Master of Arts in Community Planning

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Program Overview

The Master of Arts in Community Planning degree is designed to develop civic leaders who are equipped to make change in networks of public and private actors, helping to create more just, sustainable, and livable urban futures. This degree is premised on the following ideas:

  1. “Community” is not a singular concept; moreover, less visible and under-resourced urban publics are often in need of specific forms of investment and support in order to engage the political process;
  2. "Planning” is about enacting urban socio-spatial futures, through a variety of different professional roles; as such it happens in a number of different organizational settings and job titles;
  3. The ways that people act and the social structures within which they are able to act are co-constituted; one creates and re-creates the other, and effective change agents use existing structures to generate new forms of action, and/or take singular, strategic actions to enable, demand, or elicit structural change.

Graduates will be prepared to be competent collaborative professionals who work with and empower community constituents, influencing processes of policy formation, resource generation, community change, and urban development.  The program's emphasis on urban social issues, community development, and urban problem solving, and its commitment to training students to think critically and creatively, to work collaboratively in the interest of creating sustainable communities and to effectively communicate knowledge in a variety of ways is a direct expression of the UW Tacoma mission as an higher education institution.  

Skills Developed

Qualitative and quantitative analytical skills
Asset mapping
Persuasive argument and critique
Development finance and budgeting
Collaboration with NGOs
Communications planning and design
Conflict management
Cost-benefit analysis
Design and facilitation of public meetings
Graphic communication
Project management
Professional writing skills
Strategic planning and prioritization
Succinct and effective public messaging

Program Design

The two-year, 60 credit program is designed to support an annual cohort of up to 20 students.  The program can be completed in two years by taking 10 credits per quarter (full time) or longer than two years by taking 5 credits per quarter (part time). Courses are to be taken in the prescribed sequence. 

Course Schedule (pdf)

COURSE #     





TCMP 521

Planning Theory and Practice




Course Description: Explores how community planners and other actors engage theories of planning procedures and preferred urban forms to guide urban development and social change.  Also considers how leading scholars in the field have theorized the potential and challenges of planning.

TCMP 554

Community Development




Course Description: Examines academic, policy, and practice dimensions of community development; and foregrounds resident-centered sustainable and equitable development strategies. Students gain skills to integrate and synthesize multiple perspectives into coherent, unified vision; as well as specific practices they can employ to make communities better places to live, work and raise families.

TCMP 572

Planning for Equity




Course Description: Provides an overview of the equity planning tradition in urban affairs and community planning. Introduces participatory process, democratic deliberation, and inclusive management. Emphasizes planning skills for recognizing, empowering and resourcing groups and individuals with historical, economic, and operational disadvantages in processes of urban development and decision-making.

TCMP 546

Strategic Influence




Course Description: Provide conceptual framework and the practical skills for understanding/analyzing the potential of strategic thinking to inform and engage community and assess public will. Exposes students to divergent/convergent thinking; analysis of diverse perspectives, the role of communication in information gathering, community engagement; and social documentation.  

TCMP 571

Legal Urbanism




Course Description: Explores the relationship between law and the city, examining how “law” situates cities and urban residents in the US and shapes behaviors and environments in cities. Considers how legal structures enable or inhibit urban social justice and how they might be used to advance socially just and sustainable urban conditions.

TCMP 582

Movement and Organizing




Course Description: Introduces students to the role of local organizations in advocating for urban policies and social change. Develop the skill to distill and summarize theoretical readings and the competency to gather and analyze data in the context of a process evaluation. Prerequisites:  TCMP 554, TCMP 546

TCMP 557

Urban Spatial Design




Course Description: Introduces students to the social dimensions of place-making through design in a studio style course. Develop a facility for creating and managing community-engaged charrettes that lead to publicly informed urban design projects.

TCMP 573

Power and Decentralization




Course Description: Presents theoretical frameworks for analyzing political power in collaborative networks. Introduces analytic methods for understanding and anticipating how power operates in decentralized governance, including the ways in which community groups and urban stakeholders can identify key coalitions, political frames, and entry points in processes of urban development and resource allocation.  Prerequisites:  TCMP 572, TCMP 521

TCMP 525

Property and Capital




Course Description: Focuses on low-income, mixed-income, and affordable housing policies in the U.S. Students will learn about public and private finance mechanisms for the development and capitalization of these housing products.

TCMP 590

Community Planning Practicum I




Course Description: Develop an annotated bibliography, work with an agency or NGO partner to identify a specific need, develop a formal statement of need and project plan, including a plan for implementing the project.  Prerequisite:  Completion of 40 credits of TCMP coursework.

TCMP 566

Analyzing Community




Course Description: Asks students to think critically about the way we imagine and construct “community” and “communities” – ideas that are often naturalized and romanticized in social movement literature.  It exposes students to feminist, post-structuralist, Foucauldian, and other critical social theories, as well as non-US based examples. 

TCMP 591

Community Planning Practicum II




Course Description: Work with a faculty advisor and community-partner liaison to identify and complete a work product that is useful for the partner and that uses concepts and tools learned in the MA Program.  Engage in self-assessment of the project and the experience. Prerequisite: TCMP 590

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Understand the structural forms of socio-spatial power that produce inequitable patterns in metropolitan development; understand the history of social movements (including current community organizing models) that challenge the status quo
  2. Be capable of interpreting and organizing a theoretically informed policy position, including efficient and accurate practices of reading, summarizing, sourcing and citing examples from other locations including, failed solutions and/or peer-reviewed research

  3. Develop and experience practices of policy analysis, project management and community engagement, using interpretive, relational and positivist methods

  4. Be comfortable accessing, collecting,  organizing, and analyzing primary and secondary data sources to create findings relevant for quantitative and qualitative evaluation, narrative development, and the creation of "findings" and contextual landscape analyses

  5. Become proficient at succinct, research-based, effective, professional forms of planning communication in a variety of genres appropriate for broad audiences and targeted communities

  6. Be able to carry out stages of analysis and action in a community-based process of policy advocacy, inclusive planning and/or institutional change through a variety of methods and tool development including advocacy documentation and community organizing

Instructional Faculty

Ali Modarres

Ph.D., Geography, University of Arizona, 1990

Anaid Yerena

Ph.D., Planning Policy, and Design, University of California, Irvine, 2015

Anne Wessells

Ph.D Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine, 2007

Fern Tiger

M.F.A., The Pennsylvania State University, 1969

James Thatcher

Ph.D., Geography, Clark University, 2014

JW Harrington 

Ph.D., Geography, University of Washington, 1983

Linda Ishem

Ph.D., Social Welfare, University of Washington, 2008

Lisa Hoffman

Ph.D., Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, 2000

Mark Pendras

Ph.D., Geography, Rutgers University, 2005

Yonn Dierwechter

Ph.D., Geography and Environment, London School of Economics, 2001

All Urban Studies Faculty