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Master of Urban and Regional Planning

MURP Degree Overview

The UHM-MURP degree program is fully accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board.

This professional program is designed to:

  • Equip students to fill professional planning and policy analysis roles in public agencies, international organizations, private firms, and community groups, particularly in Hawai‘i, Asia, and the Pacific Basin;
  • Develop and apply new knowledge in the field of planning; and
  • Provide service to public agencies, communities, and others concerned with urban and regional planning.

Students typically take two to three years to complete the MURP program, which requires a minimum of 42 credit hours. Please refer to the Curriculum in Brief for details about course requirements and the Course Streams.

Grades of B or better are required in PLAN 600, 601, and 603, and an average of B or better must be earned in all courses counted towards the MURP degree.

Both thesis (Plan A) and non-thesis (Plan B) options are available. All students are required to pass a final examination, including successful defense of the thesis (Plan A) or capstone (Plan B) in addition to meeting the departmental standards for graduation.

No one course of study is appropriate for all, or even a majority, of the students in the Department. Much emphasis is therefore placed on advising. When the student is admitted to the Department, he/she is initially advised by the Graduate Chair. At the initial advising session after admission, each student is encouraged to specify his or her field of interest:

  1. Community planning
  2. Disaster management and humanitarian assistance
  3. Environmental planning and natural resource management
  4. Housing
  5. International development planning
  6. Land use, transportation and infrastructure planning

Students may change their field of interest in consultation with his/her advisor. It is important that each student embark on a well planned course of study. Attention must be paid to the correct sequencing of courses.

By the end of the first semester of study, students should select a member of the Urban and Regional Planning faculty to serve as the student’s advisor.

As the student progresses, more emphasis will be laid on his/her interests, in particular as they are to be expressed through a thesis (Plan A) or work in a focus (Plan B, Capstone). The focus may either fall within one area or bridge interest across two or more areas of interest. At this later stage a committee is formed for each student at his/her invitation. The committee, consisting of at least three faculty members, two of whom must be from the Urban and Regional Planning Department, carries the primary responsibility for assuring that subsequent coursework is appropriate for the student.

The chairperson and committee ultimately certify that the student has met the standards for graduation. Committee formulation is a formal process, initiated by the student and approved by the Department chairperson and the Graduate Division.

Student Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of the Masters in Urban and Regional Planning, students will be able to:

  1. Explain major planning paradigms and their applications;
  2. Articulate processes leading to urbanization and rationales for planned interventions;
  3. Apply planning methods to organize, analyze, interpret and present information;
  4. Critically and creatively develop planning inquiries or processes to foster solutions-oriented decision-making;
  5. Effectively collaborate as a planning team to work with a client and/or stakeholders to assess and address a relevant planning problem to create a plan or professional report;
  6. Effectively present oral and written work (as a plan, professional report, or research paper) in a coherent, persuasive and professional manner; and
  7. Reflect upon the ethical implications of the choices planners make as professionals.

MURP Criteria

Admission to the Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) degree program requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Most students entering the degree program have concentrated at the undergraduate level in the social sciences, natural sciences, architecture, or engineering. Others have specialized in the humanities, business, or the physical sciences. The Department encourages applicants from a variety of fields.

A student admitted to the MURP degree program is expected to have a basic foundation in descriptive/inferential statistics. A student who has not achieved competence in statistics may be admitted to the degree program but will need to make up any deficiency prior to being advanced to candidacy for the degree. Remedial coursework in statistics, which may be taken on a credit/no credit basis, will not count toward the degree.

Preference in admission is given to students with good preparation in the following areas:

  1. Social and natural sciences insofar as they are relevant to urban and regional processes, e.g., coursework in urban economics, regional geography, environmental science;
  2. Research methods, e.g., statistical analysis, survey research;
  3. Physical systems analysis and design, e.g., architecture, transportation engineering, urban design;
  4. Planning or administration, e.g., work in a planning department or consulting firm, experience in administering a program, office, or neighborhood council.

Special consideration for admission is given to students who have had experience with a culture other than their own. Such experience may have been obtained in Peace Corps, Vista, or through less formal involvement.

