All Academic Programs

Students in the MUP program engage with communities in a variety of ways – through workshops and studios, internships and summer opportunities, student groups, volunteering, and elective classes.

Workshops and Studios

  • 2nd Semester Core Planning Studio engages with real world planning problems. In spring 2013 the studio has focused on creating a downtown plan for the City of Malden, an inner suburb with a vibrant immigrant community.  In spring 2014, the core studio worked with the City of Chelsea to produce a plan that incorporated extensive community engagement and outreach in suggesting three visions for the future of the city.
  • Option studios also do practical work, for example:

The Flexible Leviathan: Reconsidering Scale and Fixity in the Contemporary Metropolis (Spring 2013) seeks to produce a vision for Centro Oriente in Mexico City and examine the meaning of sustainable urbanism in large cities while also engaging the real world context of urban policy-making through urban planning and design interventions.

The Storm, the Strife, and Everyday Life: Sea Change in the Suburbs (Fall 2014) compiles community outreach in Long Island to produce new visions, strategies, and tools for the contemporary US suburb.

Kate Balug (2011) looked at artistic practices as a mode of planning engagement in Dorchester and compared this with "standard" planning approaches.

Jessica Yurkofsky (2012) - conducted extensive interviews and engagement with LGBT senior communities in the Boston metro area as part of her thesis.

Internships and Summer Opportunities

Student Groups

Volunteering (coordinated through HUPO)

  • The Community Development Project is an interdisciplinary student-run organization that brings public policy, planning, and architecture students together to work as consultants with community partners working to empower traditionally underserved populations.  Past clients have ranged from Baptist Town, Mississippi, to Somali immigrants in Lewiston Maine, to the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter in Cambridge.  
  • GSD Green Design is a platform to critically engage discourse of sustainability in the built environment while supporting other student groups’ sustainability efforts.
  • The Esplanade Association works to improve the Esplanade in Boston.
  • (Park)ing Day is an annual event where community members transform metered parking spots into temporary parks.
  • Project Link creates opportunities for local high school students to learn about issues related to design and planning through workshops coordinated and run by GSD students. 
  • Citizen Schools is a local after-school program that allows planners to engage with and teach middle school students about the urban planning, policy, and design fields.

Other Classes

Selected classes offering work with real clients:

  • Advanced Workshop in Participatory Urban Planning and Design allows students to work with community organizations from the Roxbury neighborhood and the City of Boston to develop proposals that have the potential to improve living conditions and respond to urgent community needs. The class is held in conjunction with students in the Kennedy School's Solving Problems Using Technology and in partnership with the Boston Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics.
  • Affordable and Mixed-Income Housing Development, Finance, and Management allows students to participate in the Affordable Housing Development Competition (AHDC), a development competition where interdisciplinary student teams primarily from Harvard and MIT work with either non-profit or for-profit clients to develop real affordable and/or mixed-income housing proposals for actual sites in the Greater Boston area.
  • Brownfields Practicum: Regeneration and Reuse of Brownfield Lands allows class members to apply general brownfields knowledge learned in class to particular challenges in the field on behalf the City of Somerville and gain hands-on experience in applied environmental and economic development research and analysis, community brownfield practices, and sustainability planning.
  • Creating Resilient Cities: Disaster Field Lab examines what is happening in New York City and encourage students to participate in the articulation of approaches to increase community resilience on the coast, especially after Hurricane Sandy. The course includes site visits and meetings with local stakeholders.
  • Field Studies in Real Estate, Planning & Urban Design: occur most semesters and involve students working on real-world problems in the US and abroad.
  • Gateway Cities: In this 2012 class Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, and Graduate School of Design students teamed up working on interdisciplinary projects relating to the redevelopment of Gateway Cities, former industrial cities that experienced hard economic times in the wake of economic shifts but are receiving renewed attention from policymakers to see how they can be redeveloped to make them important, successful places for the 21st Century. In this field study, the interdisciplinary teams worked on site specific projects by partnering with state, local and community representatives on ongoing redevelopment projects and policies.
  • Healthy Places: This introductory class conducts a health impact assessment. In 2014 the class is collaborating with the Harvard sustainability office, examining the Divinity School. In future years it will work with community groups.
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