FAQs

Questions about the program and the certificate

Who is the certificate program intended for?

Students in professional and doctoral degree programs in the College of Built Environments who wish to specialize in urban design.

Who is eligible for the certificate program?

Any student accepted to the BLA, MLA, MArch, or MUP programs; anyone accepted to the Interdisciplinary PhD in Urban Design & Planning or the PhD in the Built Environment.

Will this ever become a degree program?

That is very unlikely, though sometime in the future a separate Master of Urban Design degree may be available. We don’t have a projected date for this.

Will this ever become a stand-alone certificate program that people who aren't students in the programs listed above can take?

It is unlikely that this will ever be officially available—however, see the next question.

Can local professionals take this certificate program?

This is not an official University Extension certificate program; however, anyone is welcome to take any course at the University of Washington as a non-matriculated student on a space-available basis. See University of Washington Non-Degree Enrollment information for non-matriculated students. If a local professional wished to complete the certificate coursework, we would be happy to advise and assist them in any way we could, and on completion would write a letter asserting that they have completed the certificate curriculum. Please email Neile Graham if you would like to be added to our email list for course and event announcements; we are happy to add anyone interested to this list.

Can UW students who are not in those degree programs listed above enroll in the certificate program?

Not formally, no. However, students from other programs are more than welcome in many of our urban design courses, and please email the program if you would like to be added to our email list for course and event announcements; we are happy to add anyone interested to this list.If a student not in the listed programs wished to complete the certificate coursework, we would be happy to advise and assist them in any way we could, and on completion would write a letter asserting that they have completed the certificate curriculum. Please email Neile Graham if you would like to be added to our email list for course and event announcements; we are happy to add anyone interested to this list.

Questions about the curriculum

Do you need any special prerequisites to begin the certificate program?

It is helpful for students to have some sort of design background. However, if you don't, there are a number of courses each quarter that can help you develop your design skills. In Autumn Quarter we offer a course called Urban Design Composition which can be of great help to you. The College also offers many excellent courses on design graphics. We recommend a sequence of courses through Architecture, Arch 210 and 211 Design Drawing I & II, respectively. Also recommended are: ARCH 314 Introduction to Architectural Drawing, ARCH 415 Architectural Sketching, ARCH 416 Freehand Drawing and the Digital Realm, ARCH 418 Watercolor Drawing, L ARCH 310 Landscape Architecture Field Sketching, L ARCH 311 Introduction to Design Graphics, and L ARCH 411 Landscape Representative. We also believe that any class—whether an official UW course or something through the Experimental College or your local community college or neighborhood center—that will help you work on your hand-eye drawing coordination will be beneficial to you.

Do I need to take an introductory course?

It is not required in all circumstances, but we do offer UrbDP 470 Introduction to Urban Design in Spring Quarter, and highly recommend it to anyone interested in urban design, and in almost all cases the credits count toward the certificate. Please see our curriculum page for introductory courses for specific degree programs.

Will certificate program courses count towards my degree?

Yes. Certificate courses count toward your electives and the total credits required for your degree.

What's this about an urban design specialization? Is that the same as the Urban Design Certificate?

There is also an internal specialization for MUP students (students from other programs are not eligible for this) which differs from the certificate in that the requirements are entirely internal to the MUP curriculum. MUP students are required to do a specialization and the urban design specialization is just one of those options. MUP students may do the certificate program curriculum as their specialization, or the specialization curriculum—either will count as their specialization. Just note that the curriculum for the MUP specialization and the Certificate with the MUP is different so you need to watch that the courses you are taking fit one curriculum or the other, or you might end up having to make up requirements or taking the wrong things. There's some overlap, so it's easy to confuse or mix the two. Ask Neile if you have questions. She tracks MUP urban design specialization students as well as Certificate students.

How do I know which courses count toward the 12–15 credits required for the certificate?

Basically any urban design courses you take from within the Urban Design curriculum that aren't required for your degree program count. If it's a core course for your degree or is a required selective/elective then it doesn't count (but still may be required for you to receive the certificate). Confused? Ask Neile.

What do I do if I can't take a required certificate class the quarter it's offered?

Talk to us and find out if there is a substitute available, or if you can take the course the following year.

What do I do if I've taken a course elsewhere similar to one of the Urban Design courses here?

If it's for a required core course, please request a waiver. We ask that you write us a brief email outlining what the course covered and which course you think it is similar to, attaching a copy of the syllabus, your transcripts, your assignments for the course, or some other material that documents what the course covered. However, please be aware that we don't waive the number of credits required—you will still need to do 12–15 credits to receive the certificate.

Will I be able to graduate on time if I add the certificate program to my degree?

Yes, if you plan carefully, can handle a full course load every quarter, and don't have too many other electives you wish to take. Tracking graduation times for certificate and non-certificate students has shown that taking the certificate doesn’t seem to be what makes the difference between people graduating “on time” or not. What seems to make a difference is the certificate plus additional factors like quarters spent abroad, an additional specialization, internships, etc.

Who do I talk to if I have further questions about the program?

Talk to Neile Graham, the program coordinator, if you have general questions about course availability, how to fit courses into your degree program, how to request course waivers, etc. Her office is Gould 410L, just off the main Urban Design & Planning Office. Her hours are Monday through Friday 7:30 – 12:30. Her phone is 206-543-5996. The program is currently governed by its faculty, so if you have more academic questions about the discipline, your background, how the certificate will match your interests and your professional ambitions, etc., please ask Neile who is the most appropriate person for you to consult.

What is all this about a review?

In the quarter following your second urban design studio, we will try to schedule a time for you to meet with two or three Urban Design Faculty members, and Neile. There are two purposes for this review: the first is to give you an opportunity to discuss urban design and your graduate program plans with members of the urban design faculty; the second is to give the faculty a chance to assess your progress, program accomplishments, and achievements in urban design at this point in the program and to talk with you about your plans for your thesis and your future career.

What if I fail my review?

It's not a test, so there's no pass/fail. The faculty may suggest you be re-reviewed when you have gone a little farther in your progress toward your certificate, or they may recommend you take certain courses before you graduate, but that's it. Nothing to be nervous about.

What should I bring to the review?

We will have your urban design program file on hand. In addition, please bring a sample of your studio work and any other material you wish to bring to give the faculty some idea as to your design skills and background and areas of interest within urban design: reports, drawings, projects, papers, etc. Anything you think is appropriate.

How does being in the certificate program affect the kind of thesis/capstone/professional project I write?

Your thesis (or professional project) must have an urban design component, and it must be chaired by a faculty member from the Urban Design Program.

How can I find out who is available to me as a thesis/capstone/professional project chair/advisor?

The certificate requires that your chair be on the Urban Design Program faculty and your department requires that your chair be on your department's graduate faculty. See the faculty list. Following each faculty member’s name is/are the department(s) they have graduate appointments in.

What kind of theses have previous students done?

We have a list of thesis/capstone/professional projects done by urban design certificate students for your perusal. The formal theses from 2012 on are available online (as long as the author has released them), and previous ones are available in the library on the third floor of Gould Hall.

Is there any kind of proposal approval required for the thesis/capstone/professional project?

We check with your chair/advisor at graduation to confirm that your thesis or project has an urban design component appropriate for the certificate, so it is worth your while to discuss this with your chair/advisor while you’re developing your project rather than after the fact.

What do I get at the end of all this?

An actual piece of paper with an official seal and signatures stating that you having completed the certificate. Completion of the certificate program is recognized by employers as substantial preparation for a career in urban design.

Questions about how to sign up (or not)

How do I sign up?

There is a Statement of Interest form available available at the link or on paper in Neile's office in Gould 410L. All you have to do is complete the form and return it to her.

What if I just want to take a couple of classes but don't necessarily want to complete enough credits for the certificate? Is that okay?

You're welcome to take classes and hear about events without the certificate. Just let us know you want to be on the mailing list.

I signed up for the certificate but have run out of time and won’t be able to complete the certificate courses before I graduate. How do I un-sign up?

This happens, and we appreciate knowing. Just email Neile.

I don’t want to do the certificate, but would like to be on the email list. May I be?

You are very welcome to be on the list, whether you’re just curious, want to take a course here and there or just want to keep up. Email Neile and ask to be added, whether you’re currently a student or not. All are welcome.

Questions about urban design careers

What kind of career does the certificate program prepare me for?

Usually students' professional degree programs have the largest effect on the kind of jobs they are eligible for upon graduation; what the certificate program does is to prepare you for urban design positions within your profession, for example with urban design firms, or with public and private agencies that deal with urban design. A certificate makes you more competitive for urban design-related jobs and can make you more competitive for any generalist job in your field.

Where can I meet other students interested in the certificate program?

We have an annual gathering in October, and you will meet other interested students in your urban design classes and studios. We also occasionally have other gatherings and events. The program also sponsors the Wolfe lectures.