAustin Troy
Jennifer Steffel JohnsonBryan Wee
Chris KoziolChris Weible
Carrie Makarewicz 

To protect our natural resources, promote healthy and safe communities, and improve the communication of environmental knowledge, our students and faculty examine diverse social-environmental relationships in built and natural settings. Within this area of emphasis, our courses and projects utilize insights from fields such as human-environment geography, landscape architecture, environmental planning, and physical geography.

Affiliated PhD Faculty Members 
Peter AnthamattenTanya Heikkila
Jody BeckJamie Hodgkins
Louise BordelonLisa Kelley
Christy BrilesChris Koziol
Sasha Breger BushRafael Moreno-Sanchez
Fred ChambersJeremy Németh
Anne ChinGregory Simon
Ben CrawfordDale Stahl
Deserai CrowAustin Troy
Priyanka deSouzaBryan Wee
Nan EllinChris Weible
Bruce GoldsteinMargaret Woodhull


To promote social justice and sustainable land use in both local and international contexts, our students and faculty contribute to planning practices and policy pathways that improve the lives and livelihoods of diverse communities and future generations. Within this area of emphasis, our courses and research projects draw on fields such as community planning, environmental justice, and political ecology.

Affiliated PhD Faculty Members 
Christopher AgeeJeremy Németh
Peter AnthamattenMarty Otañez
Jody BeckBrian Page
Sasha Breger BushChristy L Rogers
Deserai CrowShawhin Roudbari
Priyanka deSouzaManish Shirgaokar
Nan EllinGregory Simon
Bruce GoldsteinDale Stahl
Jennifer Steffel JohnsonAustin Troy
Lisa KelleyBryan Wee
Chris KoziolChris Weible
Carrie Makarewicz 


When conducting cutting-edge research, advancing novel theories, and developing creative solutions, our students and faculty are encouraged to employ mixed-methods research approaches. Members of the program use a combination of innovative qualitative and quantitative methodologies, iterative design and decision-making approaches, advanced geospatial technologies, hands-on fieldwork, and engaged public scholarship.

Affiliated PhD Faculty Members 
Peter AnthamattenCarrie Makarewicz
Osman AttmannRafael Moreno-Sanchez
Anne ChinJeremy Németh
Priyanka deSouzaBrian Page
Bruce GoldsteinManish Shirgaokar
Tanya HeikkilaGregory Simon
Michael JensonAustin Troy
Chris Koziol 



Students choose their coursework and design original research in consultation with a faculty advisor and dissertation committee. Most students complete the program in four to five years, and all degree requirements must be completed within eight years of matriculation. The minimum residency requirement is four semesters, not including summer semesters.

The program requires a minimum of 66 hours of graduate work, 30 of which must be earned while in residence. Prior to advancement to candidacy, students complete a minimum of 36 credit hours in core requirements and elective courses in their area of focus, all of which must be at the Graduate level (5000 and above). All PhD students are required to take 12 credit hours of core courses. After coursework is completed, students pass a comprehensive exam, defend their dissertation proposal, and then write and defend their dissertation.

Learning Outcomes

The program is committed to developing and implementing efficient and effective processes of assessment and evaluation to advance student learning, teaching effectiveness, and program quality. The program’s five student learning outcomes provide the faculty and students with a shared understanding of the goals directing the curriculum. Upon graduation with a PhD in Geography, Planning, and Design, students will be able to:

  • exhibit a comprehensive understanding of content area(s) of focus;
  • anchor ideas in scholarship and identify novel areas for scholarly pursuit;
  • conduct quality research appropriate to the field;
  • create written products that are clear and logical in form; and
  • present clear and convincing ideas orally that demonstrate a strong understanding of the areas of focus.


The minimum requirement is 36 credit hours of coursework, all of which must be at the Graduate level (5000 and above) and 30 hours of dissertation credits. All PhD students are required to take 12 credit hours of core courses.

The curriculum is divided into four stages:

The program requires a minimum of 66 hours of graduate work, 30 of which must be earned while in residence.

Each student’s curriculum is tailored to his/her individual needs and is determined in close consultation with the dissertation advisor. Within their area of specialization, students will identify a major area of study and an outside field of study. All students are required to enroll in the PhD colloquium and Research Methods core courses during the first and second years of course work.

Travel Study Opportunities

Tuition & Fees

The University of Colorado Denver has one of the most affordable tuition rates in Colorado.  Our tuition and fees are set by the Board of Regents, the governing body of the University of Colorado.  Tuition is based on student classification (undergraduate, graduate, academic program, resident or nonresident) and you can find out what rates will apply to your situation here.
All CAP Graduate Programs have WICHE-WRGP (Western Regional Graduate Program) status, which grants in-state resident tuition to students from 15 western states including California, Washington, Oregon and Arizona.

Typical Course of Study

Independent Studies

All independent or directed studies must be related to the student’s major or minor area of study, comprehensive examinations, and/or dissertation topic. The number of credit hours for independent studies is limited to a maximum of three per semester over the first four semesters of coursework. Independent study course work cannot exceed 25 percent of the 66 credits of course work required for the PhD degree.

Transfer Credits

Incoming students may request transfer credits from previously-completed graduate-level courses by following the regulations outlined in Section 4 of the Graduate School Policies & Procedures document, with the exception that the PhD program only allows up to nine (9) transfer credits for each student.

Living in Denver

Student & Alumni Profiles

Master of Urban and Regional Planning Students at Orientation

PhD Student Profiles

MURPAA Board Member Eugene Howard

PhD Alumni Profiles


College of Architecture and Planning

CU Denver

CU Denver Building

1250 14th Street


Denver, CO 80202


CMS Login