Native speakers of English and those with a degree from a university in which English is the primary medium of instruction, are required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for verbal, math and analytic sections, with a minimum total score of 300. Non-native speakers of English are required to submit either a TOEFL or IELTS Academic score with a minumum of 76 iBT and 6.5 respectively. Candidates are expected to have a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average. Students with a lower average may be considered for admission on a conditional basis.

The admissions committee is responsible for evaluating a student’s objectives, letters of recommendation, GRE or TOEFL scores, academic record, and experience. The statement submitted by the student as part of his/her application is carefully reviewed by the committee. The committee may request additional data from an applicant. It may also request an interview if arranging one is feasible. Applicants are encouraged to meet with members of the faculty on their own initiative prior to applying if they are in Hawai‘i.

Thesis Option – Plan A

Students may elect to pursue Plan A, the thesis option, if they demonstrate to their advisers sufficient interest, motivation and capability to complete the thesis requirements and are prepared to devote a substantial portion of their graduate study to thesis preparation.

Three credits of coursework are allocated to preparation of the thesis proposal (PLAN 650) and six to the thesis itself (PLAN 700) including at least one credit in the semester that the degree is to be awarded. Students wishing to complete a thesis must declare their intent prior to enrolling in PLAN 700 and must do so before finishing 24 credits. This normally takes place in the third semester of study in the program.

The faculty recommend that the student prepare a brief prospectus (not exceeding three pages) which explains the proposed thesis topic and the methodology to be employed and circulate it among the faculty well in advance of committing himself/herself to the preparation of a thesis proposal. This feedback stage is instrumental in determining whether the topic is a reasonable one and whether faculty resources are appropriate to the topic. A guide for proposal writing is available to students from the Department office.

Each Plan A student is to enroll in PLAN 650: Research Design (unless waived by the Departmental chairperson on recommendation of the committee chairperson) and prepare a thesis proposal under the guidance of his/her adviser. If the thesis proposal is not completed and defended prior to the final examination period of the semester of enrollment in PLAN 650, it is likely that the faculty will recommend that the student switch to the Plan B option. (PLAN 650 cannot be counted toward a Plan B MURP degree.) The actual writing of the thesis follows the defense of the proposal. The preparation and defense of the proposal requires the formation of a committee chaired by a member of the Urban and Regional Planning graduate faculty. An outside member on the committee is highly recommended. Students interested in pursuing Plan A should take the appropriate initiative to ensure steady progress throughout the proposal, research, thesis writing and oral presentation stages.

For more information, please refer to our Thesis Guide (Plan A).

Capstone – Plan B

The University of Hawaii permits graduate programs some flexibility in specifying requirements for graduate degrees. The Urban and Regional Planning Department currently exercises the thesis option (Plan A) and the non-thesis option (Plan B), which is referred to as the Capstone Paper.

A Capstone Paper (Plan B) is differentiated from a M.A. thesis (Plan A) in three ways. The Capstone Paper is shorter in length, and is normally expected to be no more that 60 pages in length, double-spaced, excluding figures and appendices. Second, its purpose is to show competence in a sub-field of planning rather than test a hypothesis or develop new concepts or theories though primary data collection. Third, it is generally intended for students who intend to finish graduate studies in planning at the M.A. level and seek professional careers outside of academia rather than continue on to Ph.D. studies and careers in university level planning education.

The Plan B option, pursued by most MURP degree candidates, permits the student to take more formal coursework than is usually taken by the Plan A student. Plan B requires the student to specify a “focus area” of his/her own choosing. The Department does not prescribe a list of appropriate focuses. Rather, each student is invited to formulate his or her own focus. The specific focus is to fall within the following areas of departmental and faculty specialization:

• Policy and program planning
• Environmental planning
• Development planning
• Land use and infrastructure planning

Examples of focuses are social impact assessment, housing policy, environmental mediation, historic preservation, energy planning, planning information systems, urban design, community participation in planning, community-based planning, and agricultural land-use planning.

For more information, please refer to our Capstone Guide (Plan B).

Memorandum of Agreement between the Center for Hawaiian Studies and Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Having a deep understanding and appreciation of Hawaiʻi’s cultural, land use and resource management history is critical for planners working in Hawaiʻi. Moreover, bringing this knowledge into modern context is at the forefront of responsible place-based planning practice. This memorandum of agreement (MOA) aims to build relationships between the Center for Hawaiian Studies and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP), with a focus on curriculum pathways. This MOA identifies a set of Hawaiian Studies (HWST) courses in which DURP Master and PhD students can enroll, with waived prerequisites. 

