Urban Studies is a field of study that creates innovative, real-world knowledge of the challenges and opportunities of city life. Both inside and outside the classroom, the Urban Studies Department reaps the advantage of the immense complexity and diversity both of New York City as a preeminent global city, and Queens as one of the most diverse counties in the United States. In Urban Studies, we emphasize a multi-disciplinary approach and offer perspectives and faculty expertise in anthropology, sociology, political science, urban planning, history, and other fields.
The theme of social justice is woven throughout our curriculum which is centered on understanding historic and contemporary forms of urban inequities, transnational migration and related demographic change and inter-group dynamics, social movements and activism, and current public policy debates in environmental, food, and economic justice, public health, social welfare, land use and public space, criminal justice, and urban infrastructure including transportation, housing, and education.
Our mission is to help students to understand cities and think critically about them and their environs, to prepare students for active and engaged participation in civic life, and to provide students with the knowledge and skills they will need for successful careers in the public, non-profit, and private sectors, as well as for advanced studies.
Department History. Common to other urban studies departments across the country, our Department grew out of the social movements of the 1960s with the goal of addressing, in our teaching and our research, critical challenges that face American cities and formulating policy and planning solutions. The late Marilyn Gittell, a scholar and activist who spearheaded the movement for school equity and democratic schooling, and Matthew Edel, an urban economist who pioneered urban political economy research, established the Department of Urban Studies in 1971. Another notable early member of our faculty was Paul Davidoff who founded the practice of advocacy planning which is the foundation of community-based planning and progressive planning practices that engage those typically marginalized or excluded from official planning processes and decision-making.
The Faculty. The faculty has expertise in a variety of fields including urban anthropology, environmental policy, geography, health policy, history, political science, public administration, sociology, and urban planning. Practitioners with extensive experience in city government and non-profit organizations, advocacy groups, community planning agencies, public policy organizations and labor unions teach many of our courses.
Experiential and Service Learning. Many of our courses give students opportunities to participate in community organizations, advocacy groups, social service providers, and government agencies. We believe that classroom teaching works best when combined with real-world experience. A generous grant from the Hagedorn Fund allows us to offer limited support to undergraduate majors in urban and environmental students who take our service learning course.
Collaborations across Queens College. Urban Studies faculty participate in QC and CUNY-wide collaborations across disciplines to develop innovative areas of study and curriculum that address key urban issues. Our Environmental Studies program is based on an interdisciplinary foundation that emphasizes both the School of Earth and Environmental Science’s orientation toward environmental science and the Urban Studies Department’s emphasis on social justice and public policy. We continue to work with a number of other academic programs on campus including Social Practice Queens (SPQ) MFA and certificate program at QC’s Art Department, the Labor Studies Program, the Africana Studies Program, the Asian-American Community Studies Program, and the Honors in the Social Sciences Program.