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.
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. 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
per full-time academic year (15 credits) - fees vary
per full-time academic year (15 credits) - fees vary
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 and Procedures document, with the exception that the PhD program only allows up to nine (9) transfer credits for each student.
Applicants admitted to the PhD Program must already hold a Master’s degree and will normally have completed the requirements for the Master of Architecture, Master of Planning, Master of Landscape Architecture, Master of Geography, or a related program. Students from allied fields are also encouraged to apply, and field specialization and background are open.
Consistent with the University requirements, applications are evaluated based on Grade Point Average (GPA) scores, (optional) Graduate Record of Examination (GRE) scores, and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores (where applicable). All exams must have been taken within a year before applying to the program:
The following documents must be submitted before an application will be considered:
For Fall 2021 Admittance:
Application Opens: September 1, 2020
Application Deadline: December 15, 2020
If you’re interested in coming to CU as a new student or to continue your education even temporarily, we are here for you. Please contact CAP Admissions Coordinator Jodi Stock.
Questions on how to submit your application should be addressed to:
Graduate School Admissions
Nearly all accepted students receive multi-year financial packages that cover some or all tuition and fees and a living stipend. PhD students also have opportunities to teach their own courses or work as research or teaching assistants alongside faculty from the college and across the university.
Current students are funded by grants and contracts from agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the Babbitt Center, Denver Housing Authority (DHA), the Water Research Foundation, and the Gates Family Foundation.
The doctoral program also provides two additional internal funding opportunities: