About Urban Studies

The Barnard–Columbia Urban Studies program enables students to explore and understand the urban experience in all of its richness and complexity.

It recognizes the city as an amalgam of diverse peoples and their social, political, economic, and cultural interactions within a distinctive built environment. Students study the evolution and variety of urban forms and governance structures, which create opportunities for, as well as constrain, the exercise of human agency, individual and collective. They explore the place of the city in different historical and comparative contexts, as well as in the human imagination.

Majors build an intellectual foundation that combines interdisciplinary coursework and a concentration of study within a single field. Through the two-semester junior seminars, students study urban history and contemporary issues, and at the same time hone their interdisciplinary, analytical and research skills. This shared experience prepares them for their independent research project in their senior year. We encourage our majors to use New York City as a laboratory, and many courses draw on the vast resources of the city and include an off-campus experience.


Student Learning Objectives:

Having successfully completed the major in Urban Studies, our students are able to:

  • Apply concepts or methods from more than one social science or adjacent discipline to analyze an urban issue or problem.
  • Describe the distinctive social, cultural, and spatial features of cities and illustrate their impacts on the urban experience.
  • Apply basic skills of empirical reasoning to an urban problem.
  • Explain how the idea of the city varies in different historical and comparative contexts.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with a particular disciplinary approach to the city as an object of study.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the history and variety of urban forms and governance structures.
  • Articulate a well-defined research question, conduct independent research using primary sources and a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches, and write a substantive research paper.
  • Communicate ideas effectively in written or oral form.
  • Organize and present group research projects.