BA, Urban Planning & Sustainable Development

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About the Program

WWU's College of the Environment's B.A. in Urban Planning and Sustainable Development (UPSD) Program is nationally accredited through the Planning Accreditation Board.

The Urban Planning and Sustainable Development major emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to solving urban problems that face communities. The program emphasizes a concern for progressive change through the planning of equitable, healthful, livable, diverse, and sustainable communities for present and future generations. The curriculum combines urban planning, sustainable design, policy and environmental science to provide students with an understanding of the linkages between urban and the multidimensional problems in urban development. Our program aspires to serve diverse communities and we encourage students with a breadth of backgrounds and life experiences to apply.

The program prepares students with the knowledge and skills needed to make positive changes towards a socially and environmentally just world. Graduates are prepared for professional careers in planning agencies, consulting firms, and nonprofit organizations at the local, state, and federal levels of government, as well as advanced graduate study.


The program envisions a society where individuals and groups can fully participate in the planning and development of their communities such that basic needs of safety, shelter, livelihoods, and opportunity for self-realization are met for all. Community aspirations, as understood by diverse segments of the community, are discussed freely and form the foundation of planning for a more sustainable, equitable, and just future, with special consideration for those who are most marginalized and for the ecological systems that sustain and inspire us.


The mission of the Urban Planning and Sustainable Development Program is to cultivate students to become future planning leaders who are ethical, knowledgeable, and technically capable to assist communities as they plan their futures. The Urban Planning program’s mission affirms and works within the broader mission of Western’s College of the Environment to integrate an outstanding urban planning educational program through faculty-student collaboration, applied research, and professional and community service.


The UPSD major offers specializations in the following subfields:

  • Urban Design
  • Hazards Planning
  • Tribal and Indigenous Planning
  • Climate Action
  • Food Security
  • Business and Sustainability
  • Student/Faculty Designed Specialization or an Approved Minor
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A group of students gathered around a scale model of a plot of land.

Applying to the program

Applications are due April 18 of each year.

As a nationally accredited professional planning program, admission to the Urban Planning and Sustainable Development major at the College of the Environment is a competitive process. The program typically accepts a junior cohort class during spring quarter. Before applying, students are encouraged to complete UPSD foundation courses.

Application Content

Submit an a PDF copy of your portfolio that includes the following:

  • A statement of interest (700-1,000 words) that describes your interest in the urban planning major; your familiarity with urban planning and sustainable development problems; and your vision and affinity to work in the planning field.
  • A resume summarizing academic, curricular, extra-curricular, and volunteer activities.
  • A portfolio of work that demonstrates your skills and affinity with the major.

Suggested Portfolio Materials

Include any or all of the following, or any other materials that represent your vision, skills, and experience:

  • Examples of your best academic writing;
  • An annotated list of no more than three inspirational readings;
  • Examples of creative expression, drawings, or other illustrative skills; and
  • Description of volunteer or work activities.

Applications are ranked based on the applicants’ demonstrated interests in solving urban planning problems; commitment to planning’s social and environmental justice goals; aspirations for working in the public interest; relevant skills and experiences; and academic performance. Applicant selection is also based on creating a cohort representing diverse perspectives and lived experiences.

Before you apply

To become familiar with the work of urban planning and our program’s curriculum, applicants should also review the American Planning Association website.

Applications for admission to the program are accepted at the College of the Environment Office in ES 539.

If you have any questions, please contact a professional advisor at the College of the Environment College Student Support office in ES 539, or by phone at 360-650-2817 or 360-650-3748.

Examples of Student Portfolio Submissions

On Planning's Commitment to Justice

We are committed to social change towards a more just and equitable society and to engage in anti-discriminatory work that is needed to bring about the changes we seek. As urban planners, we are especially aware of the role that the planning profession and allied fields have played in oppressing and exploiting marginalized communities. Our goal is to confront this legacy and to use the skills and tools of planning, and the power of education and scholarship, to carry forward the goals of justice and equity within our program, in our classrooms, our university, our profession, and the communities we serve.

Planning News

PAB Accreditation News

We received notice on December 11, 2020, from PAB that our application for re-accreditation has been approved for the next five years.


Senior Planning Studio received the 2020 Washington American Planning Association and Planning Association of Washington Excellence in Planning Award for City of Ferndale Downtown Redevelopment Plan and the 2017 Outstanding Planning Project for its International Sustainable Planning Study in Greece.

In 2019 UPSD Professor Zaferatos was awarded the Myer R. Wolfe Awards for professional achievement to the advancement of the Planning Profession.

Additional Information

For more information on the College of the Environment's UPSD program, please explore the following documentation:

Planning Studio Publications