Urban Design Specialization | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
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Urban Design Specialization

The Urban Design specialization brings interdisciplinary thinking to the multifaceted public health challenges across urban, built environments.

Our curriculum prepares students to understand, address and prevent the adverse health consequences and inequities associated with poorly designed urban landscapes. This specialization is offered in collaboration with Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

Strong evidence indicates that the built environment can create or restrict opportunities for healthy living. The greatest improvements in population health will come from innovative, intersectoral collaborations around issues of public health, housing, food and recreation access, work sites, transportation and urban design—areas our students learn to address.

The specialization prepares students to meet those challenges from an evidence-based and transdisciplinary perspective. Students learn essential methodologies including Geographic Information Systems and Health Impact Assessments.

Specialization Requirements: 15 Credits

  • Public Health & Urban Design Seminar*
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Transdisciplinary Problem Solving: Public Health and the Built Environment
  • MPH practicum (urban design-focused)
  • Two of the following courses: Metropolitan Sustainability, Metropolitan Urbanism, or Metropolitan Development

Other courses of interest may include:

  • Community Development & American Cities*
  • Developing Sustainable Urban Communities*
  • Urban Development Seminar*

*Taught through or with WashU’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts


The MPH program requires 360 hours of practicum. Sample Urban Design practicum sites include:

  • Beyond Housing
  • City of St. Louis Department of Health
  • Community Health Institute/John Snow Institute
  • Prevention Research Center
  • Trailnet
  • DeSales Community Development
  • Dutchtown South Community Corporation

Rodrigo Reis

Specialization Chair

Professor Rodrigo S. Reis focuses his research on physical activity and public health, with particular interest in community interventions for promoting physical activity, built environment and health, and physical activity surveillance. Reis is a founding member and former president of the Brazilian Society for Physical Activity and Health.

Rebecca Gernes

Featured Graduate

“How can we make our environments healthier? Whether it’s planting trees, putting in bike lanes or building a farmer’s market or a grocery store, I think, ‘Who are the people that are going to benefit from them and what can we do to make them accessible to everybody?’”

—Rebecca Gernes, MSW/MPH ’14, Program Administrator, Denver Community active living coalition, city and county of denver