DURP Master and PhD students may take the HWST courses identified below, with waived prerequisites. DURP students may count the identified HWST courses as an elective course, pending approval from their DURP advisor. While HWST 2/300-level courses may be taken, they will not count toward the MURP degree. The Hawaiian Studies courses, while taught in English, rely on Hawaiian language, concepts and primary source documents as a fundamental basis of its academic program. DURP students enrolling in HWST courses are advised and they acknowledge that there is a reasonable expectation by Hawaiian Studies faculty that students be familiar with Hawaiian language in these courses. DURP students wanting to enroll in Hawaiian Studies BA or MA courses can request an override from the teacher of record via email. Questions or concerns can be directed to the HWST BA Academic advisor or the MA Chair directly. This agreement will be in effect from the date of signature and may be updated at any time in writing. Modifications take effect at the date of signature by the Department Chair. 

HWST 207 Hawaiian Perspectives in Ahupua’a (3) Examination of the ahupuaʻa system: its mythologies, place names, history, poetry and early documents of the Hawaiian nation, as it was conceptualized by the ancient Hawaiians and exploration of its relevance in modern society. A-F only. 

HWST 440 Māhele Land Awards (3) Practical guide to the researching of land awards and change in title for a single ahupua‘a, 1848 to present. Focus on field trips. 

HWST 441 Ceded Lands: Focus on Crown and Government Lands (1848 to Present) (3) Inventorying “Ceded Lands” in Hawaiʻi with emphasis on historical, legal, and cultural changes from the Kingdom through statehood. A-F only. 

HWST 442 Introduction to Indigenous Research Methods (3) Survey course introduces students to a range of methods by beginning with a critical analysis of dominant research methodologies from the perspective of Indigenous scholars. 

HWST 445 Hawaiian Institutions (3) Comprehensive analysis of institutions like Bishop Estate/Kamehameha Schools, OHA, Liliʻuokalani Trust, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and The Queen’s Hospital. 

HWST 455 Ola I Ka Wai: Water and Sovereignty in Hawaiʻi (3) Focus on Hawaiian relationships with Ka Wai Ola a Kane (water), traditional and contemporary water management practices, as well as contemporary resource management issues and Native Hawaiian community advocacy for water. 

HWST 457 ‘Āina Mauliola: Hawaiian Ecosystems (3) Comprehensive analysis of traditional Hawaiian and modern resource management practices. Rigorous overview of the dominant physical and biological processes from the uplands to the oceans in Hawaiʻi. 

HWST 458 Natural Resource Issues and Ethics (4) Overview of the history of land, resources and power in Hawaiʻi; players and processes influencing land and natural resources policies today explored from Native Hawaiian and other viewpoints. Extensive use of case studies. 

HWST 459 Strategies in Hawaiian Resource Use (3) Analyzing diverse land and water use strategies of Oʻahu, from traditional Hawaiian, scientific and economic perspectives, through classroom and on-site lectures. Topics include traditional Hawaiian methods, modern development, threatened ecosystems, ecotourism and scientific research. A-F only. 

HWST 495 Kumu Kānāwai: Western Law and Hawaiʻi (3) The rise of Western law in Hawaiʻi, its contribution to nation building and colonialism. 

HWST 496 Kānāwai II: Practical Application of Rights (3) Historical analysis of land use, race and self determination; introduced to legal case briefing, analysis of legal precedent, practical impacts of rules and regulations and the sociopolitical factors that influence law and law enforcement. A-F only. 

HWST 601 Indigenous Research Methodologies (3) Reading seminar for developing a Native Hawaiian epistemology from sources in comparative indigenous thought. A-F only. HWST 602 Hawaiian Archival Research (3) Research seminar aimed at familiarizing students with the rich historical primary sources existent in various archives in Honolulu. A-F only. 

HWST 691 Kūkulu Aupuni: Sovereign Hawaiian State, Domestic Kingdom Law, Governance and Politics (3) Research seminar on the subject of domestic law, governance, and politics of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the historical relevance of this to the contemporary case for an independent, sovereign state continuity under public international law. A-F only. 


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